Why is my cat suddenly grinding his teeth and acting like Eeyore?
October 8, 2009 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Catfilter/Vetfilter: why is my senior cat suddenly grinding his teeth and acting like Eeyore?

Here's the background:

After a bite from a fellow feline (same household), my 16 year old cat, Frank, developed an abscess on his tail that was promptly treated with liquid oral antibiotics. His tail is now fine, but the antibiotics seemed to make him lethargic, very quiet (he's usually a very vocal cat) and reduced his appetite to the point where he was only licking gravy and refusing wet or dry solids. The antibiotics are finished, as of a 2 days ago, but he has now started to grind his teeth while "eating" (read: licking) his soft food. There has been a bit of weight loss since he's not eating solids, and we were very concerned about these signals indicating CRF and potential liver damage b/c of the lack of solid food.

We have a great vet with whom he has spent the morning.

He's had a full workup there with a CBC and is getting fluids, but his CBC came back clean. "Not just normal, perfect," in the vet's words. All organs appear to functioning great, he has no mineral deficiencies (except a very slight calcium deficiency). There do not appear to be any dental lesions, tooth issues, gum problems, etc. No fever. No resistance to abdominal palpation. Somewhat more alert than when he was getting antibiotics, but a bit weak.

And the question:

Has anyone ever experience this kind of teeth grinding? Or lack of appetite several days after a course of antibiotics is finished? Not even canned tuna or baby food piques his interest. The vet is at a loss as to what could be causing his Eeyore-like malaise, other than general nausea from the antibiotic.

Planning to give him a small bit of slippery elm when he comes home tonight to help with the nausea, but I'm really not sure what to do, because I'm not sure what is wrong.

So, fellow Mefi animal lovers, have any ideas?
posted by muirne81 to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
I'm a vet, but I'm not your vet blah blah.

This is probably really obvious and the vet I'm sure checked all this, but...was the abscess lanced? Is it definately completely gone? Any reaction when you palpate around the area? These things HURT HURT HURT and pain can lead to depression/malaise/anorexia/teeth grinding. If an abscess isn't lanced, sometimes the antibiotics don't completely get rid of it and it starts growing again.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 10:34 AM on October 8, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you peanut butter milkshake, I totally understand.

The abscess was not lanced as it actually burst at the night before we were going in to have it drained. It was closely monitored by both ourselves and our vet & has drained completely/healed. No pain upon palpation, swelling totally gone, no redness. Small scab, but the cat seems to care less when its fiddled with and isn't licking or focusing on the area. The abscess was at the base of the tail, which I realize being a bony area, could lead to infection spreading outside of the wound/pus pocket b/c of the tightness of the skin, but the vet didn't think there was any indication that this occurred - I asked specifically.

I will definitely mention the possibility of the abscess still being an issue out of caution to the vet this evening, though.

What has been most stumping for the both of us (vet & myself) is that we both thought the kidney issues were a certainty based on his malaise, lack of appetite, teeth grinding, etc. She was really shocked when the screen came back so positive.
posted by muirne81 at 10:46 AM on October 8, 2009

What about stomach issues? Reflux, gastritis, nausea?
posted by crankylex at 11:04 AM on October 8, 2009

Okay, I know he's a cat and not a ferret, but ferrets do that when they're nauseated or their stomachs hurt. Antibiotics can mess with the tummy and the trouble can continue or get worse after the meds have stopped, so you might see if the vet wants to try some basic care for that.
posted by dilettante at 2:56 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some antibiotics are very hard on the GI tract. Ask your vet to consider if your cat has some reflux of stomach acid happening. I've seen this in my elderly female cat after a long course of antibiotics - including the teeth grinding.

Have a think about the relationship between Frank and the cat who bit him too. There can be a lot of hidden from the human eye bullying going on without you being aware of it. Stress does evil things to cats, including stopping them eating. Older cats often have a tenuous placing in the hierarchy of any multicat household, so make sure Frank has some good, safe and quiet places to rest up from the other bitey cat. It could of course be Frank who was laying down the paw and the other cat is was defending itself. Just a thought, feline social dynamics are fluid.

Cats can be pretty stoic about pain, and have some very different ways of expressing it. Pain will stop a cat eating. Reflux can stop them eating too, the gastric acid burns the throat and the back of the tongue and it tastes hideous as well - nothing like having the taste of stomach acid in your mouth to put you off food. Consider also that the regular dosing with the liquid antibiotic may have hurt his mouth, especially if it was given with a hard ended plastic syringe or a glass dropper. No matter how careful you are, sometimes the gums or the roof of the mouth gets bruised and sometimes teeth get chipped or bashed so hard the nerve is rattled and hurts.

There's a really good coating antacid called Antepsin (sucralfate) which I use for my elderly cat when she gets a bit of reflux. I grind up the 1/4 tablet in 1ml of cold water and syringe it into her mouth (this is much kinder to the feline throat than trying to ram a hard tablet in) - I leave her for an hour for the Antepsin to work it's magic, then offer food. The perfect size for a cat swallow is 1ml. Any more than that and the cat may well gag.

If your vet offers you a human antacid in liquid form, it will usually have a mint flavouring, which cats detest big time. Ask for the unflavoured tablet version.

Get well soon Frank!
posted by Arqa at 10:20 AM on October 10, 2009

Response by poster: Just an update to all who answered, and all who may come across this thread in the future:

We believe the cat has Addison's Disease. He's still recovering, but is eating food again with a combination of injection & oral medication.
posted by muirne81 at 9:58 AM on October 24, 2009

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