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URTI in diabetic cat.

Species: Cat
Breed: domestic shorthair
Age: 11-15 years
Buster is a 14 year old male who weighs 16 pounds. He has had diabetes for 2-1/2 years, controlled with twice daily insulin shots. He is a completely indoor cat and never goes outdoors. We've noticed sneezing the past week. On Thursday his nose was covered with dried snot and he didn't want to eat.

I took him to the vet who said his heart and lungs sound find, diagnosed an upper respiratory infection and gave him Clavamox pills. That night he vomited white foam. Friday morning he got his insulin shot because he ate some canned food. But Friday night he threw up again and didn't get his shot. No shot Saturday morning either. His nose has cleared up somewhat, but his eating is hit or miss.

Saturday I took him to the vet again and she gave him an antibiotic shot and took him off Clavamox. Saturday night he was more playful, scratched his cat condo, purred, ate some canned food, and got his shot.

Today, Sunday, he refused food again, so missed his shot Sunday morning. It seems like he's going up and down. We've had cats for 28 years and have never had one with a respiratory infection.

How long can he go without eating before he develops fatty liver disease? How long does it take a respiratory infection to clear up? Can respiratory infections be both viral and bacterial, and the antibiotic helped the bacterial, but the viral has to run its course?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I am sorry to hear that you and Buster are going through these tough times!

Diabetes is tough to deal with in any animal...and that much harder in a cat who does not want to eat.

You've asked some good questions, so hopefully I can give you some good answers!

How long can a cat go without eating before he develops fatty liver disease?

There is no black and white answer for this. For some cats, especially overweight cats, 2-3 days of not eating can cause the liver to start to mobilize fats in order to produce some energy for the cat to live off of. Then, as this happens, the cat feels a little unwell because of the extra work that the liver is doing. And so, he does not want to eat, and then he ends up mobilizing more fat in the liver...and the cycle continues.

However, not all cats that go without eating will develop fatty liver.

I do get concerned though whenever a cat goes more than 24 hours with no food at all.

How long can it take a respiratory infection to clear up?

Again, this is a tough one to answer! Some cats can get over a respiratory infection in 2-3 days. Others can have one that lingers on for a month or more.

Can a respiratory tract infection be both viral and bacterial?

If this is an upper respiratory tract infection then it most likely started off as a virus. The virus can then do some mild damage to the upper respiratory tract and we can get a secondary bacterial infection. So, you are right in saying that the antibiotics will help with the bacterial portion, but not the viral portion.

My other concern though is that this may be something other than a viral infection. I get really concerned when older cats get upper respiratory signs as sometimes this can be a sign of something more serious such as a nasal tumor.

However, it is encouraging that Buster has made some progress with the antibiotics. If it seems like he is getting better, and then worse, it may be that he needs yet another antibiotic change. Sometimes when I have a really bad URTI I will switch to an antibiotic called doxycycline.

Some other things that you can do to encourage him to eat are to put him in a bathroom next to a steamy shower. The steam will help to open up his airways. You can also try heating up some canned cat food which may encourage him to eat. Additionally, sometimes placing a small amount of food in the mouth will help too.

I really hope he turns the corner soon!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Should I take him to the vet again? How long should I wait to see some improvement? Do you think he needs blood tests to check for something else? We did have a cat who had pancreatitis, and her symptoms were not like his. She just vomited pretty much continuously, and he hasn't thrown up since Friday night.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

If Buster is still not wanting to eat by the morning, then yes, he should see the vet again.

Sometimes in cases like this, if we can support him with some fluids, and possibly give an appetite stimulant such as Remeron this can really help.

If this were my case I would also be recommending some further blood tests. I would be doing a complete blood panel to look for clues for other conditions that may be going on.

Sometimes, when we have a diabetic cat with serious issues, there can be a serious problem with the pancreas such as pancreatitis or even pancreatic cancer. While some cats with pancreatitis will vomit a lot, not all of them do.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.