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Feature November 2016 Issue

What Nausea Can Indicate in Cats

Your cat Dotty is typically a big eater, showing up excitedly at feeding time each day and gobbling up every bit of food in her bowl. For the past day or so, however, her behavior has changed dramatically. She seems to be hungry enough … but when she spots her food, Dotty just sniffs at it and walks away. If that’s the case, you’d be well advised to take her to your veterinarian without delay. Although she hasn’t vomited, her apparent loss of appetite could be a sign that she’s experiencing nausea. And feeling sick to her stomach may indicate the presence of a serious physical disorder that should be treated promptly.

Dr. Michael Stone defines nausea as “a sensation of discomfort in the stomach, accompanied by an urge to vomit.” Animals like Dotty obviously cannot describe their exact sensations in words. Consequently, as Dr. Stone points out, “We try to avoid the term nausea in veterinary medicine.” Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that, given Dotty’s abrupt change in behavior, there is something about her food that is certainly disagreeable. Other signs that a cat may be experiencing what we humans consider an attack of nausea include drooling, pawing at the mouth; and uncharacteristic lethargy. These clinical signs, among a wide variety of others, suggest the possible presence of any number of serious feline physical disorders, ranging from inflammatory bowel disease to hyperthyroidism and hepatic lipidosis.

A cat like Dotty, who has shown a loss of appetite for a period of 24 hours or more — whether or not she seems to be experiencing nausea — should receive prompt veterinary care, says Dr. Stone. “If the cat is very listless,” he adds, “she should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.”

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