Will I end up spending $$$ and still end up with a dead cat?
November 18, 2008 8:44 AM   Subscribe

[cat filter] Can anyone give me a story in which their cat started sneezing blood but stayed healthy?

After losing our 12-year old cat four months ago (kidney failure; vet bill = $1200) and niece's 3-year old cat last month (lymphoma caused pleural effusion; vet bill = $2K), we swore off another pet for financial reasons. Having been a cat owner for 15 years, loneliness got the better of me and I brought home an 8-month old cat from the animal control shelter 10 days ago. (In retrospect, this was my first bad decision.)

His medical history was spotty, though he was tested for FeLV and given a rabies shot (bad decision #2; should have required more proof of vaccinations, etc). He developed a cold three days after bringing him home, starting as a runny left eye, then fully manifested in congestion and sneezing. At his checkup, the vet said that he was healthy and that a cold was typical for a shelter animal. He was prescribed 1ml of Clavamox orally, 2x/ daily. We are almost a week into that treatment.

His appetite has been fine and he drinks lots of water. He's active and playful and other than the congestion, he's seemingly healthy.

This morning, he sneezed blood. Twice. A Google search returned dozens of stories of cats who had sneezed blood and resulted in a diagnosis of cancer or related illness that was terminal after dozens of expensive diagnostic tests and treatment attempts.

We honestly (honestly!) can't afford any more major vet bills (we have tenuous jobs, live in a crappy economy, and are raising my sister's kid) and probably should have never brought home another pet until we had a vet budget established (bad decision #3).

However, here we are, and the crux of the question is this: I'm feeling quite pessimistic about his chances given what I've read so far, so I cannot justify spending the money for diagnosis and treatment if the end result is a dead cat (though I'm not sure what my next steps would be).

Therefore, I'm hoping to get stories of cats who had similar problems but it turned out to be something simple and treatable to give me hope that it's worth a trip to the vet. Feel free to reprimand me for adopting an animal without having financial ability for care, though it may be ineffective in making me feel worse than I already do.
posted by parilous to Pets & Animals (20 answers total)
It is within the realm of possibility that it's nothing, true.

But -- it's my own personal policy that if there is a body fluid appearing outside the body, it's usually best to have someone with medical training make the call as to whether or not it's serious. Even hearing that it's possible that it's just a kitty nosebleed is just anecdotal evidence -- and all the anecdotal evidence in the world is just that, an anecdote. There are anecdotes, and then there is your cat.

It is ALWAYS worth a trip to the vet. Even if it's nothing, then you'll know, you can start treating it, or even better, maybe it's just a side effect of the meds and you can switch to something else. Or, if it's something serious, then you can discuss whether to treat him or what the next steps would be. But both are preferable to not treating him and then having it be something serious that he suffers with.

I know you're scared, but blood appearing outside the body shouldn't require second thoughts before the vet call, methinks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:56 AM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: Maybe it's early for panic.

I've had cats sneeze blood because the air was too dry. Matter of fact, I've done that too. Think about a humidifier and adding wet food to their diet if they don't already eat wet food. See if it helps.
posted by answergrape at 8:57 AM on November 18, 2008

Oh, and look into low-cost vet options. Humane Society in your area may have info on lower cost vet options. This is a tough year for many people, and it's in their interest to keep people and their pets together when possible.
posted by answergrape at 9:02 AM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: Nthing taking the critter to the vet. If you lay out your financial issues, I'd think your vet would be more than willing to put you on a payment schedule. If not, I'd look for a different vet who takes the health of the animal more seriously than paying the bill all at once.
posted by cooker girl at 9:13 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

i love kitties! but i also understand your financial predicament. can you call your vet and tell them what's going on? if it is a side effect of the meds, they can tell you and you can be at ease. if they say you should come in, you should go in. if they say they won't be able to tell you what's wrong without a really expensive test, lay out the money situation. ask what you should do.

if you knew 100% that the cat had cancer and would be in for a world of suffering and misery very soon, i'd suggest that you have the cat put to sleep, rather than letting it live out it's last days miserable just because it saved you some cash.

if the vet doesn't know what's wrong and won't be able to know what to do until expensive tests are done, well, you can adopt the wait and see approach. if the cat starts acting like it's in pain, then you go back to the vet and follow the same process.

i don't have any experience with cats sneezing blood, but if one of my cats started doing it, i'd call the vet or take them to the vet er immediately, because a little more credit card debt is worth it to me to make sure my kitties are okay. if i started sneezing blood, i'd squirt some saline up there and call it good. but my priorities are off.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:24 AM on November 18, 2008

My first happy thought was dry nasal tissues, like answergrape.

But even if the inevitable result is a dead cat, what happens if you don't take it to the vet--it suffers and dies at home, a miserable experience for humans and animal? Better to find out that it has a fatal illness now so you can make a decision about putting it to sleep so it won't suffer.

(My mom just went through this with our old man--16 years old and she was worried about running up vet bills for an animal that might not make it much longer anyway. She finally took him to the vet while he was still pretty happy with his life, and he had to be put to sleep. Vet and mom agreed that, at his age, he was unlikely to survive the treatment for the tumor he had in his belly and his suffering would only increase. It sucks, but tough decisions are part of being a pet owner. I'm sorry you might be in this position w/ a new kitty.)
posted by Mavri at 9:27 AM on November 18, 2008

Awww ... I feel really bad for you after reading this post. Google your own health problems and you'll be convinced that you're dying too :-) Not smart when you're already stressed. Having lost two cats in the last few months, you're naturally going to be really worried about this one, but I don't think it's necessarily much of a big deal at all.

I have a cat with a chronic respiratory illness who sneezes (watery) blood on a semi-regular basis. He's healthy [other than that], has regular vet visits, is happy and active and I love him to bits.

Call the vet for advice, early treatment is always best (and respiratory illnesses are nasty), but I don't think you've made a bad decision at all. You're just stressed, because Googling symptoms is the best thing to do if you want to get worried. Call your vet and pet your new kitty.
posted by different at 9:35 AM on November 18, 2008

We just had to drop about $400 on both cats combined, and there will be another $300 at least in tooth maintenance before the year is out, so I feel your pain. However - this may or may not be true of your vet - if your animal develops a problem shortly after having been in s/he may not even charge you for the visit, just the medicine. At least, that's what happened to us when we had annual checkups on Saturday and then a feverish kitty on Sunday night/Monday morning.

Good luck. Kittens are pretty resilient if they are getting enough to eat and enough water, but he does need to see the kitteh doctor, I'm afraid.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:16 AM on November 18, 2008

OK, I know this is not quite sneezing blood, but my then-18-yr-old cat started throwing up blood a few years ago. I took her to the vet anticipating the worst and it turned out to be just a tiny ulcer. The vet prescribed some anti-ulcer medicine but I only successfully got her to swallow it once (she weighs 8 pounds but I've never been able do anything to her she doesn't want done). She has not thrown up blood since. And yes she's still tickin'.
posted by fiery.hogue at 10:33 AM on November 18, 2008

My cat would sneeze nasty blood-snot for a couple weeks, maybe once a year, due to a cold mixed with dry air =dry and irritated nasal passageways. We stopped using the air conditioner as much and waited for her cold to get better, and the blood snot went away.

(Pretty gross when she sneezed ON me, though. Or the walls, for that matter.)
posted by np312 at 10:42 AM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: I was in the exact new-cat-from-shelter situation as you - cat developed a cold a few days after coming home from the shelter, and it got to the point where he was sneezing blood. Vet suggested the dry nasal passages as the culprit and recommended that I shut the cat in the bathroom with me when I took a shower (idea being that the humidity from the hot shower would help). He got better after just a few days, and five years later is still perfectly fine and happily waking me up at 3am to be petted. Call the vet for a recommendation, but my bet is that you'll be fine.
posted by bibbit at 11:46 AM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: Seconding bibbit. Our kitten came from the shelter with a cold, and we ended up going the antibiotics route. Eventually she sneezed up blood a few times, since the cold coincided with the (very dry-)heat being turned on in our apartment, and she got very dried up. We just put her in the bathroom to be steamed every time anyone took a shower, and the cold and the bloody sneezes went away within a few days.
posted by DeucesHigh at 6:48 PM on November 18, 2008

Chiming in late to say that my cat has sneezed bloody mucus on more than one occasion of infected sinuses in the past and (as of a vet visit and blood tests this morning) is a perfectly happy, healthy 13-year-old beast. Antibiotics really didn't seem to shorten the length of the illness for him that much, though I gave them anyway. He now takes an occasional antihistamine because we are apparently almost equally allergic to one another. It's scary, but I hope this reassures you a little.
posted by notquitemaryann at 8:06 PM on November 18, 2008

Can you give the shelter a call? Do they have in-house vets who work there? Since it has only be 10 days they might be partially responsible for vet bills (depending on their policy I guess).
posted by silkygreenbelly at 9:11 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: We put him in the laundry room with a humidifier last night. He was nearly congestion-free this morning. Yesterday, I admit: I panicked and neglected to notice that the humidity was less than 10% here in the Sonoran desert...

I think his nasal passages were dry from the air. I'll continue to keep him in the laundry room overnight until I'm finished with this round of antibiotics. I'm taking the "wait and see" approach, paying attention to his eating and drinking behaviors for any changes that could indicate illness. He seems healthy, though, and sounding less like a little piggy every day. In December, I'm taking him to the vet for boosters, so I'll have him checked out again -- by my normal vet -- then.

(Thanks to all who answered. I was beginning to feel cursed.)
posted by parilous at 9:04 AM on November 19, 2008

Response by poster: Update: he seems to be fine. He's not congested at all anymore and the sneezes are once a day or so. He's active and eating/drinking heartily.

While I agree that a vet visit is what I should have done, in that same perfect world I would also have the money to do it (irrespective of the $3200 I've spent in the previous 4 months).
posted by parilous at 2:53 PM on November 21, 2008

Response by poster: Update, nearly a month later: The kitty has totally recovered. The antibiotic combined with keeping him in the humidified laundry room overnight for a week fixed him up to 100%. He's active, healthy, eating and drinking well, and best of all -- now has pet insurance.
posted by parilous at 11:28 AM on December 2, 2008

Response by poster: Final edit, July 2009. The cat got some kind of bladder blockage and sadly wasn't responding to treatment. His illness was sudden and we're still reeling from his loss. We'll see if the pet insurance will cover some of the costs. RIP, Charlie. :(
posted by parilous at 2:42 PM on July 7, 2009

Response by poster: Update: Pet Insurance paid exactly what they said they would and pro-rated the remainder of the pet policy, refunding me the unused amount. I definitely recommend Pet Plan Insurance.
posted by parilous at 11:03 AM on October 13, 2009

Sorry to hear about Charlie.
posted by Mavri at 8:52 AM on October 14, 2009

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