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Rebecca, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 15364
Experience:  More than 30 years of companion animal practice.
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My cat has an upper respiratory infection and hasnt eaten

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My cat has an upper respiratory infection and hasn't eaten since last Thursday, 3 Jan. The vets have hydrated him under the skin but he can't smell and will not eat even though he tries. He goes to the food, tries to smell but is so congested he can't. I am so worried. He was given a Convenia anti-biotic shot last Friday for his ear infection and that seems to be Ok. But he needs to get food in him. I know this sounds bad, but can I try to suck the mucus out of his nose? By the way, our cat is FIV positive so I need to help him fast. He is approx. 10 yrs old. Can I try Azithromycin at this point?

Rebeccavet : Hello JACustomer,
Rebeccavet : I am sorry to hear about Gandalf.
Rebeccavet : Sucking the mucus out will not really help. For one thing, there is nothing small enough to fit into a cat nostril that will work effectively. And the main problem is not the mucus, but the swelling inside his sinuses that prevent his being able to smell.
Rebeccavet : I use nose drops in these cats. You can use nasal saline drops, or an over the counter childrens nose drop called Little Noses. One drop, twice daily. I use prescription eye drops in the nose containing antibiotics sometimes.
Rebeccavet : I also use an appetite stimulant called mirtazapine in cats that are not eating. It sometimes works very well even in cats that can't smell very well. It is a prescription, but you only need 1/4 of a pill every three days. Sometimes giving it just once is all that is needed.
Rebeccavet : You can try
Rebeccavet : z

The vet gave him the mirtazapine on Sunday morning. I forgot to mention that. He is due for another pill tomorrow. We already have them.

Rebeccavet : Azithromycin. It will not help with viral infection, which many of these respiratory diseases in cats are, but it might help if there is a secondary bacterial infection.

The emergency vet gave us a prescription for azithromycin but I wanted to wait because he had just been given the Convenia shot the day before. I didn't want to over "anti-biotic" him too much being an FIV positive cat. Should I get the azithromycin anyway?

Rebeccavet : I prefer doxycycline to azithromycin, because it also stimulates the immune system and reduces inflammation, but you could still try the Azithromycin. How much does he weigh, and what dose do you have?

Ok...I saw your answer on the azithromycin.

Rebeccavet : Have you also tried the nose drops?
Rebeccavet : Sorry the mirtazapine did not help, that is not a good sign.

I don't have the precription with me but I remember seeing 200 something on the form. He weighed 11 pounds on Friday and 10 1/4 on Sunday.

Rebeccavet : If it was prescribed for him, then the dose on the label should be accurate.

Our regular vet did the nose drops. The mirtazapine seemed to work because he defintely wants to eat. He comes to the bowl right away and rubs the food with his nose. He tries to smell it and you can hear the clogged nose big time.

Rebeccavet : But often these infections are viral, so antibiotics sometimes do not help.
Rebeccavet : What nose drops did you try?

It was a tye that is for Opthalmic use also I believe. I remember our vet saying that.




Unfortunately I am at work and not at hme with the medications.


How long can cats go w/o eating as long as they are gettin hydrated?


Can I try to force feed some dry food in? The emergency vet did that with a pill pocket and the mirtazapine.

Rebeccavet : Gosh, it sounds like you are doing everything. The problem is that since he is FIV positive, you don't have a normal immune system to work with. Some of these cats are helped with interferon. The best is cat interferon, but that product is not yet available in the US, so we use human interferon, to stimulate the immune system.
Rebeccavet : Cats usuallu get dehydrated within 24 hours of not eating, unless they are drinking a lot of water or broth or getting the fluids inder the skin.
Rebeccavet : I would not force dry food, but you can add water to canned food or baby food and syringe it into him.

The emergency vet did a blood count Sunday morning. She said the normal white cell count is 8000-9000.....and his was at 20,400. So it was fighting the infection and I thought this was good since he is FIV positive. Meaning his body is still producing a good amount of white cells. Ok, we have the syringe. My wife is flying back from Germany as I typr this but won't get back to Tampa till 5 PM. We will immediately go and try that.


It is so hard trying to do everything on my own.

Rebeccavet : It is good that he is making white blood cells, but that is only one part of immunity. The other is making antibodies, which you can't measure.
Rebeccavet : Too bad she could not have picked up some of the kitty interferon while she was in
Rebeccavet : Europe!

Yeah, really! She did ask her German vet (her Mom had a cat they took to the vet) and she mentioned enrofloxacin.


I think we are doing all we can. I will get the nose drops in along with the syrings of food asap when I can.

Rebeccavet : Another antibiotic, but in general just piling antibiotics on these viral infections does not help.


Rebeccavet : That is why I use the doxycline. There are some respiratory infections in cats that only respond to that antibiotic, like mycoplasma. All your expensive antibiotics do no good against it, only cheap old doxycycline.

Ok, I will ask my vet for the doxycycline today. Is it a shot or a pill?

Rebeccavet : you could consider famciclovir, an anti viral that can work against herpes virus infections, a common virus in cats.

Ok, famciclovir. I will ask about that as well.

Rebeccavet : You could also have testing done, on a swab taken from him, to do PCR testing to see what bug or virus you are battling.
Rebeccavet : if it is mycoplasma, he needs doxycycline.

Rebecca, I have to go to a meeting at 9 9 min. I am so thankful for all your info and I will do everything you mention.

Rebeccavet : You are welcome. Good luck to you.

I am almost in tears here but I an hopeful.


Thanks so much! I'll give you an excellent rating now.

Rebeccavet : Thank you.
Rebeccavet : I am so sorry about Gandalf.

Ok, you were wonderful! Thanks again!

Rebeccavet : You are welcome.

Is there anything else you think I should do at this point that we haven't discussed?

Rebeccavet : not that I can think of now.

Ok. Sounds good. Take care and God Bless! Paul

Rebeccavet : I battle a lot of respiratory disease in cats where I work.
Rebeccavet : thanks, Paul.
Rebecca and 5 other Cat Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Hello Paul,
How is Gandalf doing?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Gandalf is doing better. We were able to get some doxycycline and have been giving him that since Tuesday night. We give him the phenylephrine drops for the nose twice a day, artificial tears every 4 hours, and the doxy twice a day (1 cc each time). They gave us enough for 15 days. He is eating now and is definitely more active. However, we believe he is either partially paralyzed on the left side of his face or it is numb because he can't seem to hold any food in his mouth in that area. We started to feed him with a syringe in the beginning because he needed the nourishment. He is eating on his own now but mostly only stuff that we puree for him or human baby food. He can eat these freeze dried turkey treats we give him because they are light and stick to his tongue. But even then he takes a while to get it down.


We think he may have lost his hearing because we have made sounds and he doesn't respond. When it is very loud he moves his right ear but never his left, where the infection was.


Rebecca, do you happen to know how long Horner's Syndrome can last and when will we know when the Upper Respiratory Infection has gone away or is no longer contagious. He does not have any more discharge from his nose and currrently we are letting him near our other cat because they are buddies.


One of the emergency vets said she thinks we may want to stop cleaning his ears right now because even cleaning them can irritate them. However, she did say we could take a cotton ball and clean the ear without using Q-tips. Do you think we can still do that? Thanks!



Hello Paul,
Horner's syndrome is caused by different things, so it is variable in how long it lasts, but generally it does takes weeks to resolve. In some cases, like tumors in the brain or the chest or neck, it does not get better.

Yes, cotton ball is a safe way to clean his ears without causing damage or irritation.

If he does not have any discharge from his nose and eyes, he is probably not contagious.

Let me know what else I can help with. Rebecca

Customer: replied 4 years ago.


Is it normal to have facial paralysis with this Horner's syndrome and can it cause a loss of hearing?

No, the nerve that is involved with facial paralysis is a different nerve than the one that causes Horner's. Lack of hearing is not part of Horners, either.

Something is affecting possibly more than one nerve on that side. This could be from infection, or inflammatory disease, or a tumor. A tumor would not be common in a ten year old cat, but possible.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

He does have an ear infection (Otitis). Could that have caused the hearing loss and/or paralysis?

Hearing loss, possibly. And the facial nerve comes out below the ear so that is possible, although I have not seen it before myself.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Ok, just one more. So if ths otitis is causing the paralysis, will this paralysis eventually go away or would it be permanent?

If it is due to the otitis, and the otitis resolves, there is a chance, but no guarantee, that the paralysis will reverse. If the paralysis is due to inflammation caused by the otitis, then anti inflammatory medication like prednisone, might help.