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Dr Pete
Dr Pete, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 3009
Experience:  Bachelor of Veterinary Science (University of Melbourne, Australia)
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our 12 year old cat just started smelling like ammonia. we

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our 12 year old cat just started smelling like ammonia. we gave him a bath and it came right back. is this something serious?
Can I have a little more information first and I should be able to get straight back to you.
1. Does the smell seem to be from her mouth or her skin?
2. Does she seem well otherwise? Bright and active, eating ok.
3. Is she losing weight?
4. Is she drinking excessively?
5. Is she using the litter tray more often than normal?
6. What type of food does she get?
Please try to answer all of these questions as best you can...that will help me.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Hi Peter,

Thank you! Here is the best I can answer these questions:

1. He seems to be strongest from his mouth, but I smell it all over. He has never been a cat to clean himself regularly but did a little bit tonight after the bath.
2. We just leave food out, but looks like not eating as much. Acting normally other than that... he's not very active to begin with.
3. He does seem to have lost some weight (more on that below)
4. Drinking like normal.
5. Using the litter like normal as far as i can tell.
6. We just switched him from cat chow natural (it comes in a green bag) to iams naturals. It seems like he's not eating as much, maybe he doesn't like it. Not sure if the less eating and loss of weight is a symptom, cause, or coincidence.

3 years ago my wife's vet said he had some kidney issues (before I met her). He hasn't been tested since.
That's good information, thankyou.
The ammonia smell is most likely associated with his breath although it can come from the urine. It can be transferred from either the mouth or the urine to the coat with normal grooming. The smell comes from nitrogenous compounds (Urea, etc) that accumulate in the blood from the breakdown of protein. The protein can be from the food or sometimes due to breakdown of the body's protein storages (primarily the muscles). Normally the kidneys clear these compounds and excrete them in the urine (hence the ammonia smell of urine). If the kidneys are not operating as well as they should (or if there is an increase in the breakdown and metabolism of protein) then these chemicals build up in the blood and can become obvious on the breath. In addition these chemicals can sometimes injure mucosal surfaces. In particular this can happen in the mouth (gums, etc) causing inflammation, ulceration and secondary infection. This can then worsen the smell. These chemicals can also cause nausea and inappetance.
So you see we may have a whole sequence of events here related to kidney function. You mentioned some previous history of kidney problems so this all sounds quite likely. We may have the early stages of chronic renal failure and maybe also some mouth problems.
I think it's time for a trip to the vet. If possible collect a urine sample first. Your vet will check the mouth, palpate the kidneys and most likely do some blood testing including renal funtion tests (urea levels, etc).
Because his thirst is not yet raised it is possible that this is quite early in CRF (if that is the diagnosis) and diet modification and medication (to reduce the pressure on the kidneys) may dramatically improve his quality and quantity of life.
I hope I have been of assistance. Please contact me back if I can help further.
Regards, Peter
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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thank you Peter. That was very helpful. I think we are going to get him to the vet tomorrow or this weekend. We are about to make a move so it comes at a bad time, but them's the breaks. Hopefully we can control it as you suggest with food and some medication. He is very picky with food (hence why he is on cat chow... hates any "good" food), so that may be a challenge.

Thank you again.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Hello Peter.

My husband emailed you last night about our cat Argus. In the last 12 hours he has gotten worse. Being that I know his habits so well, I am extreemly concerned. We are taking him to the vet today, but I was wondering if you had some insight for me as well.

While he smells like amoinia, he also smells like poo. I have given him 2 baths and he still smells terrible. And his eyes are all cakey with stuff even though I clean it all the time.

Today I found blood under where he was laying on our bed. Not sure if it was from his urine but it's there. He also is NOT urinating as much I checked his box. Also, he is having troubles jumping up and down on the counters, just a few weeks ago he was fine doing this. He is also not eating as much nor is he drinking as much (he usually guzzles water.) If it is CRF, that does mean it's fatal right? Even if we give him the medicine, it will still kill him? I just can not put him through any pain. I have had him since he was 3 days old. :-( Thank you so much for the help.

Hi Blaire
This doesn't sound very good.
The source of the blood may be urine but it may also be from the mouth. I'm not sure if you are able to look in there? It may be uraemic ulcers (damaged mucosa caused by the raised blood urea level). Check all over his body to see that the blood isn't from a wound of some sort...or an abscess? The new smell could be from an infection (mouth or abscess) or from breakdown products in the expired breath.
Early in CRF the thirst and urination are normal, then usually they increase as it worsens. If he has now stopped drinking that can be quite serious. It could be that the renal failure has taken a turn for the worst! Not only is it an indication that he is very unwell but it also means he will rapidly become dehydrated. Benazepril is the medication commonly used for CRF. It acts to reduce the blood pressure to the kidneys and that reduces further damage. It is only of use early in the stages. If he is now in a more advanced stage it will have little value. His main problem right now will be dehydration and uraemia. Only fluids will assist with this. These need to be given intravenously.
Argus needs to see a vet very soon. Whereas I am fairly sure this is CRF I cannot in any way be absolutely sure without seeing him. He needs to be assessed by a vet hands-on. In the meantime try to get water into him. Use a spoon or turkey baster.
It may very well be that there is little can be done and you should prepare yourself that you may have to make a decision. He must not be allowed to suffer for the sake of just a little more owe him that.
Please contact me back if I can answer any more questions, if you see anything else that might be relevant or if I can assist further and please let me know the outcome.
Regards, Peter