What is causing my cat to have breathing difficulties and suddenly lose weight?

Original Question: I have a Maine coon (Sparks) cat and he's being treated for breathing issues. We finally tracked down a staph infection in his throat and put him on antibiotics, however he didn't get much better. For lack of a better description my husband started calling him Darth because of how he sounded. Right now the vet is sort of shooting darts at the problem and frankly I've run out of available funds (I believe x-rays and cat scans have been suggested now). However, I thought there is a chance he has pneumonia. I watched him on his worst days, he would sit by the Orick (spelling?) air cleaner where the air was blowing out. And he's lost a lot of weight, and was down to 9.1 pounds. Once he lost that much weight I started force feeding 2 meals a day of baby kitten food about 2-3 oz. per sitting, and this past week I got a warm mist humidifier and I put him in a room for a few hours a day with it running (can you add Vicks to it to help his breathing or would that be bad?) Since I started he has been eating a third meal in that room, maybe 1-2 oz. of food on his own at least once a day, 5 out of the last 6 days. His weight is starting to slowly come back but I do now hear more gurgling noises from his chest. His breathing in general is a lot better in that we can at least we hear him breathe without all the struggling wheezing type noise. Is there anything else I can do to help my cat out? Any supplements or anything? As I said after all of the treatments I really am out of funds but I think I am getting somewhere and if there is anything else I can do in the house I will. As a side note I have 2 other Maine Coons and they are both fine. Lately I've seen Sparks groom himself or the others and that is something he pretty much stopped when he was at his worst though his fur is still pretty knotty. - Liana

What is causing my cat to have breathing difficulties and suddenly lose weight? Mar 1, 2018

Hi Liana,

I think you have a very serious issue here. My thought would be that the wheezing indicates constricted airways and adding that to the rest of the information you provided, asthma is my first guess. If it is asthma, it can be bad enough to kill a cat slowly from weight loss.

Steroids will treat asthma immediately. The problem is that a steroid can make an infection worse.  I would strongly recommend that a chest X-ray is taken as soon as possible and to see if the pattern fits asthma. I know there is an expense to this but it it could mean the difference between your cat living and dying.

 You could talk to your vet about starting a trial on a steroid but many vets may not want to do this without the diagnostics performed first because if it’s not asthma then the steroid could be harmful.

I hope this helps.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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