Ask a Vet!


Our online veterinarian, WWWiz, Vet., gives you helpful tips on pet care.

Should She Purchase Sick Kitten?

5/16/97 Q: I have a kitten on hold at the Humane Society. It had a fever of 105 and a runny nose. It is on antibiotics and getting better. They said it probably has an upper respiratory infection. Does this sound right? Should I still get the kitten? Thanks.

A: Yes, it could possibly be just an upper respiratory infection. How long has the kitten been sick and running this high of a temperature? Is the kitten responding to antibiotics? The decision of whether or not to take the kiten is one you will have to make. There is always a financial and emotional risk when taking on a sick kitten. Good luck!

Cat Stool Problems

5/14/97 Q: Help, please. I'm watching my friend's cat for the next four months while he is gone. The cat was found as a kitten and my friend has taken it to the vet for shots and worm removal. Everything seems to be okay except the cat, which is not fat, will eat and eat and eat as if it is starving. My Persian can't even get a bite of her food because this cat gets to it first. After the cat eats everything, she uses her box, but the stool is very runny and it smells. My friend has taken it to the vet for this and it is on a diet of a half can of wet Science Diet in the morning and a half at night (no dry food?). I thought wet food was more of a treat. My Persian eats Sensible Choice and it is supposed to have less preservatives and fillers. My Persian does fine with it, uses the litter box less, and it has NO smell. Can I give the same diet to this cat that I'm watching for the next four months? Shouldn't I be giving it dry food? I need some help and I can't afford to take HIS cat to my vet. Thank you.

A: Sounds as if this cat should be seen by a veterinarian and have a fecal examination performed before you start changing the diet and possibly making the situation worse. Call the attending veterinarian and discuss the case with him/her and see what they recommended. Good luck!

Sudden Seizure Activity in Cat

5/14/97 Q: My five-year-old indoor cat had five seizures within the last two days, characterized by full body rigidity and loss of bladder control and consciousness. I took her to the vet and she was observed for a full day, and a complete blood panel was run. She has mildly elevated liver enzymes and pancreatic enzymes, that were only slightly higher than last year when I had blood drawn to diagnose the problem behind frequent vomiting. The cat had no seizures at the hospital, but had two the evening I took her home. I have no houseplants or new chemicals in the house other than bimonthly OUTDOOR pest control with diazinone and malathion. Could she have eaten a bug with high levels of pest control chemicals, or should I continue a workup for something metabolic (liver disease, tumor, etc)? Any advice would be welcome, as it is heart-wrenching to see her go through this. Thanks.

A: What does your veterinarian think? Personally, I would pursue the workup. I find it difficult to believe that she would have ingested a bug with high enough chemical levels to cause her seizures. Good luck!

Bowel Biopsy for Cat With Recurring Diarrhea?

5/14/97 Q: My eight-year-old male domestic shorthair has had diarrhea on and off for the last four months. The vet gave me some pills to harden the stool, but my cat got constipated. Today he began using an enzyme medication that is mixed with his dry food. My cat has ALWAYS been a very hungry cat, even when he weighed nearly 18 pounds. Is it possible he has hyperthyroidism? Will a blood test rule this out? The next step is a bowel biopsy. I really do not want to put my cat through that, if at all possible. Thanks!

A: This cat needs some basic diagnostic tests, such as blood work, urinalysis and X-rays, before you jump into a bowel biopsy. Please consult your veterinarian regarding these. Good luck!

Cat With Broken Whiskers

5/9/97 Q: A friend has two 10-month-old male cats. They are indoors only and well cared for and well fed. She just pointed out to me that one of them has short, broken-off whiskers. Neither he nor his brother has any kind of lesion and neither do their humans. Are there other conditions that could cause this? Thanks.

A: Yes -- mechanical trauma. That is, they are probably just being cats and playing with each other. Broken whiskers are a common occurrence in young cats.

Cat With Eye and Nasal Discharge

5/9/97 Q: I have an eight-month-old cat who has experienced eye discharge for some time. He also has a nasal discharge which seems is crusted at his nose. The vet has given me an antibiotic to put in his eyes, but the problem is that he was a wild kitten and had no human contact until he was approximately 17 weeks old. His litter brother has come around and seems to have bonded with me; however, the brother with the eye/respiratory problems has not. I cannot hold him and get the drops in his eyes. When I am able to hold onto him and get drops in his eyes, he loses trust in me and it takes several days before I can approach him or he will approach me. To get him to the vet I have to tranquilize him, and I'm not fond of doing that too often. Any suggestions for either handling the cat or alternate medications?

A: Sounds as if you have a cat that will be difficult to medicate if at all. (You may want to check with the WWWiz online animal behaviorist, Larry Lachman, about how to build your cat's trust in you.) Ask your veterinarian about possibly getting an opthamology consult. Also, has this cat been tested for feline leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis and feline immunodeficiency virus? Good luck!

Cat With Abnormally Small Liver

5/9/97 Q: I have a six-and-a-half-year-old male tuxedo cat who developed a urinary tract infection in August of '96 and was treated with antibiotics for 20 days. In February of this year he developed signs again so I returned to the vet and sure enough he had it again, and again was treated with antibiotics for 10 days. During the time he was on medication he would vomit, so the second time he had the infection my vet recommended he have X-rays to rule out stones. There were no stones to be seen, but upon viewing the X-rays the doctor discovered that his liver was abnormally small. She said it was about 50% of the size it should be and that it was probably being overworked from the antibiotics so she told me to cut the pills in two until he finished his prescription. He stopped vomiting and his infection cleared up. Would this be a congenital defect or his liver getting smaller? I find it very hard to find any information on this subject. He is not jaundiced, he eats well on a special diet for urinary health, and he is active. Recently he has been waking in the middle of the night (the same time every night) and coughing but there is nothing coming up. Could they be related? Your help would be much appreciated. Thank you.

A: He should be reexamined by your veterinarian regarding the cough, and possibly have chest X-rays done. As for the liver, ask your veterinarian about doing some bloodwork and perhaps an abdominal ultrasound and liver biopsy. Only after determining if there is indeed an abnormality and if so, what it is, can the other questions be answered. Good luck!

Feline Arthritis

5/9/97 Q: I have an eight-year-old neutered male Scottish Fold. He was recently diagnosed with severe arthritis. My vet prescribed half of a baby aspirin every three days. Is there anything else that can be done? Is this common in cats? Any info on the care and management of his arthritis would be appreciated.

A: The 1/2 baby aspirin every three days can be very helpful. Also, ask your veterinarian about possibly using Cosequin. Care and management of arthritis in cats is similar to that of people (i.e., use of inflammatory drugs). However, CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN regarding what is SAFE to use for a cat. Good luck!

More Feline Hyperthyroidism

5/2/97 Q: My 10-year-old male cat has been on Tapazole, one pill twice a day, for about a year. Initially he was doing fine but in the last few months he has been licking and biting himself excessively to the point of pulling hair out of his back. Fleas have been ruled out and our vet is unsure whether Tapazole could be causing this. I have read that itching and rash is a human side effect of this drug. Have you seen it in cats? He appears to be losing weight again and I am of the opinion he should have a thyroidectomy but the vet wants to take a wait-and-see attitude. He is a very conservative vet and he has not been doing regular blood tests to monitor the effectiveness of the Tapazole, and I am worried that permanent damage to other organs may occur. What do you think?

A: No, I have not seen skin reactions to Tapazole. I would opt for some blood tests to check the cat's thyroid level, kidney and liver function and CBC. If your veterinarian thinks this is unnecessary, please consult another veterinarian. Regular blood tests (i.e., CBC, Chemistry Panel and Ty) are indeed recommended. Regular = every two to three weeks until the cat is regulated and then ideally every four to six months. Good luck!

Kitten With Pink Eye

4/30/97 Q: I have a beautiful eight-week-old ragdoll kitten with pink eye. She has been on Terramycin for a week but shows no improvement. The irritation is primarily in her eyelid surrounding the entire eye with some swelling. Should I take her back to my vet, should we think about switching anitbiotics and/or could this type of inflammation be caused by anything else besides conjunctivitis? I ask because it seems to me the last time one of my cats had pink eye, I saw quick improvement once I started an antibiotic. Thanks for your help. (She is healthy and active otherwise.)

A: Yes, you should take her back to your veterinarian for a recheck. If the problem persists, perhaps consult a board-certified veterinary opthamologist. The kitten could have a herpes or other viral infection. Good luck!

Alternative Feline Asthma Treatment

4/30/97 Q: I have a beautiful 16-year-old cat who was diagnosed with feline asthma a few years ago. Since then, she has been treated with shots (cortisone?) about every two to three months. The vet told us to simply bring her in for another shot any time we noticed the attacks getting worse. The trouble is that she has never been taken routinely to the vet and these occasional visits are rather traumatic (for her and me!). She has always been very healthy, so she isn't used to taking medication orally. We usually have to disguise her medicine in food. Anyway, lately the shots don't seem to be lasting as long and it's becoming necessary to take her every month or so. I hate to put her through that, but I don't know what else to do. Is there another form of treatment that we could consider? Like I said, giving her medication orally is almost impossible. I love her very much and don't want to see her in any distress, be it the asthma attacks or the vet visit. Please help!

A: Consider talking to your veterinarian about your learning to give the injections at home, or maybe give oral medication another try. Good luck!

Feline Ringworm

4/16/97 Q: Hi. I need your help. My 14-week-old kitten probably has ringworm. I have one lesion on my arm and the vet found two or three scabs (not fresh lesions) on my cat this past weekend. He is in the process of making a diagnosis, having cut off one of her scabs. In the meantime, he gave me guiseofulvisan (sp?) to give her every day. I stopped, however, after I read of the potential serious side effects of this drug. I also read that giving such drugs should only be done in cases that are unrelenting and severe. As she only has two or three scabs and no fresh lesions, I cannot justify giving her this drug.

BUT, I don't know what to do instead. I have not been able to find out if there is a shampoo that might kill the spores. I also need to know what to do about my carpeting, bedding, and furniture, which are no doubt now carrying the spores. Any help that you can provide would be most appreciated! She was taken away from her mom when she was six weeks old and came equipped with roundworm, coccidia, and apparently ringworm. But otherwise she is a happy, extremely playful and active kitten and eats very well! THANKS SO MUCH!

A: No shampoos alone have been shown to be effective. When the ringworm is generalized, griseofulvin is the way to treat. However, ask your veterinarian about topical medications. Since the ringworm spores are in the hair of the kitten, you should thoroughly vacuum and clean your house to get rid of the kitten's hair. Also, sounds like she has had her share of problems. Has she been tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency (FIV) virus? She may be immuno-compromised. Good luck!

Human Allergies to Felines

4/16/97 Q: Is there something one can feed cats to cut down on the dander so people with cat allergies can be more comfortable with their cats? Thank you for your help.

A: Consult with your veterinarian on an essential fatty acid supplement that you could give your cat. Good luck!

Can Arthritic Siamese Take Ibuprofen?

4/16/97 Q: I have a 12-year-old neutered female Siamese who has not had a sick day in her life. She now appears to have what I will call "arthritis" in her rear quarters. She walks with a limp and jumps with some difficulty, but still effectively. There are no lumps or masses anywhere and she gives no appearance of pain. I have friends who give their dogs low dosages of ibuprofen for arthritis. Is this safe for cats?

A: NO! Ibuprofen is not safe for cats. Before you assume your cat has arthritis and start medicating her yourself, take her to a veterinarian for a thorough exam and possible X-rays to indeed determine that she has arthritis. Cats do not tolerate human medicines very well. You could do a great deal more harm (i.e., kill her) than good. Good luck!

Kitten With Fractured Pelvis

4/16/97 Q: My five-month-old kitten fractured her pelvis 16 days ago, and seems to be recovering okay, but she seems bent out of shape; in a sitting position, her spine curves inward just above the tail, and she appears to be leaning forward. She can walk/run now and wants to climb trees. How long do you think I should keep her indoors, away from trees, etc., and do you have any advice regarding her funny new shape?

A: I would recommend keeping her quiet and indoors for at least a total of six to eight weeks. Has she been to a veterinarian? Were X-rays taken? Perhaps some surgical correction could help with her "funny new shape." Good luck!

Feline Melanoma

4/9/97 Q: My sister's all-white cat has just been diagnosed with melanoma on his nose. She was told several years ago that white cats were prone to skin cancer, and told to keep sunblock on his ears, which she did. The vet didn't tell her to put it on his nose (possibly because he would have licked it off), so she didn't. Now the vet suggests zinc oxide, but of course, the cat licks it off, and my sister is afraid that continued use may be toxic. The vet suggests combining it with something the cat finds distasteful, but hasn't come up with any possibilities. I suggested cayenne pepper, then thought better of it, since it might damage the mucus membranes. My sister and I have considered vitamin E instead of zinc oxide, but afraid that, being an oil, it might worsen the sunburn (like suntan oil). Can you recommend something safe that functions like sunblock and promotes healing? She plans to keep him indoors as much as possible from now on, which, since he's an older cat and neutered, shouldn't be too tough. Thanks for any advice!

A: First, I would definitely keep this cat indoors and out of the sun as much as possible. As for a sunblock, consider using a waterproof sunblock and plan to reapply several times during the day if the cat goes outdoors. Good luck!

Dandruff on Cat's Lower Back

4/7/97 Q: My one-and-a-half-year-old female cat has suddenly begun to have what looks like white dandruff all over the top of her lower back and tail. It looks like dry skin flakes, but there is an awful lot of it. Could it be some kind of flea or bug eggs? Nothing else seems to be wrong with her.

A: I think what you are describing is indeed dry skin. Flea larvae and eggs are typically dark. Please consult your veterinarian for a coat supplement to help your cat's skin. Good luck!

Thirteen Cats With Continual Respiratory Infections

4/2/97 Q: As with all vets, it's hard to get in all the questions that you have while you're there for a pet's checkup. I have 13 cats, and I am very concerned with upper respiratory infections. My cats seem to keep getting them back and passing it around. They have all been tested and they're all negative. Why does this problem keep happening here? They are also all indoor cats. I keep my house clean and wash their bowls on a regular basis. I open the windows for fresh air. I keep their litter boxes very clean. Every time I turn around they have to be on amoxi or baytril or something. Can you give me any information as to what I can do to keep this from coming back again and again? This has been a battle for months now. Please, what can I do? Thank you.

A: Thirteen cats and all indoors! Wow! I hope you have a large residence. I'm sure the respiratory infection keeps getting passed around with this many cats. Have they all been tested for feline leukemia AND feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)? If a chronic respiratory infection is the problem, FIV would be high on my list of reasons. I would consider isolating the sick cats until they are well. Unfortunately you have a very difficult situation due to the number of cats. Good luck!

Feline Epilepsy

3/31/97 Q: My cat was diagnosed with epilepsy last year in October. She is three years old now. She is currently on Rivotril (Clonazepam) three times daily and Phenobarbitol two times daily. However, she is no longer the cat she once was, with the addition of Phenobarbitol. Where can I find out everything and anything about feline epilepsy, her drugs and the effects on behaviour, etc.? The vets I have spoken to have little information on the topic and I'm very frustrated. Anything I find I would like also to forward to them and enlighten them on this disease. Please advise.

A: I would check to see if there is a board-certified radiologist in your area, or possibly a a veterinary school where you can obtain more information. Has this cat had a full workup (i.e., blood work, neurological exam, and possibly an MRI)? Does the cat have any more seizures? Unfortunately the medications used to treat "epilepsy" do alter the pet's personality. Please try to get a neurological consult to explore all possibilities. Good luck!

Cat With Swollen Rectum

3/28/97 Q: My cat seems to have what I would call a swollen rectum. Having gone through a battery of tests for my own bowel condition, I am concerned my poor 12-year-old might be developing some sort of bowel or rectal condition. Do cats get colorectal cancer the same as humans? What should I do or am I overreacting?? She is otherwise very healthy but does vomit from time to time and had tapeworms a few years ago.

A: First, I would have a veterinarian examine your cat and determine exactly what the problem is with the rectum. A "swollen rectum" could be several things -- a mass, an infected anal sac, a prolapsed rectum, etc. So, no, I do not think you are overreacting. Please have your veterinarian examine this cat. Good luck!

Strange Behavior in Maine Coon

3/25/97 Q: My 15-year-old female Maine Coon has been behaving strangely lately. She was recently diagnosed with a urinary tract infection which we handled with Urideze and antibiotics. She is not longer urinating in strange places, however, one of my cats is not urinating in the litter box regularly. (I have two cats and it's hard to tell which one is the culprit without being there to watch.) My Maine Coon is napping in strange places (i.e., on top of my jewelry box, my son's dresser drawer) and she crawled into bed with my son the other night (she has never been very affectionate with him and he is 10 years old now). The strangest thing is that I have seen her crawl into our fireplace and lick the walls and grate. Is she suffering from senility, or something else?

A: I would take her to your veterinarian for a complete physical, blood work and urinalysis. She could be suffering from liver disease, since you describe her licking the wall and grate of the fireplace. I do not think she is just "senile." Good luck!

Cats With Stud Tail

Q: 3/7/97 My seven- and eight-month-old Maine Coon kittens have both developed stud tail. I called the breeder and she told me how to treat it. They were both neutered in the last week of February. Can you tell me more about this problem?

A: In cats there is a mass of hyperactive sebaceous glands at the base of the tail that can flare up and create this problem. It can occur in males and females of any age. Good luck!

Did Barn Cats Die of Pneumonitis?

Q:3/7/97 My friend's cat became lethargic, moped around for a few days, and died. They took in a stray kitten, and within three or four months it developed the same symptoms. These were indoor/outdoor cats on a farm. A barn cat has lived for several years with no signs of the disease. Could this be pneumonitis? The cats did not sneeze or cough, had no discharge from the nose or eyes, and did not seem to have a fever. The first one, also a stray, lived about one year before it became ill. The kitten lasted only a few months. They want to get another cat, but are afraid something might be in the soil (such as distemper). The only thing I'm aware of that shows the above symptoms is pneumonitis. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks.

A: I would be more suspicious of the older barn cat carrying a disease such as feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus or feline infectious peritonitis. All are potentially fatal, could exhibit the few signs you descibe and could exist in a "carrier state" in the old barn cat. I would advise getting that cat tested for all three viruses and a full examination prior to introducing any new cats into the household. Good luck!

Cat Having Negative Reaction to Tapazole

Q: 3/6/97 Our cat (13-year-old female) has become very sluggish since starting Tapazole about a month ago. She has also lost a great deal of strength and can't jump up on the bed any more. But the most frightening thing is that she has started to have seizures once or twice a day. They last for about 15 seconds. She flies to her side as if shot or as if she had received a jolt of electricity. Her body contorts and becomes rigid, and her back leg scratches the air. Afterward she licks the fur at the base of her neck. Our vet thinks this is neural dermatitis associated with a flea allergy and is a seperate problem. I am concerned because it started at the same time as the Tapazole. My questions are: 1) have you seen this before, and 2) are seizures a side effect of Tapazole? Thank you very much for any information you can give.


1. Yes, I have seen the hyperthesia-type behavior before. It has been associated with fleas in some cases. Consider using Advantage and see if the problem resolves.

2. Seizures are not a known side effect of Tapazole. Good luck!

Cat Has Begun to Urinate Outside Litter Box

Q: 3/6/97 Ten days ago I was able to take advantage of a special in my county (spay & neuter month), and my cat seems to be doing very well (really playful, lovely and in general good health). Two nights ago, however, she started peeing on the carpet! I was amazed; she never did that before! I have no idea how old she is (she found me) but this is really upsetting me. The first time I caught her, I yelled at her and put her in the cat box. The second time I yelled even more and put her in the box again! I didn't know that I probably shouldn't have punished her (the squirt bottle or rattle thing) I read in your correspondence. What should I do to get her to trust me again? Also could she have a urinary infection, and if so, do you think the "special diet" formulas you can buy at the store will help it? Any reply will be appreciated.

A: The first thing I would do is take her to your veterinarian to rule out the possibility of a urinary tract infection. The "special diets" will not help if there is a bacterial urinary tract infection. Please take this cat in for an exam and a urinalysis. If the vet rules out a medical cause of the problem, you may want to consult our online animal behaviorist, Larry Lachman. Good luck!

Feline Umbilical Hernias

Q:3/6/97 I was told by a breeder that she has a kitten with a hernia. She states it occurred because she has a "bad tendency to pull on the cord too much at birth and gave her a hernia." Is this possible? Or is she trying to mask a possible hereditary problem in saying she caused it to happen? Please help me out here. I don't want to be spending money on a kitten that may have a hereditary problem. If we should ever decide to breed I want the bloodlines to be healthy. Thank you so much for your time!

A: Umbilical hernias are almost always congenital (hereditary). If the queen has this "tendency to pull on the cord too much at birth," this would imply to me that this cat has a history of kittens with umbilical hernias. If you intend to use your kitten for breeding, I would not purchase this particular kitten. However, I'm sure the kitten would make a fine pet. Good luck!

Ear Mites in Cats

Q: 3/4/97 What can be done to eliminate ear mites and keep them from coming back? Our cats hate the eardrops so much that they hide to keep from getting treatment. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

A: Ivermectin (either injected or given orally) has been used to treat for ear mites and seems to be very effective. However, this is an "off-label" use; it has not been federally approved to be used this way. Numerous veterinarians have used it for ear mites and have experienced no problems. All cats in the household should be treated, regardless of whether or not they show signs of ear mites. Please consult your veterinarian. Good luck!

Kitten Can't Hold Down Food

Q:3/4/97 Dr. Greenwood, have you ever heard of this problem? I have a 10- to 12-week-old kitten who cannot hold food down. He has been to two vets and they are unable to find the cause. He had all kinds of tests run including upper and lower GIs, X-rays, and blood tests. All that was found was a stool blockage that the second vet was able to remove with an enema. I have him on canned lamb/rice and dry lamb/rice with a drop of derma caps. He eats with his head cocked as though his teeth hurt or something. He is very thin now and I am feeding him small meals often. Sometimes he can hold them down but last night when he was eating some dry food he projectile-vomited into his dish a brown liquid and some food. Any suggestions? I'm trying not to lose him! Thank you.

A: If all the diagnostics have been inconclusive thus far, all I can imagine is that the cat has some sort of disorder involving the structure or innervation of his gastrointestinal tract. Has metaclopramide been tried? Otherwise, I'm at a loss for other possibilities. Good luck!

Baytril: Antibiotic or Painkiller?

Q: My cat was bitten by another animal, resulting in an infection. I brought him to the vet and they inserted a drain in the wound. They prescribed the medication Baytril 20mg #12. Can you tell me if this is a painkiller or if it is an anti-biotic? Thank you for your help.

A: Baytril is an antibiotic -- NOT a painkiller. Your cat should do well with the treatment you described. Good luck!

Cats and Catnip

Q: 2/20/97 My daughter is doing a report in school about cats and catnip. Why do cats like catnip so much? What is in catnip and how does it affect cats?

A: 1. Not all cats are attracted to catnip.

2. Catnip is a plant in the mint family.

3. 50% of cats get some sort of hallucinatory "high" from consuming, smelling and rubbing in it.

4. Catnip plants grow two to three feet high and come up yearly.

5. It does best in semishade.

Hope this helps you and daughter's school report.

Feline Diabetes Mellitus

Q: 2/14/97 My fiancee's 12-year-old cat was diagnosed with feline diabetes mellitus. We are currently giving the cat one unit of insulin every 12 hours to treat this condition. The diabetes has also manifested itself in motor neuropathy in the hind legs of this poor old fellow. How long (if ever) will it take on the insulin for this cat to overcome the motor neuropathy and be able to stand and walk correctly? What other problems can develop with a diabetic feline? And finally, how long (average) will an older cat with diabetes live with continued treatment?

A: The hind limb neuropathy should resolve once the cat is regulated on the insulin and if there are no other concurrent illnesses. This also applies to the life expectancy of the cat (i.e., if he is easily regulated and if no other concurrent problems develop). Other problems that can develop are cataracts, cardiomyopathis, pancreatitus, renal disease, hepatic disease, hyperthyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism. Good luck!

Cat Diagnosed With Schwannomas (Rare Cancer)

Q: 2/11/97 My eight-year-old cat Happy has just been diagnosed as having Schwann Omas in the foot of his rear left leg. My vet removed a tumor last week but says that this cancer is so rare she's never seen it before and doesn't know much about it. Do you? Please forward a response or any info you may have to me. I would appreciate it so much. My vet says that if the tumor reoccurs we may have to take his leg. I don't want to do that to him, but I also don't want him to die. Please help if you can. Thank you so much.

A: To the best of my knowledge, schwannomas typically occur in dogs and are not very common in cats. Treatment consists of surgical excision. I am not familiar with any chemotherapy or radiation therapy that will help. Complete surgical excision should ensure nonrecurrence. You might consider consulting with a veterinary oncologist. Ask your veterinarian if there are any in your area. Good luck!

Senior Cat Has Trouble Breathing When She Purrs

Q:2/14/97 I have a female cat, about 16 years old, that is having an unusual breathing problem. It occurs only when she is purring. She breathes with her mouth open, her purr is very loud, and she appears to have difficulty drawing breath. She becomes mildly agitated and jumps down from my lap, which is unusual in itself, as she LOVES to be in my lap. She also seems to be having trouble swallowing, and has been eating less. Her breathing is normal as long as she doesn't purr.

All her other behavior is unchanged, and she doesn't appear to be in pain. I plan to take her to the vet the first chance I get, but can you tell me if this could be a serious, life-threatening ailment? Thank you.

A: Yes, this could be a serious, life-threatening ailment. I would definitely advise that she have a thorough exam by a veterinarian with blood work and X-rays. Possible causes are heart disease, cancer, asthma, or any of a variety of ailments. Good luck!

Cat In Heat Every Two Weeks

Q:2/14/97 We adopted an indoor cat before the holidays. She is a two-year-old Maine Coon who has had a litter of kittens. Shortly after we got her she seemed to be going into heat. She yowled endlessly while slinking around. She would lie down close to the floor and pick up each hind leg alternately. She would also lick her vagina quite often. These and other signs all indicated she was in heat (although there was no spotting). This lasted for two weeks and tapered off. She was fine for about two more weeks and the whole cycle started over. Now she is in her third session of this. Is there something else the matter? Will having her fixed (which we intend to do anyway) help? Please help, we are losing sleep as she goes on her nightly singing rampages. Our street is very busy so letting her outdoors is not an option. Thanks.

A: Basically, your cat is in heat. Cats are induced ovulators and can go in and out of heat as you have so well described. Do NOT let her outdoors unless you want a pregnant cat. The solution to your problem? Spay her, as you said you intend to do, but do it now! Good luck!

Can Cat Take Tapazole Long-term?

Q:2/14/97 I've been reading your Q&A on feline hyperthyroidism and I have a couple of questions. I have a 17-year-old Persian male who was just diagnosed with this disease. I noticed that someone who had queried you on Tapazole had had their cat on it for a couple of years. My vet said that he wouldn't want to prescribe it for more than a couple months. If the animal tolerates the drug is there a reason why he can't take it longer? Thank you.

A: I don't know of any reason your cat can't stay on Tapazole long-term as long as he continues to "tolerate" it. Bear in mind that Tapazole TREATS the problem, but does not cure it. Only surgery or radioiodine will cure the problem. As long as your cat remains on Tapazole he should have periodic blood work done to make sure he is indeed "tolerating" the medication. Good luck!

Senior Cat Has Trouble Breathing When She Purrs

1/10/97 Q: I have a female cat, about 16 years old, that is having an unusual breathing problem. It occurs only when she is purring. She breathes with her mouth open, her purr is very loud, and she appears to have difficulty drawing breath. She becomes mildly agitated and jumps down from my lap, which is unusual in itself, as she LOVES to be in my lap. She also seems to be having trouble swallowing, and has been eating less. Her breathing is normal as long as she doesn't purr.

All her other behavior is unchanged, and she doesn't appear to be in pain. I plan to take her to the vet the first chance I get, but can you tell me if this could be a serious, life-threatening ailment? Thank you.

A: Yes, this could be a serious, life-threatening ailment. I would definitely advise that she have a thorough exam by a veterinarian with blood work and X-rays. Possible causes are heart disease, cancer, asthma, or any of a variety of ailments. Good luck!

Kitten Died While Being Spayed

1/27/97 Q: My best friend was having his eight-month-old kitten spayed, and when he went to pick up the kitten, the vet called him into his office and told him that he was sorry, but the kitten had died on the operating table. The vet told my friend this happens a couple of times a year because of the anesthesia. Is this possible? And, if the kitten was suffering from an illness that made the anesthesia deadly to it, shouldn't the vet have checked these possibilities before surgery? My friend kept his pet and is ready to bury it when he finds other professional opinions.

A: Unfortunately there is an inherent risk associated with any anesthesia in any species (man included) of any age. Also, unfortunately, there are several possible conditions that can exist in a pet that a veterinarian will be unable to detect with a general physical exam. In an ideal world we would be able to do complete blood panels and full cardiac work-ups on pets prior to any anesthetic procedure. However, this is not economically feasible for owners seeking reasonable costs for "routine" procedures.

I'm truly sorry your friend lost his kitten in such an unexpected way.

Kitten Won't Stop Crying

1/20/97 Q: Three days ago I brought home a beautiful, all-white house kitten. He is nine weeks old and is very playful, and eats and drinks regularly. All has been going well, but he will not stop crying at night. It would not concern me if it was just for a half hour, but it is literally all night long. Someone mentioned getting another kitten because my wife and I work a lot. Please help! I need to get a good night's sleep.

A: I would take him in for a through veterinary exam, including a fecal, FeLV/FIV test and vaccinations, if he is due. Also, white cats can sometimes be deaf. Have your veterinarian check his hearing. Good luck!

Feline Endocrine Alopecia

1/20/97 Q: Hi. I wrote to you recently about being puzzled that my cat was ripping out a lot of her hair and questioned the possibility of fleas or allergies. After her third visit to her vet, he said that she has symmetrical feline alopecia where she had pulled out the hair on her hind legs and lower abdomen. Although he showed me pictures in a book, I would like to know more about this problem. Can you tell me anything about it? Is it something that I could read about at a library? Thanks.

A: Feline endocrine alopecia is a diagnosis that usually is obtained after ruling out other possible causes and biopsies. Treatment usually consists of hormone therapy; your veterinarian can give you more information on this. You could possibly research this more at a library or get some books from your veterinarian. Good luck!

Feline Hemobartonella

1/9/97 Q: Could you please explain what feline hemobartonella is?

A: Hemobartonella is a richettsial organism that attaches to a cat's red blood cells and causes feline infectious anemia. Transfer is via blood and blood-sucking arthropods are the natural vectors. Some cats can become carriers. Diagnosis depends on finding the organisms on red blood cells using a special stain. Treatment consists of tetracycline, supportive treatment, and sometimes blood transfusions if the anemia is severe enough.

Kitty Colds?

1/9/97 Q: My name is Debbie and I have three cats. One is almost 16 and recently diagnosed with the onset of kidney deterioration. Tabby started sneezing (chronic sinus problems) and wouldn't eat or drink so I took her to the vet. Through blood work, we found that kidneys were the culprit. I force-fed her baby food and water and got her back on her feet, keeping the protein levels in the baby food low. I also have two other cats, Sals and Razzeratz, which I got as littermates. They tested positive for feline AIDS. However, a Western Block was done three to four months after their initial trip to the vet, and they tested negative. Apparently they were just carrying the antibodies from their mother, but they were "clean." Less than a week after Tabby's visit to the vet, Razzeratz began coughing and sneezing, then Sals, and then Tabby again. I took Sals to the vet and he said she had a "kitty cold," not one of the life-threatening diseases, though. He gave me clavamox for all three and said I might not see any improvement for a few days. It's been a few days and the only one the is doing at all wel l is Razzeratz. I give Tabby plenty of baby food and water by syringe, but she is miserable and I think I might have to have her rehydrated. She has in the past responded very well to baytril antibiotics. Should they be taking that instead, since the clamavox isn't working too well? Could the AIDS virus resurrect itself after they tested negative? Thank you.

A: In response to your questions: If the clavamox is not working well, please consult your veterinarian to find out what he would like to do. Also, I would not think the FIV could "resurrect" itself, but it might be worth a repeat test. Good luck!

Feline Asthma/Feline Pneumonia

1/9/97 Q: I have a six-year-old cat that is currently being tested for one of several ailments. The local vet has not yet diagnosed the problem but has some hypothesis, one being feline asthma and the other being feline pneumonia. Can you give me some more information on these two diseases, such as possible symptoms/cures?

A: Your veterinarian should be able to determine, by examining X-rays and a complete blood cell count, which conditions your cat has. Pneumonia in cats is uncommon and I would have to lean more toward thinking the cat has feline asthma. Typically, both can present with coughing, difficulty breathing and lethargy. Pneumonia would be treated primarily with antibiotics. Asthma would be treated with corticosteroids and bronchodilators. Pneumonia can be "cured" and asthma, as with people, can be "treated." Good luck!

Cat Vomits Several Time Daily

1/8/97 Q: My nine-month-old male tokonese regurgitates several times a day appx 5-15 ml of clear liquid. There are no hair balls in this. He drinks water often, approximately 150 ml a day, which is more than I thought cats should need, especially with one to two two-ounce cans of wet food a day complementing his Iams dry kitten food. I have purchased a wheatgrass potted plant for him and he plays with it frequently. Since he shows no behaviorial problems (except play-biting sessions after initial caressing), and has reasonably good discipline (aided by a water squirt bottle), I don't think there is a major difficulty. He has been neutered and front-declawed (Nov '96) and is kept in a 10x14-foot screened porch as his habitat, being permitted inside with us only while my wife and I are home weekends/evenings. What do you suggest regarding the vomiting/heaving. Is it of concern?

A: Yes, the vomiting/heaving should be of concern, as should the water consumption. You need to take the cat to a veterinarian for a thorough exam, blood work and possibly X-rays. Good luck!

Blood in Cat's Stool

1/8/97 Q: I was cleaning the litter box of my seven-year-old male cat the other day, and noticed drops of blood on the litter. Since then, I have noticed blood in his stool. Unfortunately I am a student and cannot afford to take him to the vet right now. All my credit cards are maxed, and I can absolutely not spare any money. I would do anything for my cat, but since I can not afford to get him looked at, I was wondering if you know what this could be, and if there is any home remedy. Thank you.

A: Have you changed his diet recently? Sometimes a change in diet might result in some blood in the stool. Other possibilities are intestinal parasites, a polyp, colitis, or inflammatory bowel disease. If this condition persists, he should be seen by a veterinarian.

By the way, your cat depends on you for his care and well-being. Therefore, you should budget yourself accordingly, especially as he becomes older and faces more potential health problems. Good luck!

Diabetic Cat

1/8/97 Q: My friend's 12-year-old cat was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus (type 1) and she is wondering if it is worth prolonging his life with insulin or not. She is attached to her cat but has no children to worry about explaining why the cat would be gone. With her busy life she doesn't know if she can be there every twelve hours to give her cat the shots it requires. She has heard that sometimes after a while of insulin they go back to good health. I was wondering how often this can happen or if it does at all. Thank you.

A: It can happen, but not that often. Your friend needs to decide whether or not she is ready to make the commitment necessary for treating a diabetic. Some people cannot handle a diabetic for whatever reason. If that is the case, euthanasia would probably be the kinder choice. Good luck!

Kitten Sucks Its Own Nipples

1/8/97 Q: I have an 11-month-old kitten, and recently she began furiously sucking her nipples. She does it pretty frequently, in the middle of the night, and whenever I pet her. Why is she doing this? Thanks.

A: Interesting behavior. Could be due to a all too early weaning away from your cat's mother and litter.

If your cat is not spayed, it may be due to hormone fluctuations.

It could also be an anxiety based disorder, similar to obsessive-compulsive disorders in people.

Have the cat fixed (spayed), if it is not already.

Have the veterinarian pull some blood and check hormone levels.

Providing the cat with a variety of catnip toys and having one-on-one focus play sessions twice a day with it, and fresh catnip without any disturbances, may help.

If your veterinarian determines it is an anxiety-based disorder, then a temporary anti-anxiety medication agent may be helpful.

Good luck.

Cat Wheezing Uncontrollably

1/6/97 Q: My family has a 15-year-old cat who has recently started to suddenly wake up from sleep wheezing uncontrollably. This wheezing is different from when he has a hairball, and something comes out of his nose or his mouth while he is wheezing. It lasts for about 30 seconds to a minute, and then he licks his nose and goes back to sleep. Is this some sort of asthma that cats can get? Or is it just a problem that develops with age? Thank you.

A: This is not a "normal" occurrence with aging. He could possibly have asthma, bronchitis, cardiomyopathy or any other numerous problems. I would advise taking him to your veterinarian for a thorough exam, blood work and chest X-rays. Good luck!

Cat Had Seizure

1/6/97 Q: My five-year-old spayed female Maine coon cat mix had a seizure that lasted five minutes: tongue out, teeth clamped shut, rigid body, shaking. When she got up she was unsteady and a bit disoriented for 10 minutes longer. Two hours later she was a bit weak but mostly back to normal. She did not seem to have a fever. Please advise. Thank you.

A: You should take her to your veterinarian for a thorough exam and blood work. Good luck!

Hair Balls and Vomiting

1/3/97 Q: Hi! My girlfriend's Main Coon cat has severe problems with hair balls and vomiting. She's been trying to tell me that her vet says it's just natural for long-haired cats to have such problems, but I can't stand to see the little furball in pain. What could you advise for this poor little kitty's problem? Thanks!

A: If it is due to hairballs, then the cat should be treated with a hairball medication such as petromalt or laxatone on a daily basis until the problem resolves. Also, feeding the cat a high-fiber diet can help pull the hair through the digestive system. If the vomiting persists, I would strongly urge you to take the cat to a veterinarian for a full exam and workup (i.e., x-rays, bloodwork, etc.). Good luck!

Gums Seem Swollen

12/29/96 Q: We have an eight-month-old, neutered male, mix cat. He seems healthy in every way, except his gums seem swollen. He seems to be eating, he plays with the dogs, etc. Is this something I should be taking him to the vet for?

A: Yes, this is something that should be seen by a veterinarian. I am not capable of diagnosing a pet's problem without actually seeing the pet. Good luck!

Cat Unable to Tolerate Tapazole

11/22/96 Q: I have a mature (14 years old) female cat with hyperthyroidism and she has been on Tapazole, but she does not tolerate the drug (periods of vomiting). We have kept her on a bare maintenance dosage of 1/2 pill every other day, but her weight is down to 6.6 lbs. I don't feel she is a good candidate for surgery, due to her age and general health, but the drug is ineffective at this dosage or toxic to her at a higher dose. Do you know of any alternative therapies (e.g., diet)? I have read over the entries and I think I am just indulging in wishful thinking but...thank you for your time.

A: Yes, there are other treatment alternatives. One is surgical removal of the thyroid tumor (typically benign) that is causing the problem. The other, more effective, therapy is radioactive iodide. Please consult your veterinarian for details of both procedures or consult your local veterinary school. The health status of the cat plays a big role in determining what is best for it. Also, it has been shown that cats with borderline kidney function can actually get worse when the hyperthyroidism is corrected. Once again, please consult your veterinarian or local specialist for more detailed counseling on your options. Good luck!

Possible Hyperthyroidism in Kitten

11/22/96 Q: Is it possible for a four-month-old kitten to be suffering from hyperthyroidism? This kitten arrived very healthy and with no apparent health problems; after a week, the kitten developed diarrhea and a ravenous appetite. Initially our vet diagnosed her with not having sufficient enzymes secreted through her pancreatic duct, thus resulting in little weight gain and soft stools. She is now on a pancreatic enzyme powder which is mixed into her low-fat, low-fiber food. Her weight gain is still minimal and her stools are still soft, although better than before. I understand that this disease, also know as EPI, is quite rare in cats and that there is only a test for dogs. Do you think it could be hyperthyroidism or any other disease? I would greatly appreciate a "second" opinion! Thank you in advance.

A: I have not heard of nor am I aware of any cases of hyperthyroidism in a kitten that is four months old. I would have to think that it is highly unlikely that your four-month-old kitten has hyperthyroidism. Have you ruled out problems such as intestinal parasites (including coccidia and giardia) and infectious diseases (FELV, FIV, FIP)? Has the stool been cultured for bacteria? Let me know the outcome. Good luck!

Cat Losing Hair

11/13/96 Q: My three-year-old domestic shorthaired cat is losing hair from her legs. I don't think she is biting it off. There doesn't appear to be any redness or lesions. I suspected ringworm but not for sure.

A: Basically, this cat needs to be SEEN by a veterinarian. I am unable to make a diagnosis without seeing the animal. Please take her to a veterinarian for an exam and possible ringworm testing. Good luck!

Feline Hyperthyroidism: Alternative Drugs?

11/11/96 Q: I have a 17-year-old male cat who was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism two years ago. He has been on Tapazole ever since. The price of this drug has almost doubled this year. Are there other less expensive drugs to treat his condition? I plan to write to the drug company to protest the outrageous increase. With better vet care, many animals are living longer and longer, and I am told this is a common condition with older cats. Thank you.

A: There are no other oral drugs that work as well as Tapazole for the treatment of hyperthyroidism. Yes, Tapazole has increased in price, but it is still a very affordable medication and still less expensive overall than the radioactive iodide treatment.

Siamese Has Film Over Eyes

10/31/96 Q: I hope you can help. Our 18-month-old Siamese has a film-like skin partly covering his eyes. It extends from the inside toward the outer edge. He also seems to have trouble with his rectum, which he constantly licks. He hasn't lost his appetite, though, and seems alert and active. We have kept him indoors despite his crying to get out. Is this correct?

A: The "film" you describe sounds as if it is the nictating membrane, or what is commonly know as the third eyelid. There are a variety of reasons that this could be happening, and the cat should be examined by a veterinarian to determine the reason. Constantly licking his rectum could be an indication of tapeworms or a problem with his anal glands. He should also see a veterinarian for this problem to determine what the reason is and what needs to be done. Good luck!

Kitten Won't Drink Water

10/31/96 Q: I have a 15-week-old female kitten that I adopted from the SPCA. She will not drink water. I have even tried changing her water three times a day and she still will not drink it. Out of desperation, I tried giving her milk, which she drank. I read somewhere that milk isn't good for cats to have all the time, so I bought a reduced-lactose version made by Wiskas. Any suggestions as to what else I can give her that she will drink?

A: What kind of food are you feeding your kitten? Cats typically do not drink much water, as they are great water conservationists. I would suspect you are feeding her a canned food. Canned foods are high in moisture content and a lot of cats on a canned diet do not drink much water. The reduced-lactose milks formulated for cats are okay to use as long as the cat does not develop diarrhea. By the way, is this kitten active and otherwise normal? If not, get her to a veterinarian for a complete exam. Good luck!

Q: 10/22/96 I have a two-year-old Persian cat, and I can't keep the fleas off her. She is an indoor cat and we have done it all except Advantage or the Program. Which one is best for a cat? Does it work fast? The fleas like me also. Do I need to take her to a vet for a prescription?

A: I would recommend you use Advantage. Check with your vet. Good luck.

Q: 9/05/96 I have a 10-year-old Siamese female who occasionally vomits her food back up. I have been feeding her Fancy Feast canned (one can per day) and dry cat food, but it doesn't really seem to be any particular brand of cat food which affects her more than any other.

I thought it might be caused by occasional stress since I also have a seven-year-old male Siamese who, although "fixed," gets a little frisky with her from time to time. Lately, though, I noticed that the food she brings back up hasn't been chewed thoroughly. I recently took her to the vet and had her teeth cleaned, and she had to have two teeth pulled.

Do you think the shape of the food is making it difficult for her to completely and thoroughly digest, or could it be something else? And is it true that when cats begin to vomit they can't move?

A: I would advise you to take your 10-year-old Siamese cat to a veterinarian for a thorough exam and possibly some other diagnostics, such as blood work, radiographs, etc. It could be as simple as a hairball or diet, but she also could have some type of infiltrative bowel disease or partial obstruction.

Regarding a cat's being unable to move when vomiting, I don't think anyone exactly wants to move while they're vomiting. Please get your cat to your veterinarian for a thorough check-up, and good luck.

Q: 8/30/96 A friend of mine has a litter of two-week-old kittens. One of the kittens appears to be paralyzed in its hindquarters. Is it possible that the hips were dislocated during birth? What can be done for the kitten? My friend is thinking of having the kitten put to sleep, but everything else about it seems normal. I strongly urged my friend to take the kitten to a vet, but she feels that it may be too young to remove it from the house.

A: I agree with you. Your friend should take the kitten to a veterinarian. The kitten is not too young to take out of the house to a veterinarian. It is unlikely that the hips were dislocated during birth, but without physically seeing the kitten, I am unable to tell you what is wrong, as there are numerous possibilities. Please get the kitten to a veterinarian. Good luck.

Q:8/14/96 I have a seven-month-old Siamese. Last night while reading, I was petting him and noticed a lump about the size of a marble on his back near his shoulder blade. It was not a hard lump (kinda squishy) and you could move it around on his back. It did not seem to bother him.

He is very active, eats well and seems fine, otherwise. I have an appointment next Friday to take him for an exam. In the meantime, do you think it could be cancer? Do lumps of this type frequently turn out to be non-cancerous? I have noticed no swelling in the lymph glands. Thank you for your time.

A: My first question would be, has he had any recent injections (i.e., vaccinations or an antibiotic injection)? Secondly, are there any other pets in the household that could have caused this?

If the answers are no, then your veterinarian should examine the area and perform cytology on it. The ultimate answer would be to remove the lump and have histopathology done on it. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you in these matters after he/she examines the cat and the area. Good luck, and please let me know the outcome!

Q:8/14/96 What are the symptoms of feline urinary tract infection, and how may it be treated quickly? My tabby is distressed and I feel that may be the cause.

A: A few typical signs of feline urinary tract infection are: straining to urinate, crying when urinating, urinating in inappropriate places (e.g., sing, tub, floor, etc.), and possibly depression.

You should get your cat in to your veterinarian if you are not sure. Especially in male cats, this could result in an emergency situation if he develops a urinary blockage (a possible outcome with urinary tract disease, esp. in male cats).

Please seek your veterinarian's help as soon as possible. Good luck, and please let me know the outcome.

Q:8/9/96 I took your advice and took the cat in to a veterinarian for testing and a physical. She has been diagnosed with feline hyperthyroidism and is currently on Tapazole, 5mg per day. I would like your opinion on the pros and cons of the three treatments available for feline hyperthyroidism (thyroidectomy, radioactive iodine injection, or long-term drug treatment). Am I missing any other form of treatment? Are there different types of drugs available? Are they toxic? Is hormone therapy (supplements) required after a thyroidectomy? I have discussed some of this with the veterinarian who examined my cat but the more information I have, the better I am able to make a decision on what is best for my cat. I would appreciate your input.

A: Briefly:

1) Thyroidectomy - The advantages: effective, usually curative, and readily available. The disadvantages: risk of general anesthesia, ectopic thyroid tissue not removed, possible hypoparathyroidism after surgery, larynxed paralysis and the requirement for life-long supplementation following surgery.

2) Radioactive iodine - The advantages: minimal side effects, destroys all thyroid tissue (even ectopic tissue). The disadvantages: limited availability, requires prolonged hospitalization/isolation and expense.

3) Tapazole (methimazole) - The advantages: easy, available and inexpensive. The disadvantages: failure to give medication (i.e., owner does not give medication regularly and as directed, needs to be given continuously, frequent side effects, and does not affect tumor growth.

Please consult your veterinarian for more detailed information and guidance.

Q:8/9/96 Dear Dr. Greenwood:

I was very glad to find your Web site. A beautiful champagne and white tabby male found me about eight years ago. This is a cat of such immense compassion, sensitivity and intelligence that I am continually awed by him, and am very grateful to have him in my life. We are really bonded and it is very important to me that he should always be able to trust me to look after him and not to ever hurt him - soooo, I never got him neutered. He isn't allowed anywhere without being on a leash. Now a friend tells me I did the wrong thing and may be compromising his health; she feels I should still do it. What do you say?

About a year ago I took two other cats in that needed rescuing or they were going to die. The female had been left in an apartment without food or water; she was nearly gone when my son liberated her and brought her home. When good care had pretty well restored her health we had her fixed. She is now so afraid of getting in the car, I don't know if she will ever really trust us. Why isn't something done to keep an animal comfortable after that kind of surgery? We don't do that to people! The vet wouldn't give her anything even though I had made it very clear that I was willing to pay for whatever, rather than see her suffer.

My male cat's spraying behavior has greatly increased since the arrival of the other cats. Any ideas?

A: As for the male cat - NEUTER him. This may be all you have to do to cure the spraying behavior. Any vet or animal behaviorist will tell you that neutering him is the first, and possibly the only, step you will have to take.

As for the female cat and her surgery, I honestly do not believe that "pain killers" after surgery would have altered her feelings about car rides. As for keeping her comfortable after the surgery, some vets will dispense a mild pain killer. However, most of the time, with good anesthesia and surgical procedures, the animal is not in that much discomfort and actually a small amount of discomfort helps keep the animal quiet so they can heal properly and without complications.

Good luck!

Q:6/26/96 Several months ago my 18 year old female (spayed) cat began loosing weight, but increased her food intake considerably. I dewormed her, but it did not appear to change anything. I believe she is not digesting the food I am giving her, and would like to know if you have any recommendations for food supplements or diet changes. She currently eats one large can of cat food per day and has a steady supply of dry food (for seniors). She is not lethargic, her coat is in good condition, and she is not in pain. Other than the weight loss, she appears in good shape for her age. Any advice?

A: I would strongly advise that you get your cat to a veterinarian for a complete physical, blood work and urinalysis. Two diseases come instantly to mind after reading your catís history. One is diabetes mellitus and the other is feline hyperthyroidism. The common denominator for both diseases is increased appetite with weight loss. Your veterinarian should be able to determine whether or not your cat has either of these diseases after performing a physical, blood tests and urinalysis.

Good luck! Please let me know the outcome.

Q: I have a female (calico) about 10 years old, which has begun showing very curious symptoms. She is losing her fur unilaterally along her left flank and haunch in an increasing-size spot. This loss seems to have many broken hairs and thinning rather than any lost clumps. The skin seems pliant and unaffected. She may have lost a slight bit of weight, too, but this is hard to know. These symptoms first appeared about three months ago. Her diet is commercial dry food, which she has always enjoyed. She still appears to eat normally and is not excessively licking the area...a first suspicion. Her bowel movements appear normal. She is acting completely normally and is energetic for her age. She has now been to visit two vets, both of whom have been puzzled and without a diagnosis. She has had skin scrapings, complete blood work and a thorough examination...all negative. The only slight abnormality was a low white-cell count, which the vet said was close to normal and within the range of error of the tests. So, the question is...what could be going on here? It does not seem to be getting rapidly worse, but is getting no better. Would most appreciate any opinion you may have. Thanks.

A: 5/16/96 There are several possibilities as to why this could be happening to your cat. First, you said that the scrapings and blood work had been done. Other tests I would also advise are a Woodís lamp test (detects approximately 50% of ringworm cases), a dermatophyte test medium (DTM: a fungal culture for ringworm), and possibly a skin biopsy of the area. There is a syndrome in cats referred to as psychogenic alopecia or dermatitis. Usually these cats do constantly lick and the hairs appear broken off when examined microscopically. It usually is caused by psychological factors such as changes in the catís surroundings. I would advise a consultation with a veterinary dermatologist regarding the aforementioned possibilities, as well as other possible causes.

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