Cat health issues
June 10, 2021 6:56 AM   Subscribe

YANMD, or veterinarian. Family cat is exhibiting odd symptoms. Family cat has been taken to the vet recently for treatment/diagnosis. Family cat is dying all the same. Amateur speculation welcome.

She's about thirteen years old. It might be her time; it might not. I'd like to exhaust our options first.

She's had issues with digesting certain types of food before (read: vomiting). On the recommendation of our vet, we switched her to hypoallergenic brands of cat food. This worked well, for months, until it didn't.

Fast forward to today. She continues to eat food but loses weight regardless. She acts more subdued than normal and spends more time hiding than ever before. Official vet diagnosis is irritable-bowel disorder, to be treated with steroids and nutrient injections (ongoing, but to little effect).

What have we missed? What similar experiences have you had with your cats, and what can be learned from them? What else might be going on? What else can we try?
posted by queen anne's remorse to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is she still vomiting? If so, an nausea med (I'm familiar with Cerenia) can help with that, and help her retain what she eats. And when I was trying to make sure my IBD cat was getting as many calories as possible, my vet recommended kitten food as it's more calorie dense (once we realized it wasn't an allergy). Does she also have diarrhea? A probiotic can help with that.

Given your vet suggests IBD, have you had the ultrasound to confirm? Note that the ultrasound cant distinguish between IBD and lymphoma (which present very similar), but the treatment can be the same for both as well regardless. But if the intestines look fine, it may not be IBD at all.

Good luck - I've been there, it's definitely not fun, but it's also not an immediate life sentence either!! My senior kitty kept going for years while we worked on her IBD.
posted by cgg at 7:18 AM on June 10

She may be in pain. I presume the steroids are to relieve inflammation, which would help, but is the possibility of pain being specifically addressed? There's a huge feedback loop between stress, including that caused by pain, and IBD.
posted by carmicha at 7:41 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

This seems like a good time to get a second opinion if you have access to another vet.
posted by Frowner at 7:53 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]

Seconding the second opinion recommendation. Healing thoughts to you and your kitty.
posted by missrachael at 8:19 AM on June 10

It's possible she has lymphoma? Did she have any kind of biopsy done? There are similarities in how it presents with IBD and both can be treated with steroids, although I believe lymphoma is also treated with chemo meds. I also believe a certain type of lymphoma is survivable for several years with proper meds. If your vet hasn't brought up this possibility, thirding that you should seek out another vet.
posted by whistle pig at 8:24 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

I second the suggestions of getting a second opinion by professionals. I also suggest really considering quality of life versus prolonging life. While some cats live close to two decades, thirteen years is a good run. When it came time to put my cat down, I waited far too long. By which I mean a few too many days but I know it all depends. Yes do everything you can to help your beloved kitty and I hope there’s a sudden and speedy recovery. But sometimes death is inevitable and there’s nothing even a vet can do other than ease the pain. I’m so sorry that you’ve having to deal with it right now!!
posted by smorgasbord at 8:42 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Just going off things in my house right now:
- one imagines she's had a senior blood work up. Since she started puking again? Thyroid would be the obvious thing.
- have you tried different limited ingredient foods? It took me years to figure out that I couldn't feed my more irritated bowel cat ANY salmon or salmon derived thing ever. And when I cut back on that stuff, the symptoms got worse when I messed up.
posted by wotsac at 8:50 AM on June 10

Check your area for specialist vets.
posted by amtho at 8:54 AM on June 10

Our 13-year-old cat started losing weight at the end of 2019, had an ultrasound done, and our vet suggested it was either IBD or lymphoma, though it was more likely to be IBD, and the treatment was the same for both except she'd add chemotherapy if it was lymphoma. We treated conservatively with steroids, appetite stimulants, and nutrients, but he kept losing weight, so we took him to an internal medicine specialist who confirmed it was lymphoma. We tried chemo, but he passed two months later. I forget what % of cats recover with it, but we didn't beat those odds.

Knowing what I know now, I feel like we waited too long to get him to the specialist, but we also would NOT give a cat chemo again. It was two months of hell for both him and for us. If we did it again, we'd make him comfortable and let him go peacefully.

1. Get to an internal medicine specialist ASAP
2. If it's lymphoma and chemo is an option, know that it can be a tough road ahead.

I'm hoping for the best for your little girl.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 8:59 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]

Also - if you happen to be in the greater Seattle area, I can recommend a very good internal medicine vet.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 9:05 AM on June 10

Been going though the same stuff with my 14 year old. It's very common elder cat stuff unfortunately. Everything others have said is true. Lymphoma and IBD have similar symptoms and a shockingly expensive biopsy to (IMO unnecessarily, since it's the same treatment) distinguish between the two. Two vets where we are quoted us ~$3500 for the procedure.

Our kitter wont tolerate the steroid, but he's stabilized with Cerenia (maropitant) to keep away the vomiting and being on a limited diet (100% venison or rabbit). The Cerenia has really been remarkably helpful, although some vets wont prescribe it for cats. Find one who will--it's totally worth it.

Welcome to the club and wishing you the best.
posted by quarterframer at 9:14 AM on June 10

Our cat developed symptoms (diarrhoea and occasional vomiting) of [something-something] small cell lymphoma at age 12, was diagnosed by surgical biopsy about 6 months later, went on a long-term treatment of prednisone (steroid) and a chemo drug (both in pill form) with the same diet as usual and, later, subcutaneous vitamin B12 shots, and lived to the age of 16.

Don't be afraid of the chemotherapy; it does not make a cat sick and bald because the objective in cats is to control the lymphoma, not kill it dead ASAP the way it is when used in humans.
posted by heatherlogan at 9:22 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]

My own 13-year old cat recently exhibited exactly the same behavior: vomiting, low energy and hiding, dramatic weight loss. The vet suspected IBD, but he has food allergies and a heart condition so our options were limited. His thyroid levels did come back slightly low, so we figured "why not" and put him on medication. It's like night and day - he's gaining weight and is as energetic as ever.

The thyroid test was expensive but not as expensive as other diagnostics, so it might be good to rule that out first.
posted by coffeespoons at 9:38 AM on June 10

Check for similar threads or ask a question there. You will get better informed answers.

A lot of people are advocates of a raw diet on there for treating cats with allergies, or there are lists of foods that are much better if you don't want to try this. They are vehemently against any kind of grain or dried food as they create big issues in many cats and if you search for someone called chillminx she regularly shared a list of the foods that are good to start on with an elimination diet. The first port of call was always to try boiling up chicken legs and feeding your cat the chicken and broth. If that works, progress her to one of the recommended foods. Then you can test to see what if anything she has a bad reaction to via elimination.

Have you had an x Ray to confirm no obstructions? These are commons and can manifest in the symptoms you describe.

Other than that is there a test they can do for cancer? Not eating is a common symptom.

I really hope kitten gets better. There has to be an explanation for lack of appetite and it sounds like you need a second opinion.
posted by flimflamflop at 11:12 AM on June 10

Aside from the vomiting, my dog showed similar symptoms when she had heart disease. I would think it would work the same in cats, but I don’t know.
posted by Comet Bug at 11:29 AM on June 10

Hyperthyroidism? Our 19 year old cat was recently diagnosed. She's old and skinny and was getting skinnier--she's always been small but she was dropping ounces. She's always been barfy, too. Her fur felt a little oily--and she was walking around howling during the day. Every few hours she would yell HELLOOOO at the top of her lungs repeatedly in an empty room* and freak us all out. She was always a fairly quiet cat, and it was that behavior that got me Googling and suggesting hyperthyroidism to the vet (which he confirmed.)

If you're interested in a food suggestion our cat eats beef baby food like it's something she's freshly killed. I have never seen her eat with such alarming enthusiasm. It makes giving her thyroid medicine a breeze.

*we think she's deaf and got impatient and alarmed when we aren't where she thinks we should be. That behavior has lessened, but not disappeared.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:40 PM on June 10

Have you ruled out diabetes? Eating / strong appetite but losing weight may be a sign of diabetes (source: I have 2 diabetic cats - one that nearly wasn't diagnosed in time properly - she was about 13 at the time, too).

If the cat is eating but losing weight anyway then they may be hidey because they're low energy and just feeling unwell. Note that my diabetic cat is also arthritic and what made a huge difference aside from treating the diabetes was putting her on Gabapentin to deal with the pain.

Definitely get a second opinion if you can.

Hope that you find a solution and your kitty can return to good health.
posted by jzb at 12:41 PM on June 10

I assume she's been checked over for kidney, thyroid, and blood sugar issues, but if not, a regular geriatric blood panel can rule out a lot of things. If she's been vomiting for a while but only recently developed other symptoms, something else might be going on.

If those are ruled out and you're left with the IBS/possible lymphoma as the strongest contender for why she's unwell, steroid (prednisolone pill; if they're doing something else, I'd look into switching to this) treatment is standard for either one; they present very similarly, and possibly even overlap. Many vets will not prescribe a chemotherapy pill (chlorambucil) without first doing a biopsy to determine that the cat really does have small-cell lymphoma. My cat Penny, who does, has been on a combo of chlorambucil and prednisolone for nearly three years now and is doing well (she's 16). However, already being on prednisolone before a biopsy can mask small-cell lymphoma and make it difficult to diagnose even by biopsy.

Ultrasound can't distinguish between IBS and small-cell lymphoma, but it can detect other forms of cancer like large-cell lymphoma, which is a very different beast from small-cell. My cat who got diagnosed with large-cell lymphoma lived about another week, declining steeply while we agonized over whether IV chemo would give him any more quality of life. I do not believe it would have.

I'd suggest looking at, which has a lot of information and may have useful suggestions. I find that a lot of cat health sites/boards get a little intense/overwhelming, and can recommend a lot of intensive treatments you might not necessarily end up doing, but they do have a lot of accumulated knowledge.
posted by kite at 2:26 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Dental pain?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:48 PM on June 11

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