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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22616
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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My 18yr old cat suddenly stopped eating or drinking on

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My 18yr old cat suddenly stopped eating or drinking on Saturday.
He is very sleepy and lethargic but today I managed to persuade him to lick a bit of butter off my finger -that is all he has had for 3 days. There was a strange crunching noise as he tried to swallow and he tilted his head to one side and brushed at his mouth with his paw.
Because it is a bank holiday today I can't get him to a vet til tomorrow.
Any ideas what I should do? He is normally lively and eats alot.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Based on the signs that Archie is showing, especially his mouth rubbing and cruching (teeth grinding), he is telling us that he is very sore in his mouth. So, much so that it is putting him off his food.

Most commonly, we see this associated with dental disease. Rotten teeth can cause pain and soreness which can contribute to all of these signs. A lot of cats with dental disease (or a rotten tooth) will appetite waning, preference for soft foods, drooling, pawing at their mouths, tooth grinding, and these kitties may beg their owners for food (b/c they are hungry), only to look at it longingly before giving up. Where dogs will suffer through their pain, cats aren't daft and avoid it. (though not eating isn’t a great plan for dealing with dental disease either)

In this vein, any foreign material lodged between the teeth or injuries to the tongue (via rodent bites, etc). can also cause these signs. As well, since your kitty is older, we can't rule out oral tumours. We can see cats sometimes develop aggressive tumour types on their tongues or oral mucosa. These can appear as ulcers and can have a secondary infection associated with them. As well, they can also present as growths in the mouth that can displace the tongue and make it stick out. These growths can be sinister but some may be polyps (which are benign). Also we can see ulcerative diseases of the mouth cause these signs. This can be secondary to herpes virus infections but is also seen associated with kidney disease. But in all cases, any lesion can make a cat’s mouth uncomfortable, cause them to go off their food.

Overall, these are the main things I would be considering in Archie’s case. Since he is already struggling and telling us that his mouth is sore, we don't want this to linger, therefore I'd advise that you do want to consider having him seen as soon as his vet is open. I would say that considering his signs and age, it would be an urgent visit but not an emergency one (so you can wait until your normal vet is open).

In the meantime, we do want to try and facilitate his ability to eat and get nutrition in. To do this, you want to consider tempting him to eat, and consider feeding pate style food or even meat baby food (without garlic powder in the ingredients) for ease of eating with a compromised mouth. Further to this, if tempting doesn’t work, then we do have to consider initiating syringe feeds to get food in. In that case, you may want to try Hill's A/D (LINK) or Royal Canin Recovery diet These are critical care diets that is comes as a soft, palatable pate. Both are calorically dense, so a little goes a long way nutrition-wise and this could just help get some more calories into her even if we can’t get a huge volume of food in. As well, for syringing food, you can use the animal version of Ensure (balanced for animals dietary requirements) called Clinicare Canine/Feline Liquid Diet or even supplement with Nutrical paste. Finally, if you have any issues obtaining this from your local pet store or ER vet, you can alternatively try wet pate style kitten food. This can be offered directly but watered down to syringe feed. It too will have more nutrition per bite. This way it would a means of getting nutrition into him, and staving off any complications from his anorexia.

Once the vet does examine him, they will be able to help determine the primary condition that is causing his oral discomfort. The vet can do this via an oral exam (which cats in his situation don't tend to be particularly amenable to just letting anyone look). They can also double check that he has no nausea (a less likely cause for his signs). Depending in their findings, the vet will be able to access his mouth and address the root of the problem, and will also be able to provide long lasting injectable antibiotics and cat safe pain relief if necessary. And if they do find ulcers in the mouth, then you might consider having a urine or blood sample checked to determine if these signs are actually due to underlying kidney troubles for poor wee Archie.

Finally, just to note in case you were keen to have him seen today, some veterinary practices in our country have office hours today. As well, I wanted to mention that most veterinary practices here do have contingency plans for emergency care for their patients even when they are not open. Therefore, it is worth ringing the practice. If they are open, you can get him seen today. If they aren't, then they will likely have a message to direct you on how to contact their out of hours service. And if you don't have a vet you can find one local to you, you can check the RCVS Register (HERE) to find your local vets or Vets Now (LINK) who are open all nights/weekends. In any case, if you wanted to get him checked out sooner then there are options to have him seen today too.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need as this is how I am credited for assisting you today. Thank you! : )

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi sorry for the delay in responding - I took your advie and phoned an emergency vet to locate the special food and had to catch them before they shut! Cat has wolfed down a 1/4 tin so is likely to last the night! Thankyou so much for your idea - I will be getting an appointment with my vet first thing tomorrow.

Thanks again, Walija

You are very welcome,
I am very glad to hear that he was able to eat that for us and that sounds like the perfect plan of action.
All the best to you both,
Dr. B.
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