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    cat constantly flicking tongue
    An_249465 posted:
    A coworker told me that her cat started to constantly flick her tongue. She was worried and took her to the vet. The cat was negative for leukemia and rabies. The cat is also drinking alot of water. Should she be concerned?
    srstephanie responded:
    Hi An_249465,

    Cats still have the instinct to hide signs of illness or weakness, so when they do show symptoms, it is generally good to try to learn the cause. But many symptoms can indicate anything from something very mild and benign to something very serious. So, it isn't possible to know without further testing ... though some things are likely more probable than others.

    I doubt her cat was tested for rabies since the only way to confirm (or deny) rabies is to euthanize the cat and cut its head off to examine the brain. But perhaps the vet simply indicated that she didn't see the typical symptoms of rabies. Hopefully, the cat is up-to-date with its rabies vaccinations and hasn't been exposed to potentially rabid wildlife. So, it is probably very low on the list of possibilities.

    Frequently, the test for FeLV (feline leukemia) is combined with the test for FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), so that may be what was also negative. FIV is sometimes called feline AIDS, though it isn't AIDS, but is in the same class of viruses (retroviruses) as HIV.

    You didn't give much information about the cat. How old is she? There are a number of diseases, mostly common in middle-age and older cats, that cause an increase in thirst and also increased urination. If the cat is overweight, then diabetes is a possibility. Older cats are very prone to hyperthyroidism (which usually causes increased hunger, along with weight loss) ... or, perhaps more likely, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) which causes increased drinking and peeing.

    All of those diseases (diabetes, hyperthyroidism, CKD) can be diagnosed with a simple blood test ... though, particularly for CKD, a urinalysis (urine test) should be done at the same time.

    I'm not a vet, but I would think that having at least a standard blood panel done would be a good idea to see how various organs are functioning. If it is an older cat, then a geriatric panel is wise, which may add a few items.

    You don't say how the cat is eating. Is she eating well or eating less (or not at all). A common sign of nausea is licking their lips, which might be seen as flicking her tongue out. CKD can cause excess stomach acid that results in nausea, so that might be a possibility. But MANY things can cause nausea. The symptoms can be treated ... e.g. with an antiemitic (anti-vomiting) drug like Cerenia or Ondansetron ... or an antacid like Pepcid AC (but don't give any medication without being directed to by a vet!).

    However, it's probably more important to try to learn the cause of the nausea ... or, if the tongue flicking is caused by something else. I would think the vet would also want to check her teeth to make sure she doesn't have dental problems causing pain ... or make sure there isn't some type of foreign body (e.g. string wrapped around the back of her tongue, etc). I assume the vet has already checked for most of that.

    As a pet owner, I've learned that we can often sense when there is a problem that is bothering our cats. If your co-owner is still concerned about the tongue flicking, then I would recommend further testing to find out the cause. She might want a second opinion from another vet ... or, if finances aren't a problem, an Internal Medicine or Feline specialist might be helpful. But a simple blood test may solve the problem. Hyperthyroidism and Diabetes are usually fairly easy to manage ... and with supportive care (e.g. increased fluids) many cats live for years with CKD.

    Hope that helps. Let us know how things turn out.

    Stephanie in Montreal
    Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
    Flicking her tongue isn't necessarily a significant symptom, unless she's also drooling or vomiting. But drinking more water is a common symptom of diseases such as kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, etc. These are usually simple to diagnose with lab tests, so your coworker should ask her veterinarian to run these common tests.

    Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
    The Cat Doctor
    Board Certified in Feline Practice

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