Ask the Vet Archive

Your chance to ask Dr. Mindy Cohan, VMD, our resident pet health expert, what's on your mind!

Topic: Feline Upper Respiratory Problems

Question from Roseann in Wilmington:
We adopted a neighborhood stray cat a while ago that had been abandoned and passed between neighbors for years. He was in good health overall, but has poor dental health. He had a broken tooth removed last year that and the vet does not want to do more surgery due to his age(he should have more removed due to decay). He is actually a spry guy who we think is about 18 years old. We keep having to put him on antibiotics due to sneezing and nasal discharge-about once every month or so, which the vet says is due to the tooth issues. The vet on WDEL last week mentioned a medication that began with the letter \"L\" or \"T\" (I didn\'t catch the name) which is used for older cats in this situation with immune issues since it is not good to repeat antibiotics so frequently. Do you have any idea what this medication or supplement is? Is it dangerous for him to have this discharge(is it considered a sinus infection)? Should we be medicating him every time it comes back? Sorry for the long email-thanks for your time!!

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
There are several causes of upper respiratory problems in cats. The most common include viral, bacterial, and fungal infections, inflammatory polyps, and tumors. Dental problems can also be a cause, but all possibilities must be considered.

The medication to which you refer is possibly L-lysine. This is an amino acid that can be helpful in controlling Herpes virus infection in cats. If your cat's problem is due to anything other than a Herpes infection, the L-lysine will not be of benefit.

If your vet is certain that the problem is due to a diseased tooth, then it is appropriate to treat with antibiotics on an as needed basis. It is a good idea to vary the antibiotic to help avoid resistance. To rule out other problems, nasal endoscopy (the passage of a scope into the nose) can be performed to obtain biopsy samples and to visualize the tissue. Nasal tumors are best diagnosed with this test, but skull x-rays can be helpful too.

Nasal congestion in cats can greatly impact their appetite. If your cat is not eating well during his episodes, try warming some canned cat food to make it extra appealing. Offering soft food will be helpful if he is having tooth pain. Some cats may need supportive care such as fluid therapy. Be sure to keep him eating and well hydrated during his flair ups. Good luck!

Posted February 1, 2009

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