Help - Perfectly Healthy Cat Suddenly Sick, Vet Says I May Lose Her

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Scott_01

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I'm beside myself. I have a 9 year old female who has been in perfect health, sees the vet regularly and keeps up with all her shots. This past Sunday, I realized that she had been seeming to sleep more than I thought usual for her the past few days. On Monday, she started vomiting white foam and it increased throughout the day. It seemed clear by now that she was in distress so I stayed up all night with her and called my vet as soon as they opened in the morning. They were wonderful and were able to work me into the schedule later that afternoon on an emergency basis.

My kitty has always been high strung and extremely difficult to get in a cat carrier for a trip to the vet. Yesterday was much worse. I had closed off all of her normal hiding places but she still found some and coaxing her out with food had no effect. If I tried to remove her physically, she would attack me, even if I used a heavy towel to try and grab her. She was obviously in great distress and kept growling and hissing at me.

I called the vet and they suggested contacting a mobile vet to come directly to the house. I decided to give it one more try after that and finally succeeded in getting her in the carrier and to our regular vet.

He took her back to the surgical area in case he had to sedate her to examine her. Fortunately, he was able to examine her without needing to do that. He gave her a thorough physical exam, took a full blood panel, gave her IV fluids, a shot to stop her vomiting and a shot of 12 day antibiotic in case she had an infection somewhere. He said he hadn't been able to feel any masses or blockages in her GI tract (or anywhere else) even though she had some black in her stool. He didn't do an x-ray at that point and saying he couldn't find anything obviously wrong yet, let me take her home. This morning, he called me and said that her blood tests were completely normal.

Ever since I got her home last night, she has done nothing but lie in one place with a glazed look in her eyes and occasionally growling. She did make it to her litter box at one point this afternoon and tried to urinate but whimpered and couldn't. The biggest problem however is that she hasn't eaten any food since Monday, even if I give her some plain white roast chicken which she usually goes mad over. The vet had me pick up some urgent care prescription cat food they mixed for her and said that if we couldn't get some food in her some how, her prognosis is poor.

Feeding tubes would only prolong things and I couldn't afford expensive treatment anyway. He did say that it would take a while for the antibiotics to kick in and we will talk tomorrow to decide the next steps. She has just continued to get worse this afternoon and I've had to keep checking her to make sure she is still alive. We just can't figure out what has happened to her yet, at least without more expensive testing. His best guess at this point seems to be some type of toxin but I can't imagine where that would have come from. I don't keep any plants around the house specifically for that reason and am careful to keep anything else that might be toxic away from her. She also never gets treated with any powders or other products on her fur (or anywhere near her), such as flea treatments, etc.

I'm just beside myself because it happened so fast and there's no obvious cause. I just got her a brand new cat condo a few weeks ago and she was loving it. I went through something similar with my previous cat 9 years ago. Her lungs suddenly filled up with fluid one night. My vet was able to drain the fluid and keep her alive a few more months but she was 14 yrs old at that point and couldn't be saved. I'm not ready to go through something like that again.

I just tried to spoon feed the vet's special food to her a few minutes ago as he recommended but she just moved away from it. About all I can do at this point is keep telling her I love her and pray that the antibiotics or some other miracle kicks in soon.
 

daftcat75

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Many cats get nauseated with antibiotics. Your vet may have meant well. But he may have made it that much harder.

Feeding tube surgery is actually not all that expensive. You'll pay more for the X-ray to confirm its placement than the tube or the procedure. I believe the line items for my Krista's tube added up to less than $300 with the bulk of that being the X-ray to confirm it was placed correctly.

But there are a couple of things you can try first.

I would normally recommend an ultrasound as that can reveal masses in her gut or on surrounding organs or thickening in her gut consistent with IBD/lymphoma. But it's all so sudden that I don't suspect IBD/lymphoma. However, the ultrasound is going to be more expensive than the feeding tube and may not provide you any more answers than you already have.

Did you mention the failed attempt to pee to your vet? That might be your big clue here. Did the vet take a urine sample? She may have stones or some kind of obstruction.

Finally, I would call the vet about an appetite stimulant and an anti-nausea medicine. The longer she goes without eating, the harder it will be to restart her eating. Fasting creates metabolic by-products that, as they build up in her liver, will make her increasingly nauseated. Meat-only human baby food, fried or rotissierie chicken with the skin and seasonings removed, or tuna in water are all acceptable emergency foods--for a few days anyway--to get some food and moisture back in her.
 

mrsgreenjeens

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Additionally, spoon feeding cats who don't want to eat doesn't work, as you are finding out. You may want to pick up some syringes and actually force feed her with them until you decide whether or not you want to have a feeding tube inserted. Here is a great video on how to do that (go to post #7 in this thread): Syringe Feeding Lucky Video/If your Cat is not eating

I entirely agree with daftcat75 daftcat75 though about making sure your Vet is aware of her not peeing. this could be critical! How long has it been since she used the box? She could have lots of toxins built up inside her from being unable to go and if she's blocked will need to be unblocked or she could die a very painful death. Sorry to be blunt, but no one wants to see her suffer.
 
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Scott_01

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Additionally, spoon feeding cats who don't want to eat doesn't work, as you are finding out. You may want to pick up some syringes and actually force feed her with them until you decide whether or not you want to have a feeding tube inserted. Here is a great video on how to do that (go to post #7 in this thread): Syringe Feeding Lucky Video/If your Cat is not eating

I entirely agree with daftcat75 daftcat75 though about making sure your Vet is aware of her not peeing. this could be critical! How long has it been since she used the box? She could have lots of toxins built up inside her from being unable to go and if she's blocked will need to be unblocked or she could die a very painful death. Sorry to be blunt, but no one wants to see her suffer.
Thanks for all the replies.

In the last hour, she made it from the living room to her litter box in the hallway. She pawed at the litter as she normally does before trying to pee than managed to successfully pee what looks like a fairly substantial amount. She didn't bother to try and bury it afterwards though as she usually does but I guess it's at least a good sign.
 
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Scott_01

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A little while after she finally peed successfully she made her way over to the patio screen and curled up in her favorite spot where she likes to look out over the patio and watch the outdoors. That's the first time she's shown any interest in doing that in 2 days and another good sign.

I'm going to try the food in the syringe shortly. Fingers crossed.
 

daftcat75

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A little while after she finally peed successfully she made her way over to the patio screen and curled up in her favorite spot where she likes to look out over the patio and watch the outdoors. That's the first time she's shown any interest in doing that in 2 days and another good sign.

I'm going to try the food in the syringe shortly. Fingers crossed.
I would still call the vet back and mention the unsuccessful attempt. Cats are not supposed to whimper in the litter box or have unsuccessful pee attempts. 😿 She could still have stones even though she peed. Those would make her miserable like you’re seeing.
 

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Some really great suggestions here from knowledgeable people. I also agree, in a time like this complete transparency with you vet is important, every little detail helps.

Something used in my clinic for animals that refuse to eat is a sweet paste called Nutrigel. It has at least some of the essential nutrients required for survival and is an appetite stimulant as well. It can be syringe fed and water down with water too. Maybe discussing the use of a product similar with your vet might be worth it if she doesn't start eating soon.

Has your vet mentioned the possibility of subcutaneous fluids? It might help support her organs through this difficult time.

Best of luck, hope everything goes well!
 

jefferd18

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I am rooting for your little girl and the suggestions here have been great. I am concerned about her hydration level, is she getting fluids? Anti- nausea meds work great and so does the paste that S StanAndAlf suggested. Its calories.
 
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Scott_01

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Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions. It's been almost a day and a half since her vet visit and she is definitely starting to perk up a little now. I hadn't been able to get her to take the appetite stimulant yet. She has ALWAYS been a very difficult cat to manage over the years. She has never let me brush her or even pick her up most of the time. She will sometimes jump up on my lap at times but only at her discretion. I've never been able to get her to let me put Frontline flea repellent on her which those who are familiar with it know, is a very simple task with most cats. She gets stressed VERY easily which is why it was so difficult getting her in the car carrier for the vet trip.

He did tell me that while all of her other blood tests were completely normal, her blood sugar was a little high. He attributed that to the stress of the battle royale I had getting her into the car carrier the other day and not to diabetes, at least at this point. She gets so easily stressed that she often runs away from me if I sneeze or cough.It's for that reason that it's been so difficult for me to get the appetite stimulant food into her even with the syringe. She definitely is interested in food now because I opened a can of albacore tuna which she loves for a treat and placed it near her. She definitely was interested in it but still couldn't bring herself to actually try eating it though. That's still progress over a few hours ago though.

I am actually trying another trick my late sister (who we lost to covid 3 months ago) had told me about how to deal with stressed cats. She was very experienced with cats and told me that one way to deal with a stressed cat is to lie completely down on the floor next to them so that your entire body is on the same level as theirs. That way you are not towering above them and it helps calm them down if they know you are dealing with them on their same level. I've been trying that with Clementine (my kitty) so I am hoping she will let me administer the food to her that way soon.

The other interesting thing that just happened is that she wandered away again and I finally found her by herself sitting under the tap of one of the bathtub faucets. That's a whole other story about this cat in itself. Since she was a kitten, neither I nor anyone else who helped me (including my vet) have ever been able to get this cat to drink water. The only way she has been able to get water into her body is by eating canned cat food (which has a high water content). I've never liked that solution but she flat out will NOT drink water out of any kind of dish. I tried getting her a bubbler fountain but she wouldn't drink water out of that either. I finally got her a different kind of water fountain with a regular stream and bowl and she STILL wouldn't drink water out of that either, even if I adjusted the flow of the streams.

Our vet couldn't think of any other solution nor could I or others who knew of the problem. Then one day I discovered her sitting in the bathtub under a leaky faucet trying to catch drops of water out of it. She wasn't being successful so I increased the stream a little. That still didn't work for her but she discovered she could stick her paw under the stream, get her paw wet then lick the water off of her paw. That's the ONLY way I have ever seen this kitty be able to get water (other than from the canned food) and it hasn't been very consistent or successful. If anyone here knows of some other way to train this kitty to get water, I would LOVE to hear it.

Anyway, as I said I was surprised to find her in the bathtub just now. That told me two things. One is that she is feeling better enough to crawl up and over into the tub and also that she wants water more than she wants food right now. The vet had given her subcutaneous fluids 36 hours ago but that apparently has worn off. He did say that cats could go without food safely for longer than they can without water. And since she is not eating canned food yet, she is not getting water the only way she is accustomed to getting it.

I have been staying up all night with her again and am keeping a log of her events, activities and symptoms. She did upchuck some foam again and it turned out to be while she was on her way to try and get water from the bathtub. The vet did say that the anti-vomit shot would only last 24 hours and it is past that now. I will be able to call him in just a few more hours and update him on all of this. I also may have to take her back in for more subcutaneous fluids into her. I still have the challenge of trying to find a way to help her figure out how to drink water on her own though, which as I said, I have been trying to do for her entire life. Right now, the only thing I can think of is to just let the bathroom faucet drip continuously.
 

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House cats are descended from desert cats. They are meant to get their water from their food, not watering holes. As long as Clementine eats enough wet food, she’ll get enough moisture in her food. Often seeing a cat drinking water means that cat is in some kind of dehydrated state. Usually cats who are fed dry food become water drinkers because they’re always dehydrated from the low moisture, high carb content of kibble. So the challenge is as it was before. She needs to eat and eat canned food if she’s going to get enough to drink without stopping for a drink. I think she should go back for subcutaneous fluids if she’s still not eating. Also ask your vet about Mirtaz which is a transdermal version of the appetite stimulant, mirtazapine. If you can rub her ear, you can give this medicine. Also tell the vet about the unsuccessful pee attempt and the whimpering in the litter box. Even though she succeeded later, that straining to go the first time might just be the clue your vet needs to get to the bottom of this.
 

daftcat75

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In the meantime, pick up grocery store wet food like Friskies, Sheba, etc. Popular brands are popular with cats. They would not be on the shelf otherwise. Also canned tuna in water or those lickable treats like Inaba Churu. Did the vet check her teeth before? Cats are notoriously stoic about pain. She could have been eating through dental pain for quite some time before the pain finally exceeded her hunger. Now she’s interested in food but not the pain that comes with eating. Krista’s teeth were the most common reason she stopped eating. 😿
 
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Scott_01

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Wow, did morning ever bring much better news. I called the vet when they opened and the one I've been working with all week wasn't in. He was one of the more junior vets in the practice. I got my regular vet this time. He is the lead vet, owner of the practice and considered one of the top vets in our state. He has been treating my cats for almost 25 yrs and worked wonders with my previous cat.

Until this week, he also had been the vet regularly treating Clementine. When he read the data from this week's experiences and exam, he had a totally different read on Clementine's exam results than the other vet and said we are a long, long way from talking about the end of the road for her. He suspects a GI blockage or possibly even a stuck hairball that can be flushed out.

He had me bring her right over and said he will keep her in his surgical suite and work on her all day if necessary till he figures out what's going on. He said he'll keep her full of fluids and IV nutrition (or whatever other nutrition she might need), do some barium x-rays on her GI tract and whatever else he thinks necessary (but only after talking with me once he figures out what's going on). His rates for all of this are all very affordable for me as well. He didn't even charge me for some of the x-rays he did on my previous cat one time.

He did say that there is a possibly that she might have GI lymphoma or pancreatitis but not very likely. He also said that the pancreatitis would be treatable if it turns out to be the problem. I also told him about the urinary problems so he is working that into his assessment as well. She's over there for the rest of the day now so I get to relax for a while. By the way, I do have the canned Friskies that daftcat75 mentioned in the previous post. The canned Pate is her normal everyday diet.
 
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Scott_01

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My little one is back home now and my vet kept his promise. He said he would work on it throughout the day until he found the problem. He took me through all the x-rays he took throughout the day and just found what he thinks is the problem at the end of the day. His original guess was a GI obstruction and it looks like he was spot on. I got to see just about every part of her insides on the x-rays he showed me and on the last one he took was what looks like a rubber band and possibly one other foreign object stuck in her intestine.

He gave her some barium to see if it would help flush it through overnight and sent her home with me. I take her back first thing in the morning so he can see if the barium is working and the object is moving. If it looks like it has moved during the night, he will just stay with that treatment for a while and see if it will continue to pass all the way through on its own. If it hasn't moved, he said the surgery will be pretty much like spaying her, fairly simple and I will be able to take her back home afterwards tomorrow for the weekend. He told me that most emergency vets would just go ahead and do the surgery immediately but he prefers to try the natural method first.

He still can't rule out something else metabolic going causing her distress as well but doesn't think that likely since her labs were all normal. He also said she is in good physical condition so that surgery should go well if needed. She is back home now all full of fluids and nutrients and already looks and acts so much better than she did last night. I feel so much better now because when I woke up this morning, I wasn't sure if she would be able to live through the day.
 

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Your vet has certainly been conscientious. While an obstruction is not great news, at least it can be treated. As surgeries go, it is quite straight forward. A friend just had an obstruction (kitchen towel) removed from a 12 year old lab (not her fault that it happened and story is not important) and he was absolutely fine. Keep monitoring her tonight. Surgery is tomorrow?
 
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Scott_01

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Your vet has certainly been conscientious. While an obstruction is not great news, at least it can be treated. As surgeries go, it is quite straight forward. A friend just had an obstruction (kitchen towel) removed from a 12 year old lab (not her fault that it happened and story is not important) and he was absolutely fine. Keep monitoring her tonight. Surgery is tomorrow?
He wants to see if it will start to pass through on it's own from the barium first. If it looks as if it hasn't started moving on it's own by tomorrow morning, surgery will be immediately.
 

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If you have an extra litter box or three, or if you want to pick up some disposable litter boxes, I can tell you from personal experience that when the barium hits bottom, if the obstruction finally clears, you’re going to want litter boxes where the cat is rather than expecting her to make it to where the box is. 🤦🏼‍♂️😹Glad you got an honest and competent doc on her case. 👍😻
 
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Scott_01

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More good news from the vet. He's keeping her in his hospital all day again today as he did yesterday so that she can be watched. The first x-rays showed that whatever it is (possibly a rubberband or even a hard hairball) moved during the night and more x-rays just now showed it moving some more this morning.

She's getting barium, laxatone, food and fluids now and if the x-rays in the next few hours are as positive as the previous ones, I should be able to take her home at the end of the day without surgery. The x-rays haven't been exhorbitent, $50 for each one and yes, I just got a stack of disposable litter boxes.

Thanks so much for all the terrific information and support I've been getting. I've learned so much from this forum.
 
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Scott_01

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Well, keep your fingers crossed. After going so well for a while, things changed in what has turned out to be a real saga. It turns out that today was my vet's day off. He is so dedicated that he had been having his staff keep him apprised of her x-rays at home while the thing was moving through fairly well. It stopped moving however so he came in from home this afternoon, on his day off, personally checked her x-rays and personally did surgery on her himself on the spot (after getting my authorization). I guess that's why he's considered one of the top vets in our state.

He said he wanted to just get it out of her once and for all to minimize any more stress on her. It turned out to be a hairball that had hardened into a hairball and fluid filled sac of some sort. He said that the rest of her intestines looked fine and while he can't guarantee that it was the only source of her stress and distress, there's been no other cause that he could find. Also, this had definitely been clogging her up. He's having her kept there at is hospital overnight just to make sure she has a strong recovery started and is doing OK.

Keep your fingers crossed that this finally fixes the problem. This is the first night that she hasn't been here at home with me since I got her as a kitten but I'm glad she's at the hospital overnight and can be watched properly.
 

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I just caught up on this thread and was going to say it sounded like an obstruction based on the first few posts. Everything you said was my boy when he had an obstruction and it also was misdiagnosed by the first vet (who also gave a fatalistic prognosis at the start).

I am so glad your vet figured it out and hopefully she continues to improve. :vibes:

Don't forget to ask your vet about Hairball prevention. It could be as simple as a teaspoon of pumpkin every few days and prevent this from reoccurring.
 
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