Cat coughing plus weight loss

by Mary
(Stittville, NY)

Hi, my cat has been losing significant weight. We've had him to the vet twice in the past week and plan to call again in morning, hoping he makes it through the night.

He is ten years old and has always been in very good health, up to date with all shots, an indoors only cat with 5 other cats in the house all that are healthy. He is medium to large built, with a healthy normal weight of around 15 pounds.

His symptoms actually started about a month or so ago in this order.

The first thing I noticed was on his hind legs, at the joint are round patches of hair loss, about the size of a quarter on each side.

Shortly after this it appeared his normal beautiful coat didn't lay flat anymore but would stand up and stay like that and his normal white hair wasn't as bright white as normal and some slight weight loss.

He has always been a very social cat and started to become too tired to involve himself in play with the other cats or with us.

About 3 weeks ago he developed a cough like he was trying to get a hairball up but couldn't. After a few days of this, we took him to his vet who thought it was possibly a stuck hairball and because of the coughing he had irritated his lungs.

She prescribed an antibiotic and a lubricant for the hairball. She said if this was the problem it would take about 5-7 days to notice. By about day 5 he still wasn't better and a definite weight loss was noticed now.

We went back, full work up of blood showed everything was normal, but his cough was worse and the weight loss was significant, down to 10.6 pounds now. Also, the vet said there was not much sound coming from the hind quarters?

She suggested a couple other possibilities, asthma, heart issues and a mass or cancer. The second course of treatment she chose to treat was the possibility of asthma. This was Saturday morning and his treatment consist of a half pill of prednisone.

He doesn't want to drink much, and eats little. I've tried many foods and the only thing he has taken is pieces of turkey breast and cat treats.

It's been 4 days and I've noticed little to no improvement. His cough is still there, eating little, I believe dehydrated now, and his eyes are sunken in some, and you can start to see the membrane on the eyes.

His breathing is labored. One other thing I forgot to mention is he has a hard time eating, not just a lack of appetite.

It seems like he has a toothache and chews on one side or another, can only take small pieces of food and seems like he struggles to swallow. His teeth checked out fine. In fact the vet said he had very good teeth especially considering his age.

I hope you can give me an answer. I know its hard to diagnose, but feel his time is running short.

Thank you.

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Nov 05, 2011
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3rd Day update on Dusty
by: Mary

Here it is Saturday, 3 days since Dusty began a 2x day dose of prednisone and an antibiotic. Although we know it is only a matter of time, he does seem more comfortable. He hasn't been coughing although he gets out of breath quickly. He has been eating more, mainly because the prednisone has increased his appetite.

Our 5 other babies all know he doesn't feel well and seem to take turns watching and grooming him. One of our 6 cats is a wild little girl who came to us 2 years ago (a kitten who was dropped off), and still won't go to any people but my husband, but she seems to have made Dusty her priority. Where he would groom her in the past, she will hold him with one paw and groom him now.

He has always loved being held like a baby with his paws around your neck and he would always lay on his back waiting for a belly rub, or if he was on the floor and you made eye contact, he would jump into your arms. It's really hard to see him decline so quickly. He has moments when it almost seems like he is in pain if you touch him now and some moments when he will still roll on his back.

For now he is doing the best we can hope for. I thank you all for your comments and thoughts.

Nov 02, 2011
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Get well Dusty!
by: Kurt (Admin)

I'm sorry to hear the bad news about Dusty's condition, Mary, but I'm glad he seems to be doing better! You must be exhausted, and I'm sure he is too. I hope you both can get some good rest and that he feels better as the days go by.

I've got "healing paw power thoughts" going over here so hopefully that will help! Get well Dusty!

Nov 02, 2011
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Dusty's Update
by: Mary

We had a pretty bad day at the Vet's today with Dusty. He was on the steroid 1/2 a pill for 4 days without any improvement so, he went in today for an x-ray. We got very bad news, he has a mass in his chest area a little bigger than his heart, pressing against his lungs and ribs. I'm not sure we are making the right decision at the moment, but the course of action we are taking is to increase the prednisone to 2x per day and a course of antibiotics. He received a shot of prednisone today, and tonight he has eaten more, drank some water and is acting himself a little more. He hasn't coughed tonight.

The plan according to the vet is that it may possibly shrink the mass to allow him to be more comfortable and eat and drink. We will know in a few days if this is working. If this doesn't work our only option will be to make him as comfortable as we can for the time he has. Pray that this will work.

Nov 02, 2011
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Coughing cat
by: Anonymous

Go to a specialist. My cat was coughing and it was chloe thorax... fluid builds in the chest... but it could be heart... you need Radiograph and EKG and ultrasound... it is worth it...but go to a specialist...

Nov 02, 2011
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Don't wait!
by: Steven

Get your cat to another vet asap! This vet is missing something.

Nov 02, 2011
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Sounds like he needs fluids
by: Kurt (Admin)

I'm sorry to hear that your cat is sick. If his eyes are sunken, I would get him to the vet as he may need intravenous fluids. When his hair first started standing up, that may have been the initial signs of dehydration.

This may be helpful...

How to tell if a cat is dehydrated.

If he was drinking normally (or excessively), yet was dehydrated, then he may have some sort of metabolic condition, blood work not withstanding.

There are a number of diseases that result in significant and rapid weight loss, and a number that cause chronic coughing. These probably require more than a standard blood work up in order to properly diagnose.

Round patches of hair loss sound suspiciously like it could be ringworm. Although I would think your vet would have diagnosed it as such, ringworm may present as a secondary illness in cases where there is another illness, or immune system problem.

He may not be eating because he's in a general state of discomfort and illness. Until the dehydration is corrected, he may continue to decline and may not be strong enough to eat.

You might find these two articles helpful, which refer to multiple causes of chronic coughing, including cancer, heartworm, lungworm, asthma, and bronchitis.

Coughing in cats.

Chronic coughing in cats.

I hope that helps. Please let us know what the vet says and how he gets along. I wish you much luck!

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