Cat Illnesses

Conjunctivitis in Cats

Eye discharge is fairly common in cats.  It can have many different causes, from allergies to tear duct issues.  But if a cat has gunky discharge accompanied by redness, it's a safe bet she has conjunctivitis (AKA pink eye).  Holly M. writes:

My cat Lita, who is a little over a year old, has never had any problems until now. I woke up one morning to find that her eye had green/yellow discharge coming out of it and her eye looked a little pink. I took her to a pet hospital and they did tests and diagnosed her with conjunctivitis. The gave us an ointment and a cone to keep on her for 10 days. After 10 days, the eye was looking great and we were told we could stop the ointment and take her cone off. Two days go by and she’s fine, but by the 3rd day her eye started getting gunk in it and it was pink again. She also is not opening her eye all the way either. I’m worried that the diagnosis was wrong and there is something else going on. I just need help trying to figure out whatever this is.

Holly, it sounds like a good diagnosis, especially since you saw immediate results from the prescribed medication.  Sometimes conjunctivitis can be difficult to eliminate completely.  Conjuctivitis just means that Lita has an infection of the eye's surface which is called the conjunctiva.  The cause can be a physical irritant, a bacteria or a virus. 

If Lita's conjunctivitis was caused by feline herpesvirustype 1, it can be particularly hard to get rid of.  The virus can go into remission only to spring back into action later.  To know if FHV-1 is the culprit, your veterinarian will need to take a culture from Lita's eye for analysis.  If the topical treatment Lita was prescribed won't work long-term, she may need to be put on an anti-viral medication, but there's no need to jump to that conclusion just yet.

Talk to your veterinarian.  Chances are she or he has seen this many times before.  We feel certain you'll be able to get this little problem under control.  We wish you and Lita all the best!

Hair Loss in Cats

Cats shed their coats seasonally, depending on the hours of daylight they're exposed to each day.  Winter means shorter days and longer, thicker hair.  But what happens if your feline friend is losing his hair?  Anna M. writes:

My cat, Micheal, is losing hair. He used to lose his fur a little but it is just getting worse. Also my cat hates my other cat Luna but she is never aggressive towards him.

Anna, hair loss in cats can be caused by a number of things.  Foremost is diet.  A cat who is either not being fed enough protein or is being fed an inadequate type of protein will certainly experience hair loss.  It's important that all cats be fed a high-quality, wet-food-only diet which consists mostly of meat.  You can see our food recommendations in this post.

Another potential issue is skin allergies.  Verifying this will require a visit to your veterinarian.  He or she can also recommend a course of treatment.  If you haven't taken Michael to the vet in a while, this could be the signal that it's time to get him a checkup.

Lastly, some cats chew their own hair off in patches when they're stressed.  You mentioned that Michael and your other cat, Luna, don't get along.  It's possible that this is stressing him out to the point where he overgrooms himself.  This usually makes cats feel better in the short term, but can also become a kneejerk reaction to long term stress.  We have a post on the subject here.  We also have a good post on helping your kitties get along here.

We feel that with a little effort and some good nutrition, you can help Michael with his hair loss.  We wish you both all the best!

 

Mammary Lumps in Cats

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Just like humans, regular doctor visits are essential to cats.  This is especially true of ferals and strays who've gone without medical care for most of their lives.  Gloria T. writes:

My cat Hobo has large soft lumps in her breast. They do not hurt her. Why are they there? She was a stray cat that we took in.

Gloria, first off we want to thank you for caring for Hobo.  It's certain that her life will be much improved now that she's off the streets.

As to the breast lumps, they're probably tumors.  The only way to know whether or not they're malignant is to have a veterinarian test them.  It's a simple test involving removing some of the fluid around the tumor or doing a biopsy.  They may be harmless lipomas which are just fatty deposits, but they could also be mammary gland tumors.  The only way to know for sure is to have Hobo tested.

Mammary tumors metastacize very quickly in cats, so if that's the case with Hobo, you'll need to see a vet as soon as you can.  Their treatment usually involves surgical removal of the tumors and the surrounding tissue.  It's also recommended to have Hobo spayed if she hasn't been spayed already.

No need to jump to conclusions, though, Gloria.  Just make an appointment with the vet and put yourself at ease.  We wish you and Hobo all the best!

My Cat's Sniffling & Sneezing

Just like us humans, our feline friends can catch "colds".  These usually result in the same symptoms you or I would have - runny nose, sniffling, and sneezing.  Jana H. writes:

My cat, Markee, has been sniffling and sneezing for a few days now. I’m worried that she might be sick. What should I do to help her?

Jana, a trip to your veterinarian is never a bad idea when it comes to treating Markee.  Chances are, if you're like most cat guardians, it's been a while since you've taken her in.  This can be a good excuse to get her the yearly examination that all cats need to receive.  Unfortunately, there won't be much the doctor can do to cure Markee if she has an upper respiratory infection.

You see, this sort of infection is usually caused by viruses.  Veterinarians, just like human doctors, don't have medications that are sufficient at treating them.  There are other possible causes, but it usually isn't worth pursuing costly diagnostics unless the cold sticks around for longer than two weeks.

Your best course of treatment is to make sure Markee stays well fed and hydrated.  Cats only eat what they can smell, so if her nasal passages get blocked, she may lose her appetite.  If that happens and she stops eating, you may need to help clear her nasal passages. 

If she stops eating, it can help to give her normal saline solution nose drops before each meal.  Never use solutions made for humans.  It's best to make the saline solution yourself by dissolving 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt into 1/2 cup of boiled water.  Cool it thoroughly and store it covered in the refrigerator.  Before each use, warm it to body temperature and load it into a dropper.  Place Markee on a tabletop or counter and massage her face.  Hold her head from behind and administer three drops of the solution to each nostril.  You may need to hold her bead back for five or six seconds to make sure the solution has gotten in deep enough to do some good.  Be sure to talk her through the procedure, telling her how you're doing this to help and comfort her.  She may not understand the words, but your firm manner and comforting tone will go a long way to putting her at ease.  Blot any excess liquid and release her head.  If she flicks her tongue out, you've succeeded and the solution has run down her throat.  Be sure to have some soft tissues handy as Markee may sneeze out some congestion shortly after this treatment.

If you have other cats, you'll want to quarantine Markee.  These kinds of infections are highly contagious to other cats but are completely safe for us humans.  It's very likely that the cold will run its course in 10 to 14 days and Markee will be back to normal.  Just keep an eye on her to help her keep her face clean and make sure she's still eating and drinking.  We wish you and Markee all the best!

Treating Chronic Rhinosinusitis in Cats

Many cats suffer from chronic nasal infections, AKA rhinosinusitis.  Some even deal with the ailments for their entire lives and it can be fatal if it keeps a cat from being able to smell her food.  Melody S. writes:

Charlotte came to my rescue 7 years ago. She was very ill, and underwent months of nasal flushes, antibiotics, for a severe untreated sinus infection. After more than a year we finally beat it, and she did very well for several years. 2 years ago, she began staying sick longer, and I did not realize she was losing weight. Her bloodwork showed wb cell counts off the chart, and high lymphacites. They said that meant cancer or a long standing heavy infection of unknown origin. A second bloodwork ruled the cancer less likely, so they started zithro, and she has been on that for almost a month. I have been trying to raise the funds for an antibiotic flush and x-rays. They said that might give the oral antibiotic a better chance of beating the infection, but her sinuses are already damaged, and I worry it is only a temporary fix at best. I have been reading about polyps up in sinus cavities causing severe infections and drainage and wonder if locating a vet who can look up in there for them would be a better use of the money saved.

I do not want to lose her, she is very active, alert, but I can see her discomfort when she is quiet, she is in a low grade suffering mode, I will do anything to help her, but need to know how common polyps are found to be the cause of longstanding sinus problems. Please any suggestions I would be so thankful.

It sounds like Charlotte's really had some difficult issues, Melody.  We're sure that, if she could, she'd thank you for all your care and concern!  

It's our guess that she has chronic rhinosinusitis, though an examination and round of tests is necessary to diagnose it accurately.  If you'd like to know more, we recommend a very good overview of current thinking on the topic.  It's lengthy, and filled with veterinary jargon, but well worth a thorough read:

http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/how-are-you-managing-chronic-rhinosinusitis

The short version is that they recommend an extended course of antibiotics.  If that fails to resolve the issue medically, surgery is suggested.

We recommend against using traditional antibiotics to treat an infection except as a last resort because of the way it wreaks havoc with a cat's digestive tract. Garlic can often be a good substitute at the beginning of an infection. 

It might be a good idea to start adding garlic to her meals if she'll accept it.  You can do this by mixing 1 tablespoon of distilled or spring water with 1/8 teaspoon of tamari soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon of raw garlic crushed in a garlic press.  Let the mixture stand for thrtee hours and store it in the refrigerator.  It will last for three days that way.  Then mix 1/16 teaspoon into each of Charlotte's meals.  This can be done in perpetuity and will help her to fight off infections while also serving as an antiparasitic.  It also lowers blood sugar.  There really is no down side to adding garlic to her meals starting ASAP.

It can also help to give her normal saline solution eye and nose drops before each meal.  This will help to sooth and clear her nose, sinuses, and throat.  Never use solutions made for humans.  It's best to make the normal saline solution yourself by dissolving 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt into 1/2 cup of boiled water.  Cool it thoroughly and store it covered in the refrigerator.  

Before each use, warm it to body temperature and load it into a dropper.  Place Charlotte on a tabletop or counter and massage her face.  Hold her head from behind and administer three drops of the solution to the inner corner of each eye.  Massage the skin above and below her eyes to get as much of the solution in the eyes as possible.  Be sure to talk her through the procedure, telling her how you're doing this to help and comfort her.  She may not understand the words, but your firm manner and comforting tone will go a long way to putting her at ease.  Blot any excess liquid and release her head.  If she flicks her tongue out, you've succeeded and the solution has run down her throat.  

The procedure for nose drops is pretty much the same, but you may need to hold her bead back for five or six seconds to make sure the solution has gotten in deep enough to do some good.  You can also administer several rounds of nose drops because Chralotte will find that they actually feel very soothing.  We recommend three rounds of three drops per nostril.  Be sure to have some soft tissues handy as Chralotte may sneeze out congestion shortly after this treatment.

We always recommend getting to the root cause first in order to alleviate subsequent infections.  To do so, you'll have to find a veterinarian who's willing to dig into Charlotte's case and work with you to get to the bottom of her issues.  These days, so many doctors, both human and veterinary, want to jump to an easily treatable conclusion.  You may benefit from scheduling a brief consultation session with any potential vets before you even bring Charlotte in.  If you can find a feline-only vet, you're halfway there.  You'll know when you have the right one.  If you have any other active cat rescues you associate with, you may want to ask them who they use. 

A veterinary homeopath is not out of the question, but you have to be careful to be sure you have one who is of the more practical variety.  It's our hope that one day we'll all be treated by those who are well versed in both traditional "western" medicine and homeopathic treatments.  Until then, it's wise to be cautious.

We wish you and Charlotte all the best, Melody!  Good luck!