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Old 01-09-2010, 09:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Dehydrated, sick cat that won't eat

We just adopted our cat on Monday, and she won't eat. She was also spayed on Monday morning before we picked her up. Anyway, she was drinking a little but not eating at all... we figured she was just not feeling well from the surgery. She has been really sweet and affectionate and seems to have adjusted to our apartment pretty well other than not eating and being very sleepy and not playful. Today (Saturday) we took her to the vet because we were worried about her not eating. The vet informed us that she's definitely sick and very dehydrated, though he doesn't know why. She was so dehydrated, in fact, that they had to shave a patch on her chest and poke around 4 times before they could find a good vein that wasn't shriveled. Blood work revealed normal levels on everything except where the lack of eating or dehydration would affect it. The vet tube-fed her and injected some fluid to rehydrate her and hopefully stimulate her appetite. He also sent us home with some antibiotics to treat any underlying (and apparently unseen) infection.

We're worried about her, and we're under orders to bring her back after the weekend if she doesn't start eating and drinking. Any ideas on how to get her to eat and drink? We were told to try syringe-feeding her a wet food/water mixture. How well will that hydrate her? Any ideas on getting her interesting in eating or drinking? Right now it's all we can do to wake her up to get her off the couch and put her food and water in front of her. She's traumatized from the vet now, and has hardly woken up all day since then. She's acting sicker than ever. Basically, I know syringe feeding is a short-term option, but I'm just hoping for alternative tricks to get her to do it on her own... obviously syringe feeding is not a realistic long term solution. I would love to have her pull out of this and start eating and drinking before we have to take her back to the vet on Monday. As first-time cat owners, we're really worried. Any ideas?

Thanks.
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Old 01-09-2010, 09:10 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dehydrated, sick cat that won't eat

Hi and welcome to the forum.

You are right to be concerned, this is very serious. It is imperative that you syringe feed the cat while this is being worked out otherwise she will deteriorate even more and very quickly. Feed her little and often. Mix some wet food with water.

If the bloodwork isn't showing anything perhaps the vet should do a scan, there might be some kind of blockage? Has she vomited at all after the vet feeding her? Has she passed any stool since you go her?

If she doesn't perk up after about a day of being fed and the antibiotics then I would either take her back or go to a different vet.

Antibiotics can also upset her stomach so she may not feel like eating while on them, so keep up with the force feeding.

If she does get into a worse state, definately take her in in again asap.

Maybe someone else can suggest something different but this does sound quite serious and I would be inclined to let a vet deal with it.

Good luck to your kitty and please keep us posted.
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Old 01-09-2010, 09:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dehydrated, sick cat that won't eat

Thanks for the quick reply.

She hasn't vomited after being tube-fed (thankfully), and hasn't pooped since we got her. Am I correct in assuming that the wet food/water mixture will keep her sufficiently fed and hydrated, or do I need to focus on getting her to drink plain water too?

I really hope that we can get her through this. We haven't had her long, but we've bonded already and would hate to lose her.
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Old 01-09-2010, 09:31 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dehydrated, sick cat that won't eat

I think this would keep her hydrated, remember there is also moisture in wet food. You will probably need to sieve it first though to get it through the syringe.

Giver her a couple of ccs every few hours.

If you are still worried about dehydration you can give her sub q fluids, it isn't difficult and your vet will show you how to do this. In fact, depending on your finances, would it be possible to leave her with the vet? They can do all of this too.

It's amazing how attached we become to the little things, you must be so worried
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Old 01-09-2010, 09:41 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dehydrated, sick cat that won't eat

Yes, it is absolutely imperative that you force feed her with a syringe. Small meals and often, even every hour or two. You can also try offering her some plain meat human baby food. Cats tend to love it! Science Diet A/D (although I think it's a crappy food) is great for force feeding and also very palatable and can be really helpful to get a kitty started eating again.
Often, when cats aren't feeling well, they stop eating. Once they stop, it's hard to get them interested again. The force feeing is two fold: one, it can get them going on their food again and two, it will prevent permanent organ damage from starvation.
It should help keep them somewhat hydrated but you'll have to check back with the vet. They may need to rehydrate her again.
Keep in mind, if she is dehydrated, she's probably feeling quite nauseated and therefor won't want to eat. It's a vicious cycle. So it's extremely important that you keep getting food in her regularly!
I know it's amazing how quickly we get attached to them! Don't lose heart. With the proper care, kitties can pull through a lot! She's lucky to have you.
Best of luck and let us know how she's doing.
Oh, one more thing. When I had to force feed my kitty, I used a human baby syringe from the drug store. I found it a lot easier to use than the one the vet gave me.
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Old 01-09-2010, 09:44 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dehydrated, sick cat that won't eat

Any tips on syringe feeding? We just tried and failed... got about 2 drops onto her tongue, which she pretty much just spit out. She kind of freaks out when we try to get anything into her mouth, so it's hard to execute gracefully.

I don't think it's really an option financially to leave her with the vet... but it makes me wonder how long it might take her to recover under professional care.
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Old 01-09-2010, 09:48 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dehydrated, sick cat that won't eat

I think the best thing to do would be to wrap her in a towel and make sure her front legs are covered firmly so she can't scratch/escape.

Aim the syringe to the back and to the side so the stuff lands on the back of her tongue without going into her throat as she might choke on it. Cats normally swallow when they have something on the back of their tongue.

She won't like it and you won't like doing it, but just remember that you *have* to do it or she will be in a very very bad way..she will forgive you when she's better so don't worry
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Old 01-09-2010, 09:57 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dehydrated, sick cat that won't eat

It's important not to shoot it down their throat 'cause they may choke. I always squirted into their cheek. Just take it slow. Wrapping in a towel like a burrito i a big help.
If you can't do it at home, she may need to stay at the vet for a couple of days or even be tube fed. Obviously, you want to avoid that, if possible but it may be necessary.
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Old 01-09-2010, 10:09 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dehydrated, sick cat that won't eat

I squirt it in the cheek from the side too. Hoping she does well! What we do is not as effective as what the vet does, of course, so taking her back is a good idea.
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Old 01-09-2010, 11:44 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dehydrated, sick cat that won't eat

Oh my, you've really got "new cat ownership by fire" going on, don't you. Well, it's not ideal, but it's sure one way to learn how to take care of a cat, and you'll be amazed how much you learn about feline psychology while nursing an ailing feline.

Here are a few links that will provide you with lots of help in assist feeding your girl:

http://www.felinecrf.org/persuading_cat_to_eat.htm
http://www.assistfeed.com/
http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/Feline ... ed-Feeding

As others have mentioned, it can be very helpful to securely wrap the cat in a towel. I find it helpful, also, to use a large diaper pin to pin the towel closed at the back of the cat's neck. That helps free up both of my hands for the feeding. Note, however, that some cats fight more with that sort of restraint and may actually be easier to assist feed without towel wrapping. You just have to see what works best with your girl.

It's important to syringe food in sloooowly from the SIDE of the mouth ACROSS the tongue, NOT the FRONT of the mouth toward the BACK of the tongue. By syringing in small amounts from the side across the tongue, you give the cat time to swallow properly and not aspirate any of the food into her lungs (which can cause pneumonia).

Avoid making the food mixture too watery (too easy to aspirate). You'll have to experiment a bit to find the right consistency so that she can't spit it out easily but so that it's thick enough that it won't run down her throat without swallowing. You can make just about any type of pate-style canned cat food syringeable by pureeing it in a kitchen blender with a little hot water.

Try to get at least 20cc's into her per feeding, every hour or two. 40 or 60cc's is even better (much easier - and messier - said than done, I know). If she doesn't receive adequate nutrition, she is at risk of developing a serious liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. For future reference, a cat should never be allowed to go more than 48 hrs without eating before you take her to the vet. It doesn't take long for hepatic lipidosis to occur in susceptible cats.

As another poster mentioned, baby food meats can entice many cats to eat, but you must read the labels and make sure they don't contain ANY onion or garlic in any form (both of which are toxic to cats).

I would not recommend syringing plain water, as it is far too easy to aspirate into the lungs. If she does not drink on her own, go back to your vet and ask to be shown how to administer subQ fluids at home to keep her hydrated. Depending on how much food you manage to get into her, you may not be able to keep her adequately hydrated just with assist feeding.

If your girl is acting sicker tomorrow, I recommend you take her to an ER vet. I'm worried that she may have picked up a nasty infection from the spaying. Heaven forbid something may have even been left inside her during surgery. Hopefully, though, the food and hydration she received today will have her feeling much stronger by tomorrow.

Please keep us updated on the condition.

Laurie
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