Tips for getting a sick pussycat on a feeding tube to eat by mouth again (and a cautionary tale)?
posted by Scram to health & fitness (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Lots of information below before I get to the question, because this situation took us terribly by surprise and I hope anyone in a similar situation will see the warning signs we missed. It could save your kitty's life.
In late December, our cat Jason got a cortisone shot for his feline acne. He soon developed the sniffles, and passed whatever he picked up at the vet to the other two indoor cats. The vet denied that anything viral or bacterial could have been picked up at the office, but did admit that cortisone might have lowered Jason's immunity, causing a flare up of something he already was carrying. If that's so, it's unfortunate he didn't suggest quarentining Jason when we brought him home to make sure he stayed healthy. The vet said to keep an eye on the cats and bring them in a few days if they seemed to be getting worse. For the moment they seemed to just have bad colds, though Jason was almost over his.
A couple days later, we came home in the evening to find the smallest cat, 11-year-old Talullah, hunkered down on the kitchen floor panting. Her nose was caked with hard snot and her white chin was dark with stuff that had run down her face. We cleaned her nostrils out with wet Q-Tips, squirted some water in her mouth and warmed her up, and she seemed to perk up a little. My husband wrapped her in a towel and let her sleep on his chest, and we planned to take her to the vet in the morning. Before dawn he got up to give her more water, and she gasped and died.
So in the morning it was Evel, the 16-year-old, who was rushed to the vet, along with his sister's body. The vet was shocked Talullah had become so sick so fast. Evel was immediately put on a drip with antibiotics, and after a few days the vet wanted to put him under and insert a feeding tube. He was extremely listless and congested, and I was very concerned he would not survive anesthesia. I asked if I could try to feed him by syringe rather than put him under, and I was able to get a couple of small syringes of semi-liquid A/D food into him by working very slowly. The next day he had more energy, but no one else had been able to feed him orally. Told that if he did not eat soon he would die, we agreed to having the feeding tube inserted, and he took the surgery well.
The vet failed to diagnose the illness, and the antibiotics given did not seem to help. He showed an elevated white count that remained constant after more than a week of antibiotics. He became anemic, which the vet thought was due to too much drip hydration, and that was scaled back. Herpes was suggested as a possibility, as was Calicivirus. After talking with a friend whose cat had showed similar symptons and survived, I asked about it perhaps being Feline Chlamydia and the efficacy of trying Zithromax as a one-dose treatment, but the vet blew the suggestion off. Since Evel seemed to be getting better, I didn't press the matter.
After nine days in critical condition Evel began showing signs of his personality and energy returning, and after twelve days we brought him home with the tube still in his esophogus. The vet said he could be tube fed for a month or more without problems, but that the aim is to transition him back to oral eating. After two days home, he seems to be feeling reasonably well, but shows no interest in eating or drinking and spends most of his time lying in the sun. Tube feeding is quite difficult--the tube frequently gets clogged and requires great hand-strength to flush a little water in and then pull back to loosen and suck up the stuck food. With me holding Evel and my husband working the syringe it can be done, but it's messy and frustrating and hard on the cat. The sooner he starts eating, the better!
Here is our current care schedule:
3 times a day:
1) flush each nostril with 6cc saline solution
2) a little later, attempt to get him to eat moist canned salmon
3) when he refuses, flush 2-3 60cc tubes of watery, hand-blended A/D prescription diet food through his feeding tube, with frequent stops to unclog the tube, flushing it with water and papaya juice to break up clogs
morning and night: .9cc Clavamox antiobiotic by mouth, powder contents of lysine pill included in tube feeding, 1/4 tube each tincture of Osha and Goldenseal/Echinacea mixed with water in his feeding tube (recommended by herbalist friend to kickstart his immunity)
Although he is much less snotty than he was (there's some nostril caking in the mornings, but the saline flush seems to go right up into his sinuses, and he doesn't sneeze or blow much mucus out at all afterwards) and his eyes are only a little runny, Evel shows no interest in the salmon. He sometimes seems to be trying to smell it, sniffing and moving his face around the bowl, but there's none of the usual reaction to a fishy treat and he won't taste it.
I'm wondering if there are any tricks to get him smelling and eating again. Are there better foods to be trying? Should the food be heated? Is there anything beyond the saline flush that can be done to help the nose to regain its function? Maybe it's just a matter of time and shaking off this illness, whatever it is, but any suggestions from people who have had similar experiences with their cats would be most welcome.
Evel's a world class pussycat, very personable, affectionate and tough. We've got high hopes he'll make it through this tough time, and he welcomes your prayers, good wishes and bright ideas.