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petdrz, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 7348
Experience:  Over 30 years of experience in caring for dogs and cats.
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My 9 year old female cat has been extremely lethargic

Customer Question

My 9 year old female cat has been extremely lethargic for the past few days and her back legs seem slightly stiff, and she is walking with them further apart than usual. Usually she is very active, but now she only walks from one room to another and immediately lies down. She is acting kind of grumpy; sometimes growls when I pet her. She is hardly eating or drinking or using the litter box. Last night she laid down next to her food bowl and I had to put the water bowl right under her nose for her to drink. She has never lied down to eat before!
Over two weeks ago, June 1, she had a FVRCP vaccine. I think she was fine right after that, but I've read terrible things about injection site cancers and worry about that. I've read online that the AAFP recommends the distemper vaccine be given only every 3 years and when we were in Massachusetts that's what our vet had scheduled. When we moved to Missouri, it was time for their vaccines -- it had been 3 years -- so they got them a year ago. Then the new vet gave them a vaccine just two weeks ago, so only 1 year after the last. Is this okay?
I also administered Frontline Plus flea treatment on her one week ago, but she didn't seem to have any reaction to it at the time.
By the way, my other male cat (age 10) who also had the vaccine and flea treatment, has been somewhat lethargic but not like the female. He is eating more and walking around; however, I have noticed he has been having trouble jumping up on the counter, which normally he does easily.
I called our new vet (the one that gave the vaccine) and they looked at her two days ago but couldn't find anything wrong. I dropped her off there, so I wasn't able to really talk to the vet in any length. I have another call into that vet, but thought I'd ask online as well.
I am worried because we plan to drive from Kansas City to Boston on Monday with the cats, and I don't want her to be in pain, or worse!
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  petdrz replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thanks for trusting me to help you and Yuengling today. I'm a veterinarian with over 25 years experience and would be happy to work with you.
I don't think the vaccine given two weeks ago is probably related and certainly not the way a cat with vaccine associated sarcomas act. Unfortunately, I have seen these a few times and usually, other than the mass that the owner notices at the site where the vaccine was given, these cats are usually pretty normal. It worries me greatly that she is that lethargic, and not eating or drinking as that is usually the sign of a sick cat. If this has been going on for a few days already and she is not improving, it is definitely time to have some bloodwork checked as well as a urinalysis. Regardless of what set this off, by now, there could be metabolic changes that have now developed. On top of that, she may benefit from some form of fluid therapy as well as an appetite stimulant, but it is best to concentrate on getting to the diagnosis of what happened and that may take a little digging.
Good luck with her and please keep me posted as to how things progress for her. I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you have ANY other questions. My goal is to give you 100% satisfaction and if you are not yet satisfied, please reply so I can clarify for you.
Dr Z
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Is there any way the vaccine could lead to a mild case of the disease(s) it is supposed to protect against? Do they use a live vaccine? I'm just wondering why both my cats seem to have weakened back legs two weeks after the vaccine? Granted, only the female is acting really lethargic, but the male is having trouble jumping.
Expert:  petdrz replied 2 years ago.
I am not sure which type of vaccine your veterinarian gave, but most likely it was what is referred to as a modified live vaccine. That means that the virus is altered so that it will not produce the disease, but will still allow the immune system to react by producing an immune response. It would not be common for the disease to occur secondary to a vaccine, but it is not uncommon for a pet to seem a little quiet or even have a low grade fever for a day or two after a vaccine is given. Seeing the signs show up two weeks after the vaccine is what makes me think the vaccines were not involved.
One additional thought is that stress can bring on illness in cats. This is something that we see not infrequently following a visit to the vet, a pet owner going on vacation or other change in schedule or in the household. It will usually present as a flare up of a upper respiratory viral infection, flare up of GI disease or even a non-bacterial urinary tract inflammation. None of the signs you are describing sound like they fit this, but the timing of her symptoms may be pointing to that. In any case, most times the treatments are supportive so the fluids or appetite stimulants would help.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you. We did go away for a few days right after the vet appointment, plus we are in the process of packing because we are moving out-of-state. The cats could be somewhat stressed, but they are pretty used to moving. We take them to Maine every summer and we have moved quite a bit in the last few years! However, as you said, they aren't showing respiratory or GI symptoms. I guess I'll just take her to our vet and see if fluids and appetite stimulants help, and possibly get some bloodwork done.
Expert:  petdrz replied 2 years ago.
Sounds like a good plan. Don't forget to have a urinalysis done. The grumpiness and the growling when petted made me think maybe she has a inflammed bladder (feline idiopathic cystitis), but usually these cats are making frequent trips to the litter box. Still can't hurt to look......
Here is a link with more info about FIC:
Good luck and please keep me posted as to what they find.