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When your cat keeps throwing up, a vet is your new best friend

Why do cats keep throwing up when it's least convenient for their owners?

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but domestic cats have outnumbered them for many years in the United States.

In 2017, a total of about 89.7 million dogs lived in households as pets, compared to about 95.6 million cats.

That’s a lot of kitty litter! No doubt it’s because contrary to popular wisdom, cats can be friendly, loving and loyal companions. On top of that, they don’t need to be walked or bathed, and are comfortable being home alone for hours at a time – even for a weekend, if you’ve got more than one cat so they can entertain each other.

There are around 50 cat breeds recognized by various cat fancier associations, not to mention the millions of “mutts” you can adopt from a shelter for far less than the cost of a purebred, so finding a loving companion isn't hard. You can even find cats that don’t shed a lot of fur, so if you have allergies or just don’t want to spend your life vacuuming your furniture, you can still enjoy feline companionship.

Common cat health problems

As independent as they seem, cats can suffer all kinds of medical issues that require human care.

These range from a simple cat cold to cancer, and even Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), commonly called feline AIDS. Many of these illnesses share similar symptoms, and some don’t always manifest themselves with noticeable symptoms.

For instance, a cat sneezing can simply mean there’s a lot of dust in the home, or It can be a symptom of a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. Upper respiratory infections are quite common in cats as they are in humans, particularly among younger cats or those coming from animal shelters.

A cat sneezing could also indicate more serious problems, such as feline leukemia or FIV.

Another common symptom that has a variety of causes is when a cat keeps throwing up. Cats will occasionally vomit up hairballs, their own food when they eat too fast, and unpleasant things they might have eaten – like a mouse – but when a cat keeps throwing up on a regular basis, it’s time to get an expert opinion.

Among the problems that could be indicated by a cat vomiting are bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract, an intestinal parasite, food intolerance, toxins, viral infections, or even pancreatitis.

According to veterinarians, the most common health complaints of cats include:

In addition to diseases, cats are prone to other problems that stem from the risks associated with being a cat!

Because they’re often underfoot, they can get stepped on, leading to broken bones or even broken tails. They’re also prone to falling out of open windows, a scenario that occurs so often, vets have labeled it High-Rise Syndrome.

Cats can be allergic to chemicals in flea collars, suffer from dental problems, host ear mites, develop feline acne, or suffer bites and scratches from fights with other animals. In addition, kidney failure is one of the primary causes of death in aging cats.

All of these issues require treatment of some kind, even if it’s just to give a better quality of life to a cat with a non-curable disease.

What kind of cat treatments and medications do vets prescribe?

For many of these illnesses, veterinary medicine has developed effective prescription medications that are useful in treating cats. For starters, vets can prescribe NSAIDS such as Metacam, Onsior (robenacoxib) or Mobic (meloxicam) as a pain reliever. Your vet might also suggest aspirin, but only in small doses.

Other medications include:

  • Metronidazole: an antibiotic used in treating common bacteria that affect the liver, gut, and colon, and can be used in treating pancreatitis
  • Opioids: including codeine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, and morphine, which are used for severe discomfort
  • Corticosteroids: including dexamethasone and prednisolone, which relieve pain from allergies or arthritis primarily by reducing inflammation.
  • Gabapentin: a seizure medication that helps treat pain in nerves, muscles, and bones
  • Amitriptyline: an antidepressant in humans that can help with nerve pain in cats
  • Frontline Plus for Cats: a topical treatment that prevents flea infestations
  • Drontal Feline: to treat parasitic worms
  • Clavamox: to treat bacterial infections

Many of these medications must be administered, either as pill or a liquid, by nervous owners. Many an owner has struggled, for instance, to squirt sticky brown liquid into a cat’s mouth, only to wind up wearing it herself while the cat stalks triumphantly away.

There are several different procedures on the Internet for administering liquid medicines to finicky felines via a plastic syringe. Your best bet is to have your veterinarian demonstrate for you.

Many owners will tell you to put the liquid medicine in a small amount of canned food. However, many other owners will admit that this never works. Cats always know when their food has been tinkered with.

Another trick is to mix it with the liquid in which a can of tuna has been packed, and inject everything into the cat’s mouth.

If your cat still resists taking the medication, it’s important that someone else hold the cat wrapped in a towel or blanket so no one ends up in the emergency room. Also, check with your vet for the proper angle of the syringe, since Internet instructions vary.

Then there’s the joy that is known as giving a cat a pill. Scott Perry DVM, a Veterinary Expert on JustAnswer, explains the process this way:

The cat's head should be pointed up towards the ceiling. Open the cat's mouth and place the capsule as far back into the mouth as possible. This is where people have the most difficulty. Most people that end up struggling with this step do not put the capsule far back enough and the cat pushes it forward with his tongue. You want to get it back as far as you can. You will not do damage to the throat by doing this.

As soon as you put it in the very back of the mouth, remove your hand and close the mouth as soon as possible. Keep the head pointed up the whole time. Keep your hand over the mouth to keep it closed. Finally, gently stroke the neck with your hand to encourage swallowing. That is the technique of pilling.

There are other tools you can use as well such as a pill gun or a pill pocket, which is a treat that you can put the capsule inside. They are usually used for dogs, but there are some cat pill pockets available as well.

If this simply isn’t working – sometimes because you can’t get hold of the cat after trying unsuccessfully the first time – a trick with pills is to crush them and mix the bits into the jelly-like substance that comes with canned cat food.

Smear the mixture on the cat’s paw, and no matter how much the cat dislikes the “tainted” cat food, it won’t be able to resist cleaning the gunk off its paw with its tongue.

The most important thing to remember is to never give your cat more than the prescribed dose, or any human or dog medication unless instructed to by your vet.

Cat vaccinations

Anytime you adopt a cat, the animal will already have had certain cat vaccinations, or you will be encouraged or even required by law to have these vaccinations administered.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners Vaccination Advisory Panel recommends that all household cats, including those kept indoors at all times, receive the following vaccines:

  • Feline rhinotracheitis (upper respiratory infection)
  • Feline calicivirus (upper respiratory infection)
  • Feline panleukopenia (FVRCP) (feline distemper or parvo)
  • Rabies

These are the cat vaccinations that are generally required by state laws.

Other cat vaccinations are not required but can be given depending on the cat’s situation, such as outdoor access, living in a shelter, or living in a home with infected cats.

These vaccinations are:

  • FelV
  • FIV
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough)
  • Chlamydia felis
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
  • Dermatophytosis (ringworm)

With so many health issues and treatments in the mix, cat veterinary problem can be difficult to navigate, and a professional's advice is always your best bet for keeping Fluffy happy and healthy.

If you have any questions about your pet’s health – and all owners do sooner or later – you always have the option of contacting a Veterinary Expert on JustAnswer. These Experts are available when local vets are closed, including nights, weekends and holidays.

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