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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 25180
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
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My cat just hasn't been himself. He is lethargic, wasn't

Customer Question

My cat just hasn't been himself. He is lethargic, wasn't eating, and has been coughing. Took him to the vet last Friday they did X-rays.
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
They gave him prednisone. And a shot. He has been eating more nothing crazy. It was like day and night. One minute he was fine next he is like this.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

Kristen, I'm sorry to hear of this with Otis. What did those X-rays show? In most cases, coughing cats are asthmatic. Less commonly, they suffer from either the feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) or Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterial infection.

Asthma should respond to a glucocorticosteroid such as prednisolone. The infections are usually self-limiting within 1-3 weeks.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
They said that the X-rays really didn't show it to be asthmatic.
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
I have sent a photo of what the vet said
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
How would I know if he has fhv-1?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

Thank you. It's important to recognize that X-rays in asthmatic cats can look normal, reveal hyperinflated lungs (which are easily missed when evaluating the lungs), reveal increased bronchovascular markings (suggestive of inflammation of the airways), and even alveolar densities most often seen with congestive heart failure.

Thank you. It looks like the ER was concerned with asthma as well.

It's difficult to test a well-vaccinated cat for FHV-1. The vaccine interferes with evaluation of the test result. Symptoms of FHV-1 should abate with a few weeks. Asthma can come and go indefinitely. In an asthmatic a complete blood count (CBC) might show increased numbers of the white blood cell eosinophil. A CBC should be part of Otis's diagnostic work up. Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Would asthma make him act different? He didn't have a fever at the vet, he isn't vomitting. He is still going to the bathroom. I just keep researching things online and it scares me bc yes I know he's 9 but I just want him to live. Money is an issue as well. I feel like he really needs the bloodwork to find out what could be wrong. After we give him his pill he almost always coughs.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

It usually manifests as different severities of coughing only. Bloodwork other than a CBC usually isn't helpful. I understand your financial constraints. I would see how the prednisolone affecdts him. If coughing abates, you're likely to be treating an asthmatic. If it doesn't or, indeed, worsens, he's likely to suffer from a self-limiting infection.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Saturday will be a week of being on the medication. Should it have already started helping him? Should I have already seen a change in his behavior? What does a self limiting infection mean?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

Yes, I would expect to see improvement by Saturday if he were asthmatic. The dose may need to be increased if you're not seeing improvement or he's not asthmatic. Self-limiting infection means that the infection will go away unaided in time.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
But you don't think this is anything deadly hopefully?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

No, the X-rays would have revealed something that serious. Severe asthmatics can be at risk of collapse and death but his X-rays didn't reveal the changes characteristic of severe asthma.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Oh ok! I feel so much better after talking with you!
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

You're quite welcome. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience. You can bookmark this page for ease of return.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Will I be able to contact you whenever? Or do I have to pay each time?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

There's no extra charge to return to our conversation. Remember not to open up a new question but, instead, come back here with an update.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
I noticed that I can get him to eat every time I put the bowl in front of him. Is it still a good sign he's eating?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

It's a very positive sign. Prednisolone often causes that kind of good appetite.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
He doesn't eat crazy amounts but I don't really think cats eat as much as say a dog anyways
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

He's eating. I'm happy.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Ok that's good to know! Thank you
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

It's my pleasure.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
My cat had to be put down today. He was gasping for air and his tongue came out of his mouth. He coughed up a little blood. Do you think it was his heart?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

My condolences for you loss of Otis. Coughing is rarely associated with heart failure in cats but almost always indicative of primary respiratory disease. Otis may have experienced the severe bronchoconstriction of an asthma attack.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Could I have saved him?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

I can't know but these cats need to be cared for as critical care cases - supplemental oxygen and the rapid administration of a bronchodilator such as terbutaline.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Sucks that the vet didn't really say it was asthma and it's weird that he just it of no where started to do the coughing. Just doesn't make sense to me
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

I understand. It's not always an easy diagnosis to make. Asthma symptoms are often "acute on chronic" which means that the disorder has been present for quite some time but symptoms arose just recently.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
The X-rays didn't show anything though leading towards that. That's why I'm so confused :/
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

X-rays can be perfectly normal in asthmatics and it's easy to miss subtle signs such as hyperinflated lungfields.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Can cats just develop asthma out of no where ?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

Sure, and at any age. There's always a first time for patients.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
I just wished I could have helped him. Like knew it was asthma and treated it right away and maybe he still would be here
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 5 months ago.

Once again, my condolences.