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Sniffling, sneezing cat.

Species: Cat
Breed: house cat
Age: 1-2 years
For the past two days our cat has been constantly sniffling and sneezing and has also had diarrhea. He has been pretty normal in personality and eating habits, although today he seems more lethargic. I am wondering if this is a cold/flu that he has, and if so, does he require veterinary treatment, or just like in humans, does something like this seem to run its course (unless serious, my doctor tends to tell me just to go home and get some rest if I show up with flu like symptoms)? Of note, we should mention that he is on asthma medication (prednisolone steroids tablets), which has been on for a number of weeks. He adjusted well to them and they helped his asthma. I don't think there is a link between his cold/flu symptoms and diarrhea, although I was never given a list of possible side effects for this medication. So we'd be very interested to hear what you have to say. Thanks for your help!!

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi there and thanks for asking your question! Just so you know, this month all of the money made on AskAVetQuestion is going to the Ottawa Humane Society, so thank you!

I'm sorry to hear that your cat is not feeling well. Well I can't say for sure what is going on without seeing him, the symptoms you are describing certainly make it sounds like he is fighting a virus.

The steroid medication is not likely to be causing these symptoms. However, sometimes steroids can slow down the immune system and make an animal more predisposed to picking up a virus. It is also possible that he picked up a virus at the vet hospital if he was in recently.

The good news is that most cats will get over these types of viruses on their own. I generally don't recommend a visit unless I see a significant reduction in appetite, a green discharge from the eyes or nose, or if the cat just seems really unwell. (Always follow your gut! If you really think he is unwell it is best to see your vet.)

I'd also keep an eye on the diarrhea. If this is persisting for more than 48 hours then a vet visit is a good idea.

Regarding the upper respiratory congestion or sneezing this may last a couple of weeks. Again, as long as he seems to be eating ok and relatively happy you can probably postpone a vet visit.

One other thought - if it seems like he is making a large effort to breathe (i.e. moving his abdomen while he is breathing), because of his history of asthma is likely best to have your vet check him out.

If his nose seems stuffed up, some things you can do are 1) Put him in the bathroom next to a steamy shower to help loosen up the congestion, and 2)Heat up some canned food to help to increase the odour which will stimulate his appetite.

Hope all is well...let me know if you have more concerns.

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:

Hi Dr. Marie,

Thanks for your advice regarding our cat, Keane. There have been a few developments in his situation - overall he is feeling ok, but we are still faced with a puzzle of getting rid of his diarrhea.

We took him to the vet the day after your response at the end of March, who said a couple of things:
1)his diarrhea might be caused by stress (he loves to explore and had gotten into our upstairs neighbours apartment - now he sits at our door meowing to get back in there feeling tortured that we're not letting him go).
2)his diarrhea might be caused by a return of giardia (he had this parasite last year, which was hard to get rid of)

The vet gave us some metronitozle (sp?) to firm up his stool, which worked, but when we took him off of it (10 days later), the diarrhea returned. During this time, however, was Easter and we had no one to look after Keane. So we took him in the car which certainly added more stress (although, he wasn't too bad and didn't meow).

So when the diarrhea returned, we worried that it may be due to a reinfection of the giardia. So we took a stool sample in and they did the test specifically for this parasite, which came back negative.

So we've narrowed it down likely to stress, but have him back on metronitozole. Also, knowing what we know now about him being under stress we are experimenting with modifying his diet, trying to de-stress his environment by playing a lot more, finding him interesting things to explore.

With that long pre-amble, let me ask my questions:
Are we able to wean him off of the metronitozole by decreasing the duration/amount per dosage?

We've been adding some rice flour and acidopholous to his food because we've heard that rice is good to settle the stomach and probiotics are also said to aid in his digestion.

I've also heard that fasting a cat can aid in decreasing its likelihood of diarrhea, is that a wise idea?

Finally, are there any other thoughts about why this issue has come out of the blue, and any other thoughts about what might be the cause/cure?

Thanks Dr. Marie!

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Mark...sorry to hear that Keane is still struggling with diarrhea! How frustrating!

I have a few frustrating cases like this and the good news is that eventually we usually get them solved.

Regarding the metronidazole, you will need to get your vet's advice on how long a course of meds to give. I don't usually go much longer than 10 days in cats. Likely weaning him off of it will not make much difference.

I do not recommend fasting to help stop the diarrhea. This often works for dogs with mild diarrhea (i.e. because they got into the garbage) but in cats, if we withhold food we can put them at risk for a serious problem called fatty liver.

The acidophilous may help. But, we don't know the exact amount that needs to be given. In our practice we sell a product called Florentero which is a mixture of probiotics which often works well in animals who have had chronic diarrhea. I think this would be a good idea to talk to your vet about doing this. It is possible that the diarrhea originally started with a virus but now the intestinal bacterial balance has been disrupted. If so, a medicine like florentero might help.

The rice flour is likely not doing much.

If this were my case, there are a few things I would be recommending:
-most labs can run a DNA diarrhea panel which looks for unusual types of parasites and bacteria which can be hard to pick up with a regular fecal exam.
-I would try a course of fenbendazole which is a different type of dewormer. Even though the test was negative for giardia, sometimes giardia can be hard to find and so it still may be a possibility.
-I would likely try a completely hypoallergenic food such as Hill's z/d (you need to get it from your vet).
-I may even try a small amount of an antibiotic called tylosin sprinkled on the food every day until the stools clear up.

I hope that helps and I hope he is better soon!
Dr. Marie.

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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.