Senior cat with normal tests still has strange cat behavior/symptoms

by Lara
(New York, NY)

Senior cat Melinda -- 16 years old & amazing!

Senior cat Melinda -- 16 years old & amazing!

Dear Dr. Neely,

Thank you for posting an answer to my initial question about my senior cat. It was so helpful & informative & mirrored all of my veterinarian's concerns.

My cat Melinda's bloodwork & urinalysis was perfect: no UTI or kidney disease, no thyroid, liver, or any other organ problems. Everything looked good. So the next step was to do an ultrasound to see if there were any stomach/intestinal problems due to the diminished appetite, vomiting & defecating all over the house. My senior cat is a strictly indoor cat & I have no other animals.

The ultrasound was also fine, albeit she had a lot of stool in her colon. The vet said on my first visit that this was the case as well, which she was surprised about since I reported Melinda wasn't eating much for the few days prior. They determined, however, that although she may have a little senior cat constipation, the stool is soft & there are no blockages in the intestinal tract or rectum.

So now, I'm back to square one, although reassured that Melinda is healthy in all these ways. The veterinarian did insist, however, that this is not 'just old age' & that my cat is not simply deteriorating. The vet insists something must be wrong, but still we really don't know what it is. My vet said the next step may be to go to a feline neurologist, and then perhaps get an MRI, which for me, is just financially out of the question.

I think I may just tackle my senior cat's dental disease & the one deep cavity she has in her tooth. The vet says she doesn't think this is the ultimate problem, but said it would have to be taken care of "eventually." My thought is, though, that I might as well try to do this as it's the only thing left that's affordable.

While I may be able to afford an office visit and consult with a feline neurologist, there is no way I will be able to get an MRI for my cat if that's what they want. The only thing I could do, at that point, would be to perhaps medicate Melinda for anxiety & pain & make her as comfortable as possible. I don't know what else I can do.

Any further suggestions you may have would, of course, be welcome. I am attaching a picture of Melinda, the love of my life. Thanks so much for your help.

Dear Lara,

Thank you for writing back with an update on your senior kitty. While it is great hearing that Melinda’s bloodwork and urinalysis came back normal, of course your veterinarian is correct that old age isn’t causing your cat’s illness symptoms.

Before I even got to your thoughts on what to do next for your elderly cat, I had thought the same about her tooth, and definitely agree that your cat’s dental disease should be addressed as the next step. A single infected tooth or dental cavity can cause quite a lot of pain and discomfort for a cat and could account for the changes in her behavior and appetite.

I would suggest that you bring Melinda in for a very thorough dental scaling and cleaning of all of her teeth. Make sure that your veterinarian has permission to and will remove any teeth that need to be extracted or may be causing your senior cat pain. It is always better for a cat to have no teeth than to have a mouth full of painful or diseased teeth!

Constipation in older cats is definitely quite common, and the Miralax can certainly help. If your cat is not already on a canned cat food diet, if you begin feeding her a 50/50 mix of canned cat food and 100% pure, pureed, canned pumpkin, you will likely see some improvement in cat constipation symptoms as well. The fiber in canned pumpkin will help keep her regular and may help with her defecating around the house, and most cats love the flavor!

In terms of your reservations about bringing your cat for a consultation with a feline neurologist, I certainly understand. An MRI would be done to look for a tumor or similar not-so-easily treated cat health problems, so please don’t feel guilty for not spending the money to explore this option. Focusing on keeping your kitty comfortable, within your financial means, especially at such a ripe old age, is a completely reasonable thing to do.

See how your precious Melinda does a week or so after having a good, thorough dental procedure, and see if feeding canned pumpkin is helping with her constipation. Then, please write back with an update on your cat’s health again!

All the best,
Dr. Neely

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