Sick 13 year old Cat.

by Ashley
(New Jersey)

My 13 year old cat has recently been throwing up a yellow or clear mucus or throwing up a solid orange color. We brought her to the vet where all her blood panels came back fine and the vet said she was looking very healthy. We were just told to let her eat a few flavors of food since she probably just had an upset stomach. More recently my cat has only been eating a few bites of food and walking away. She was last weighed at 11 pounds but looks like she's losing weight & her coat is looking a little scruffy. I'm afraid something was undiagnosed by the first visit. I'm worried this has been going on for months and my cat doesn't have much time left. Please help!

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for writing in with your concern for your cat. Contrary to common belief, cats never start declining due to "old age." There is an underlying cause for the symptoms you described, and you are correct to be concerned.

First, whenever an upset stomach and vomiting are present, adding or changing to new and different foods can actually make the symptoms worse. I recommend sticking to flavors and brands that she is used to and/or had eaten prior to the start of the vomiting.

Some common health conditions for older cats include hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and renal insufficiency. I would recommend contacting your vet to make sure the bloodwork that was done was complete, including creatinine, glucose, and thyroid levels in particular. You may also wish to ask your vet if he would do a second type of thyroid testing called "unbound thyroid." I would also recommend bringing your vet a stool sample so s/he can run a fecal test, if one hasn't already been done.

If all of the above is in order or turns up nothing unusual, the next step would be to proceed with X-rays and possibly ultrasound and/or barium gastrointestinal studies.

There are many vets that believe every vomiting cat deserves a trial of Panacur for possible stomach worms which can be difficult to diagnose. Also vomiting, not coughing, is the number one sign of heartworm in cats, so this is something to discuss with your veterinarian as well.

Another possibility is dental/oral health. Has your cat ever had a professional dental cleaning? If she hasn't, it is possible that her teeth are very painful, causing her to eat less and/or swallow her food without properly chewing, and these could play contributing roles in the vomiting and weight loss.

Sudden and extreme weight loss can lead to hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease. If caught early, this is very treatable. Taking her for second opinions or additional tests now can prevent the need for more drastic treatments later.

Best of luck,
Dr. Neely

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