Any advice before I take the cat to the vet a third time for sneezing?
May 19, 2015 7:05 AM   Subscribe

My cat is sneezing a lot after two courses of antibiotics and I'm unsure how to proceed, given that I don't entirely trust the veterinary practice I use in terms of pushing for expensive tests and treatments. Could the cat just have allergies? Do I just need to suck it up and go to this vet again?

So this cat has been sneezing for at least 2 months now. The first time it happened, I took her to the vet, they gave her antibiotics, the sneezing mostly went away. But when she went back a few weeks later to get a deep tooth-cleaning, she came home and within a few days she was sneezing again. I took her back, and they looked up her nose (no polyps) and they had taken xrays of her teeth, so no abscess. The vet wanted to charge me $250 to get a culture (which I could not afford since I had just spent $800 on a tooth-cleaning) so instead he just gave me another course of the same antibiotic, supposed to last for 15 days. The sneezing has never gone away, and that was something like 6-8 weeks ago. There have been some days and weeks better than others, and her otherwise healthy demeanor has allowed me to try and wait it out.

The cat, who is almost 14 at this point, eats, runs, (MRROOOWS), plays, etc. I have looked up the other two questions on here I could find about cats and sneezing, searched the web - and it seems that either she has developed allergies, or she has some sort of infection that didn't respond to this particular antibiotic.

I don't really know what to do, because although this vet is great with my cat on an interpersonal level, he, and others in his office, also seem to push for things that aren't necessary (vaccinations that only affect outdoor cats, even though my cat is an indoor cat, for instance, or sudden last-minute $280 "required" blood tests before anesthesia which the vets then don't check before putting her under). I'm happy to spend money on the cat if necessary, but it *is* a hardship, and I don't know how to tell what is necessary from what is not. Every time I go back, it's a minimum of $80, not including the medication, and I'm terrified they will suggest tests and I won't know whether or not it's the right thing to do, but obviously I love the damned animal and want to do the right thing.

Finding another vet is of course an option, but I found this vet using the AAHA website, and every time I look for a vet, the reviews are totally unhelpful (someone always accuses the office of overcharging, or of almost killing their pet, while others can't say enough good things about the practice - this is true for my current vet).

I'm wondering if anyone else has had experience with this kind of thing, either on the medicine side, or on the "finding a good vet" side - what would you do? Can I actually go to a vet's office and say "please prescribe me the correct dose of antihistamine" so that I can explore that option, without having to go through a battery of tests? Or do you have any tricks to get vets to be honest with you, or ways to find a vet that is trustworthy in that domain?
posted by microcarpetus to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
If it's just sneezing, it could just be herpes. One of our little dudes, Carrot, is just kinda sneezy and our vet told us not to worry about it, as it's usually pretty self limiting (he sneezes when he gets stressed, basically).
posted by damayanti at 7:09 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

My big guy (about 12 y.o.) sneezes a lot, too. Has been doing it for a couple of years now. He's an otherwise healthy cat. At one point, the vet suggested trying to slip him a little Benadryl, but he had none of that. Sometimes, you just have to let it go.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:12 AM on May 19, 2015

Where are you? Someone might have a personal recommendation for a new vet (or you could work your network).

I felt I got bad service from my closest vet, but good service from the nearest veterinary hospital - it's basically where local vets refer cases. They recently took cultures from my animal but didn't send them away because it wouldn't have changed their treatment plan - but they're there if the condition gets worse. They also did phone follow-ups to see how the healing was going, which I really appreciated.
posted by Leon at 7:17 AM on May 19, 2015

I have a cat with allergies. She's always been a sneezy girl. A couple of times it has progressed into an upper respiratory infection that requires antibiotics, but it's easy to see when that's happening because (apologies in advance for grossness) the sneezes are productive, and rather than just being clear it's yellowish green.

I do think you should find another vet, though, especially as your buddy is entering her elderly years. I have another cat with a litany of special needs and having a vet you can trust is so, so valuable. Ask around and see if any of your friends have someone they can recommend.
posted by something something at 7:17 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Definitely find a new vet. Ask other people you know in the area who have cats. No practice is perfect, but a personal recommendation from someone you trust goes a long way.
posted by radioamy at 7:23 AM on May 19, 2015

We had a very sneezy cat that stopped sneezing as much when we changed her diet to avoid grains for another reason, so anecdotally, I would happily believe that cats can have allergies that result in sneezing.

It also cut down on the barfing. A lot.
posted by advicepig at 7:31 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have found the best vets through friend networks. Every time I tried to find a new vet through reviews online, etc. I ended up in this same situation you are in where I felt like the upsell was their main goal, and I had no way to determine whether the treatment was at all needed/reasonable.

Another approach is to call up and ask specifically about teeth cleaning. My general experience has been that both the cost of this AND how much a vet is insistent on this as a needed procedure is highly correlated with their upsell attitude. When we got our latest cat from the shelter, the first vet we saw said a teeth cleaning was 100% needed and wanted to charge something like $1000. We called around to several places, and were quoted wildly different prices and got a sense of different attitudes of how necessary this sort of thing was (one place wanted us to come in for X-rays with their speciality dentist vet, without ever even having seen the cat in person, while others were much more "this is something we can take a look at during the appointment but we like to try other approaches first"). We ended up going with a vet recommended by a friend, and lo and behold years later the cat is doing perfectly fine, does not seem to have needed that $1000 procedure, and instead gets much-less-expensive dental treats to chew on.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:35 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh - I am in NYC (forgot to say - in case anyone has a recommendation for the area). My current vet is actually in Yonkers because at the time I lived in north north Bronx (am living closer to the center of NYC now).

Thank you for your helpful responses so far!
posted by microcarpetus at 7:53 AM on May 19, 2015

There's a facebook page for a feral cat group that I see a lot of people posting about giving L-Lysine to cats that are sneezing or even just as a boost to keep them healthier. I think the people with bigger colonies buy it online but you might check pet stores.
Just did a quick search and PetSmart carries it online. It was $9-$12 for a package if you want to give it a try.

Lysine for Cats
posted by stray thoughts at 8:22 AM on May 19, 2015

Yeah, I give L-Lysine to my cat for sneezing on my vet's recommendation. It doesn't keep him from sneezing entirely, but it definitely cuts down on both the frequency and gross factor. I actually just placed an Amazon order before coming here. I usually get this, but I found a cheaper alternative here that seems to be the same stuff.
posted by natabat at 9:11 AM on May 19, 2015

Best answer: I work in veterinary medicine, but I am not a vet. Couple things:
1. I would not continue going to a vet you are not comfortable with, especially in your case where you have so many options.
2. If you switch to a different vet they will need to do a new exam, and are most likely going to want to repeat testing and possibly going to want to repeat treatment options (antibiotics you have already tried, for example). Vets don't always trust what other vets have done, and they need to feel confident in their data and observations in order to make recommendations.
3. $250 seems like a LOT for a culture, unless there are some other tests involved, and $80 seems high for an office visit (but maybe not in NYC). I would call around to compare prices on those things in particular.
4. Pre-anesthetic bloodwork is really important for elderly cats, and they should have been up front with you about that. For what it is worth, they use it primarily as a way to rule out certain abnormalities that will adversely affect your pet's ability to undergo anesthesia, so if everything is normal, they are really not going to look at it in any detail.
4. That said, veterinary medicine is not cheap, and costs do add up. A good vet will be understanding of financial issues and will be happy to work with you to find a diagnostic plan and treatment plan that works with your budget, or a more symptomatic approach. You should always be able to talk to your vet about a cost/benefit analysis of their recommendations.
5. Reviews are useless for finding a vet, I'm afraid. It is easy for people to get their pet's medical outcome wrapped up in their impression of their vet and the clinic - in both directions, positive and negative. It really is best to talk with friends and ask them in some depth about what their vet is like. I do like the idea about calling and asking about dental cleanings. I think how a vet handles dentals is a pretty fair assessment of how they practice medicine.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:04 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

maybe switch to a low-dust litter and see if that helps
posted by Jacqueline at 5:40 PM on May 19, 2015

Also - you don't use Febreze, do you? Or room fresheners? Anything new like that?

I absolutely can't breathe around Febreze - it tightens up my chest something terrible and once in awhile it makes me sneeze, but I get away from it ASAP since my lung disease isn't something to play around with - but when I told a friend about that a few weeks ago she told me her cats can't tolerate Febreze or room fresheners (don't know what kind) because their noses run and they sneeze and get lethargic, etc.

Just a thought - hope your kitty feels well soon. As for the teeth cleaning business, I'm amazed how we had dogs and cats all my life and none of them ever had their teeth cleaned or dental work done, let alone all their teeth pulled (which has happened to several of my friends' older dogs) - and every one of those dogs lived to be old, fat and happy. I think the dental business is used way more than it should be and it's one heck of a moneymaker, but the worst part is that once they start cleaning the teeth and scraping the plaque off it seems like that gets infection or something started and from then on they have constant dental problems. Maybe I'm wrong - but maybe not. If I had a cat or dog now, I'd wait until I was sure they had something wrong with their mouth/teeth before anyone did any dental work on them. Just my two cents.
posted by aryma at 8:56 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

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