Mysterious cat illness
February 5, 2005 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Mysterious cat illness

Last night, my cat suddenly became distraught, spent a lot of time crying, began hissing at nothing, etc. I took him to the vet, they gave him valium, he started acting drunk. Today, he can no longer walk. I took him back to the vet, and they say he has no kidney/liver problems, that he's probably really sensitive to the valium, and to let him come down for a day or so. I think he may have had a stroke, but the vet said that is really hard to diagnose. Has anyone else had experience with a cat stroke/sudden paralysis/staying high *way* too long?
posted by omphale27 to Pets & Animals (26 answers total)
 
It almost sounds a bit like a toxic ingestion. Does he spend time outdoors? Any pesticides, poisons, etc around? Is the lack of walking because he is so sedated?
posted by docpops at 2:01 PM on February 5, 2005


If the cat is not old, and is in generally good health, then a stroke isn't very likely. I'd look more at possible poisoning if that were the case.

If the cat is older, then a stroke becomes more likely. What you've described does sound neurological, but more detail would be required.

From my experience, a cat's sense of balance is very delicate, and they prefer to not walk, rather than stumble around and fall over, so it's not surprising that your cat is not walking while doped up.

Biggest clues to a cat's health are food intake and waste elimination. If both of those are OK, then the cat's probably OK.
posted by yesster at 2:04 PM on February 5, 2005


I would take the cat to another vet, asap. It sounds like your vet is guessing at what's going on (much like we are) and I think your cat would get better care elsewhere. Seek a referal from someone who does animal rescue in your area. They will know the best vets.
posted by tizzie at 2:19 PM on February 5, 2005


My cat was pretty interested in the wet food that I fed him earlier in the day, although I am having trouble getting him to drink anything (the vet did hydrate him some). I have purchased some special cat milk, but so far he's not interested. As far as elimination goes, he did manage to take care of #s 1 & 2 on my fiance while we were at the vet, but he hasn't gone since then. At present, he is very dopey.

I don't know how old he is. The best guess is somewhere around 6 or 7. He is an indoor/outdoor kitty, but we couldn't think of anything poisonous he might have gotten into, unless he ate a sick critter or something. His blood tests didn't show that he'd ingested any anti-freeze.

I think it would be odd that the drugs are still in his system, since its been 24 hours since he got the dose of vallium, but I really don't know anything about how cats metabolize drugs.

Thanks for the suggestions. Any change in the cat's behavior, or no improvement by tomorrow, and he's going to go visit a different vet.
posted by omphale27 at 2:43 PM on February 5, 2005


Are the cat's rabies shots up to date? Another name for rabies is hydrophobia because the animal won't take liquids. I would think the vet would check for this, but you might want to make sure.

On a related note, we have a dog that has epilepsy and when it first came out they sedated her to settle the seizures down. She acted very "drunk" and listless for several days, maybe a week or two, until the sedative got out of her system. Could be just the effects of the drugs.
posted by Doohickie at 3:37 PM on February 5, 2005


I strongly agree about taking him to a different vet, even if he seems back to normal tomorrow (perhaps not necessarily for this issue, but a change in vets sounds necessary to me). If he's an indoor/outdoor cat there's all manner of toxins he could have eaten. Did the vet do any neurological testing and vision testing? Strokes can be hard to diagnose, is/was your cat paralyzed or just unable to walk properly? What was the reason for giving him valium? As a general rule, Valium is used to treat anorexia in cats, and I'm a bit surprised that a vet would administer it to treat behavioural symptoms (if that's what was done) without concurrently looking for their cause. This would make me worried about the care my pet was getting, worried enough to find another vet.

Cats have very short and inefficient digestive tracts, which is why we have to be very careful about what kinds of drugs we use on them (and is also, incidentally, why dogs love cat poop, because it's basically just cat food). However, Valium is used in cats fairly regularly, even in cats with liver problems (to stimulate appetite).
posted by biscotti at 3:39 PM on February 5, 2005


Try The Kyle Animal Hospital website. They have some nice resources ( click on the encyclopedia link) there for researching ailments. This was our vet for 7 years when we lived in Austin, Texas, and one of the best I have ever met in my nearly 50 years of roaming this planet.
posted by lobstah at 4:03 PM on February 5, 2005


I think it would be odd that the drugs are still in his system, since its been 24 hours since he got the dose of vallium, but I really don't know anything about how cats metabolize drugs.

No one does-- the troubling thing about anesthetizing cats is that individuals respond wildly differently to sedatives. When a vet prescribes a sedative for your cat, s/he doesn't know exactly what it's going to do. Toxic/lethal doses for oral anesthetics are well-enough established that it's not generally dangerous to give a sedative, but the vet doesn't really know if it's going to calm the cat down or make it sleep for two days (the extreme case).

biscotti: Cats have very short and inefficient digestive tracts, which is why we have to be very careful about what kinds of drugs we use on them (and is also, incidentally, why dogs love cat poop, because it's basically just cat food).

Well said, and we can use it to second guess what the vet was thinking-- unusal symptoms in a younger cat are often a result of GI irritation. Unfortunately, cats are often victims of depraved appetite (they love to scarf down odds and ends the float and move attractively as a vestige of their predator backgrounds) and they're fragile and nervous enough to agitate themselves to death once their belly is really churned. Give a cat with severe GI distress a sedative, and his body will deal with the irritation without over-stressing him. And despite all the miracle stories you hear about cat survival, they're delicate creatures.

A second opinion never hurts, but your vet's not being ham-handed about it. S/he suspects stomach/internal problems. Sedating the cat will either allow it to come around feel cleaner inside without hurting itself, or allow it to sober up and show no change, in which case it may be a stroke (common in cats) or something else that isn't GI-related. But you have to rule stuff out while remaining mindful of the cat's comfort.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:10 PM on February 5, 2005


The initial symptoms sound like my cat when he had pancreatitis. Came on suddenly, he started hiding under tables, crying and hissing at us. He's been on Science Diet Sensitive Stomach ever since with no further problems.
posted by words1 at 4:48 PM on February 5, 2005


Valium is used to treat anorexia in cats

Seriously? Cats get diagnosed anorexic? Does anorexic in this case just mean not eating? Or are there people out there who are worried that their cats have problems with their body image? Not meant to be snarky, I just have images of cats standing in front of mirrors looking critically at their ribs, and now I'm curious. Sorry, no helpful advice, omphale27, hope you have a fit kitty again soon.
posted by penguin pie at 5:31 PM on February 5, 2005


Does anorexic in this case just mean not eating?

Does asking in this case mean"too lazy to google" or is it a chance to practice shitty standup comedy? Anorexic means lacking appetite. Anorexia nervosa is the full name of the specific affliction to which you're making a tired allusion. Please don't think that I have a sore spot about anorexia nervosa-- no one that I've ever cared about has had it. But many of my loved ones have been subjected to awful amateur comedians and suffered.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:56 PM on February 5, 2005


Gee, Mr. Mayor, that seems a little... excessive.
posted by scody at 6:28 PM on February 5, 2005


A second opinion never hurts, but your vet's not being ham-handed about it.

I don't at all disagree with what your opinion is about what the vet may be doing, and your explanation was great, but I do think that if this IS what the vet is doing, the vet should have told omphale27 that, and not left them wondering and worrying to the point they had to ask a bunch of strangers something that the vet should have told them in the first place. The vet's medicine may be wonderful, but their client communication skills sound lacking to me (at least from what I know of it via a client of theirs). A breakdown in either area sometimes warrants seeing another vet, in my opinion. Part of a vet's job is dealing with owners and communicating clearly and openly enough with them that they feel they know what's going on (or at least know what the vet's trying to rule out).
posted by biscotti at 6:36 PM on February 5, 2005


And, just to be clear, stroke is unusual in cats but not impossible. I don't think "common" is the best way to describe it. If your cat keeps it up, you should strongly consider asking for a chem panel and blood count. And do NOT feel badly about switching vets. When our cat was sick and our vet was not taking us seriously, we went to another vet and got very good treatment that was much more appropriate to our cat's problem. You know your cat, and you know what is and is not normal for him. Trust your gut.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:13 PM on February 5, 2005


the vet should have told omphale27 that, and not left them wondering and worrying to the point they had to ask a bunch of strangers something that the vet should have told them in the first place.

That's an excellent point. omphale27's vet's bedside manor is definitely lacking. If you've got to ask like this, it probably is seriously time to think about a new vet. Unless s/he's been VERY good in the past and was off his/her game today.

Gee, Mr. Mayor, that seems a little... excessive.

I kind of felt that way when I first hit "post," and then I imagined a scenario where I was discussing my pet's poor condition with acquaintances. And then Carrot Top walked in. I would have been glad if someone told him to fuck off and I hope that I'm providing the same service.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:49 PM on February 5, 2005


One person mentioned the rabies possibility - the only way to get a definitive test for rabies is to sever the head and send it to the state vet lab in your state.

I would also advocate getting a second opinion. See if you can find a feline only vet since they are specialists and they would more likely than not know more than a general vet.
posted by mabelcolby at 7:56 PM on February 5, 2005


Or.... you can isolate the animal and see if it gets better, can't you?
posted by Doohickie at 8:02 PM on February 5, 2005


Thanks for the advice, everyone. It certainly doesn't look good. I look at my boy, but I just can't find him in there anywhere. His symptoms appear to have progressed, and we are pretty sad over here. At any rate, I appreciate the compassion that many of you have shown.
posted by omphale27 at 8:46 PM on February 5, 2005


Oh no, omphale27, I'm sorry. Get him to the emergency vet (or ideally call your own vet's emergency number if they have one - they usually leave information about what to do in an off-hours emergency on their answering machine) if you think you should, spending the night being scared and worried and sad with a sick pet is sometimes more expensive than a trip to the emerg.
posted by biscotti at 10:18 PM on February 5, 2005


I've stayed up all night with mine before. Take him to the vet. Sooner rather than later. Good luck, and my heart is with you.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:21 PM on February 5, 2005


And, I meant to add previously, when my cat was on thorazine (I think -- it was a heavy, heavy sedative) for vomiting, he just curled up and slept, or stared and whined if you disturbed him. It freaked me out, but he stopped vomiting and after about three days he was totally okay again. He wasn't anywhere near "normal" though. Sedatives do bizarre things to cats sometimes, but like us (and has been noted here) sleeping it off is pretty good for them. I can't tell where you are from your profile, but if you happen to be in the Atlanta area, I know of a specialist center here for cats as well as a local vet who is a cat whiz. Good luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:26 PM on February 5, 2005


Absolutely *no* attempt at comedy intended. Google laziness I put my hand up to and apologise for. I have had friends with anorexia nervosa and it doesn't make me laugh. Like I say, I hope the cat gets well again and apologise for slight thread derail.
posted by penguin pie at 7:00 AM on February 6, 2005


One of my cats has been poisoned twice (he's a roamer), and we had to give him emergency shots of some drug, whose name I can't recall at the moment (atropina in Spanish?). The important thing is that it was akin to adrenaline, it made him half crazy to go along with the other half crazy he already was from the poison, poor little guy. It saved his life though and the first time the vet even had to give him sedatives to bring him down from the original shot. Three or four days later he was still woozy, as much, I suspect from the sedative as the poisoning. He's absolutely fine now, so maybe you just have to give yours a few days to recuperate. It's important that he drinks water, even if you have to force feed him with a plastic syringe.
posted by sic at 4:23 PM on February 6, 2005


I am sorry for your cat's illness.

Occasionally we do run across humans who don't tolerate benzos well - you give 'em a little anxiolytic dose and they're staggering around for the next day or two. Not clear to me why that happens, probably a genetic difference in metabolism.

Doesn't sound like that's what's happening here, because the symptoms antedated the valium and got worse well after it.

I hope kitty gets better.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:45 PM on February 6, 2005


If your cat seems interested in fluids but isn't drinking them, try dipping your fingers in the cat milk and letting him lick the milk off them. My cat had flu over christmas several years ago and it was the only way I could get anything into her for almost a week.
posted by talitha_kumi at 4:38 AM on February 7, 2005


I keep checking back here - Is your kitty okay?
posted by sophie at 11:25 AM on February 8, 2005


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