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Ask the Cat Doc: Managing Pain, Dark Spot Above Nose, Fungal Infection and More

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Welcome to our regular “Ask the Cat Doc With Dr. Lynn Bahr” segment! Once a month, Dr. Bahr answers as many of your questions as she can, and you can leave new questions for her in a comment.

Dr. Bahr is a 1991 graduate of the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine and founder of Dezi & Roo, a company that designs, manufactures, and sells solution-based products that enhance the lives of cats and their owners. She volunteers at numerous animal-related charities and causes and serves on the Fear Free Advisory Board, the Parliamentarian of the Society of Veterinary Medical Ethics, the Cat Committee of the Pet Professional Guild, and the Alley Cat Allies’ Feline Forward Task Force.

Dr. Bahr is co-author of the upcoming book Indoor Cat: How to Enrich Their Lives and Expand Their World, due out in April of 2022 and available for pre-order now.

For more information about Dezi & Roo and their unique and innovative cat toys, please visit Dezi and Roo on Etsy.

Do you have a question for Dr. Bahr? Leave it in a comment and she’ll answer it in next month’s column.

Please note that Dr. Bahr will take a three-month break from our column, so this will be your last chance to post your questions until January! Dr. Bahr will answer questions left on this post in October.

Pain management for arthritic cat

Dr. Bahr,

I really appreciate the time and expertise you give us kitty parents in answering our questions and concerns!

My Maggie is a 12-year-old long hair cat with arthritis. I’ve been giving her worksSOwell 1-TetraDecanol Complex (which I saw recommended on this site) and that seems to have been helping, but of course her arthritis is getting worse. I took her to her vet a couple days ago, and the vet gave me Onsior for the pain. It worked but I believe it’s just supposed to be given just for a short period of time, and it’s pricey anyway. Do you know of anything else I can give her or do for her to help ease her pain?

She also had a mammary tumor removed a few weeks ago. The vet said she didn’t take it all out, and now it’s getting larger again. I really, REALLY hate to put Maggie through that surgery again, especially at her age. But I guess that’s a decision that only I can make. In the meantime, if I can do something to ease her arthritis pain, that would be a definite bonus.

Thank you so much, Doctor! – – Alice Kemp

Hi Alice,

Maggie is lucky to have a guardian, like you, who is aware of her arthritic condition and I am happy to hear that you are looking for ways to help alleviate her pain.

There is no one “magic bullet” for pain control and it typically takes a multi-modal approach to keeping arthritic pain managed. If Maggie is carrying extra weight, then a carefully controlled weight loss program will help her immensely and should be the first place to start. In addition to the Onsior and supplement you are giving her, it might be helpful to investigate cold laser treatments and/or acupuncture, CBC, and the Assisi Loop for additional relief.

Take an assessment of your home environment to see if there are ways in which you can help her navigate her surroundings easier. This would include adding ramps to the bed, couch, and favorite sleeping places to eliminate the need for her to jump up or down from these places. Low sided litter boxes help too. Since warmth is often helpful with alleviating arthritic pain, you may also consider placing pet warming blankets out for her to lay on.

I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful.  Let me know which ones work for Maggie.

Black spot above nose

Hi Dr. Bahr,
My male ginger is 5 yrs old. He got a black flat spot right above his nose a few weeks ago. it looked like an ink smudge spot. Then it got darker and then disappeared completely. The black spot came back again like a week later, then disappeared again, very strange. Could it be the salmon food he’s eating? Idk, it seemed like that’s when it appears. Very strange. Thank you. – Terri

Hi Terri,

Thank you so much for taking time to write in about your kitty’s nose. Unfortunately, you did not provide enough information for me to really give you any good advice. But the fact that it goes away on its own is a good sign and I would not be too concerned about it unless it continues to recur. If it does show back up again, take pictures, keep a good log as to when it appeared and disappeared, and get your boy checked out by a veterinarian.

It is strange indeed and if you find out what is going on, please let me know.

A monthly box of fun toys, healthy treats, and other goodies for your cat!

Sudden trouble breathing

Hi Dr. Bahr,

I have a question.

This year our cat ‘Dee’ passed away. It all happened rather quickly, with her suddenly having trouble breathing (the dyspnea type), but no other symptoms (such as congestion). The emergency pet hospital vets found out that her problems were being caused by air getting next to her lungs. (After a blood test and x-rays) They weren’t able to find out what was causing that to happen, and we lost her.

In the midst of everything that was going on, I’m not sure if the emergency vets were aware that her regular vet had recently put her on a prescription. It was Zyrtec- for an ear infection that apparently was caused by allergies.

There are many questions about losing her that I know will never be answered. The question I was hoping you could answer is: is it possible that her prescription was treating/masking symptoms that might have allowed the vet to diagnose what was causing her breathing problem? – Madie

Hi Madie,

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved Dee. Please accept my sincerest condolences.

It is unlikely that the Zyrtec interfered with the diagnosis but without a lot more information I cannot say that for sure. Only your veterinarian would be able to answer that question and if this is a lingering thought you cannot get rid of then by all means contact your veterinarian.

Hopefully, fond memories of Dee will help ease the pain of her loss. I understand your sorrow and am sending you virtual hugs to let you know you are not alone in mourning her.

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Persistent fungal infection

Thank you Dr. Bahr for doing this column.

One of my cats is 14, with small cell lymphoma–in remission, though he’s still taking chlorambucil biweekly and prednisone daily. He’s doing well except for a fungal ear infection that just won’t go away–now over a year in duration.

In the past several months, his vet has prescribed a week’s increase in his pred and a week on Clavamox, in case there was a bacterial factor. We’ve also tried a few weeks of Otomax ointment and another ointment that I’ve forgotten the name of. I was given an ear flush that’s both antifungal and antibacterial, but Plyna objected strongly to that and shook his head so that I was afraid of it getting into his eye. That ear has also been packed several times using BNT, which seems to help a little, but only for a week or so. His vet thinks that the best we can do is just manage the infection.

Most of the time he acts like it doesn’t bother him, but the stink can be horrendous, especially one week when he scratched it enough to cause blood to mix in with the fungal discharge. Nail caps are doing a good job of preventing more of that sort of damage.

I apply a little coconut oil when the ear looks sore.Would dropping a little in that ear regularly do any harm? Can you think of anything else worth trying? – Carol

Hi Carol,

I know that I often recommend seeking a second opinion and am going to do so again in your situation.

I would be concerned about the chronicity of your baby’s ear infection and would want to know what is going on in his ear canal that might be causing the problem. That could entail sedation with a deep ear cleaning and looking into the canal to make sure there isn’t a polyp or tumor in there.

My best recommendation to you would be to get your boy seen asap by a veterinary dermatologist or a veterinarian that has the expertise and an endoscope that can be used to evaluate the ear canal properly.

Your boy should not have to suffer from this problem and I highly encourage you to seek a second opinion asap.

Good luck and let me know the outcome. I am keeping my paws crossed for a good one.

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