My Cat Suddenly Started Drooling, So I Took Her to the Emergency Vet

It was Sunday morning, and my cat Elsa Clair strolled across my desk, walked between my hands on the keyboard and settled herself in my lap. I gave her a few pets, and noticed a drop of water on my laptop. I brushed it away, not really thinking about it. Absentmindedly, I began scratching my cat under the chin — an activity that revs the purr motor up significantly. My hand came away wet.

What was going on? I looked at Elsa Clair’s face and saw a small drop of saliva drip onto my pants. I wiped her face with my hand — and then she’d had enough and retreated back to her bed on my desk.

Elsa Clair in her bed on my desk in the fall.

Elsa Clair in her bed on my desk in the fall.

I didn’t think much of it, until about twenty minutes later, when I looked up at her as she stretched and changed her position. I watched as another drop of saliva formed and fell onto her paw. I stood up to pet her — and that’s when I saw that the entire area where her head had previously been was soaked.

Something was obviously very wrong.

Paging Dr. Google

So I did what most of us do when we want to know something. I asked Dr. Google.  After reading a few articles, all I could tell was that sudden drooling was indicative of a problem; it could be anything from dental issues to poisoning. Or translated into the Pet Parent Worry Scale, it could be a 3 (It’s okay, I can wait until until Monday when I can take her to our regular vet) or a 10 (Something really bad is happening, and my pet needs immediate attention). And of course, there’s the added factor:  It’s a holiday weekend; do I take Elsa Clair to the emergency vet where it will cost me an arm, a leg and 37 additional grey hairs?

I will admit I’m an anxious pet parent. I lost my dog Rosie to cancer when she was just four years old. Her first and only symptom was that she vomited a few times. After five years, I still miss her. Her death was devastating to me, and I rarely talk about what happened to her. The experience made me a bit of a paranoid pet parent; at the slightest hint of a problem, I go from zero to cancer in .37 seconds.

Using the Kuddly app to consult a vet

Dr. Google wasn’t much of a help; we all know the interwebs can be unreliable. So I did the next best thing; I asked for advice from a vet, using the Kuddly app.

I had a $20 credit to use Kuddly, which had been given to attendees at BarkWorld, a pet social media conference. While there, I met the smart and caring people who developed Kuddly and I promised to write a story about them, reviewing their app. While I included it in a pet tech round up here on Life with Dogs and Cats, and on Catster.com and Dogster.com, I hadn’t fully tested the app, nor written the full review.

I needed vet advice right now, from someone I could trust. During non-business hours (like a holiday weekend), when my regular vet is closed, they usually refer cases like these to emergency clinics that are open. The emergency vet, when I’ve called in the past, nearly always told me to bring my pet in. Neither of them will make diagnoses over the phone, and I don’t blame them; they shouldn’t. But because of  my Panicked Pet Parent tendencies, I don’t really trust my judgement completely. I’m likely to bring any of my pets to the vet for what might seem a minor problem. That can get expensive, fast.

So I tried Kuddly. In a few seconds, I was in a text conversation with Dr. Anthony Hall, a small animal vet in Virginia. He was knowledgable and helpful, and gave me some ideas of what could be happening with my cat, that more or less matched up with much of what I found on the internet. No, I told him, I did not think Elsa Clair ate anything other than food; Athena eats everything she sees, but Elsa Clair is more circumspect about her diet. She’s an indoor cat. I explained that we’re very careful in our home not to leave string around, to never drop pills, to supervise play with all cat toys that could be chewed or swallowed. She would be the least likely of our cats to ingest anything other than cat food. Still, said Dr. Hall, the sudden onset and the excessiveness of the drooling concerned him. He encouraged me to take Elsa Clair to the emergency vet.

Using Kuddly to talk with a vet

Some of the conversation I had with Dr. Hall.

Fifteen minutes of texting (it’s normally 12 minutes, but he added a few free extra minutes at the end), and I felt reassured that I was taking the right course of action. Even if I didn’t have a $20 credit, that was among the best $10 I ever spent on behalf of my pets. I knew what I had to do.

A trip to the emergency vet

But now there was a bigger worry. Now it’s not just my knee-jerk, zero-to-cancer worrywartism working here. Something was seriously wrong with Elsa Clair, and I needed to get her to the emergency vet.

I snarfed down a yogurt, knowing it might be hours before I had a chance to eat again, maneuvered a drippy Elsa Clair into the cat carrier, and off we went.

We’re lucky enough to have an emergency veterinary clinic — Animerge — less than 15 minutes from my home. When I got there, they took Elsa Clair in the back immediately, to make sure there wasn’t something stuck in her mouth, an obstruction that could cause her excessive salivation. I filled out the paperwork, and sat down in the hard plastic chair, trying to ignore the football game that was playing very loudly in the waiting room.

A quick exam showed that Elsa Clair’s mouth and teeth were fine, so it was time to explore other options. We were shown to an exam room to wait for the vet. A tech stopped in and asked if I would approve blood work even before we saw the doctor; it might save some time to have the results when she came in. I agreed. Bloodwork can tell you a lot about what’s wrong, and what isn’t wrong — both of which go a long way toward easing a worried mind.

When they brought her back, I took Elsa Clair out of her carrier and held her; it was cold in the exam room, and she snuggled into my coat. I could feel her shiver, and she began to feel warm. It felt to me that she was spiking a fever.

Elsa Clair at the vet

The only photo of Elsa Clair at the vet. I rarely take my camera with me to the vet; I want to focus on my pets. This was a quick cell phone photo I took to send to the rest of my worried family that she was okay and in good hands.

I sat there, held her close, worried — and remembered. Less than 24 hours after a tiny Elsa Clair kitten (and her brother Calvin) came to live with us, she wound up here, at Animerge, listless and unable to eat, battling diarrhea. She made it through then, and I knew she was a fighter. I just didn’t know what she was fighting this time.

When Dr. Ada Guzman came in, she told me Elsa Clair looked fine, seemed normal, but two of her liver enzymes were very abnormal. Her GGT was 114 (normal is 0-10) and bilirubin was 2.1 (normal is 0.0-0.5). She asked me a similar series of questions that the Kuddly vet had asked, and I gave her the same answers.

I also I asked if we could take Elsa Clair’s temperature again; while I was told it was normal when we first got there, I thought she was feverish. Sure enough, she had gone up two degrees, to 102, since we had arrived. It was not officially a fever, but an increase like that in a short time was indicative that something was wrong. (She would eventually hit 102.8, making it an official fever.) It was time to admit her, put her on IV fluids to flush her system out, start her on antibiotics, and call in an internal medicine consult to find out what was wrong; he might do an ultrasound to look at her liver, kidneys and other internal organs.

Why I have pet insurance

I held on to my tiny black-and-white ball of shivering, sick kitty while the the tech reviewed the estimate for the care she was about to receive. It would cost me anywhere between $1400 to $2200. Was I okay with that, the tech wanted to know.

This is why I have pet insurance for all of my pets. For circumstances just like the one I was in now. I looked at technician and explained that I never want to have to make a decision about care for my dogs and cats that is based on money. It should be based on the care they need. So I knew I would spend my deductible and no more, but Elsa Clair would be taken care of. I signed the papers and watched as they took my little dragon away.

I cried on the way home. And  tried unsuccessfully to get through the rest of the day without thinking about Elsa Clair. Thoughts of cancer, liver disease, tumors, shunts, blocked bile ducts, emergency surgery raced through my head — all the possibilities the intranet had dished up for me when I googled liver problems in cats.

That night, feeding three cats instead of four was a subdued and sad exercise; I missed the sound of Elsa Clair’s constant dinnertime prep narration.  Later, I called Animerge and was told my cat seemed a little better, and her drooling had slowed down.

The best news ever: Elsa Clair is okay

The next morning, as I prepared another meal for a less-than-optimal number of cats, Dr. Michael Zaid, Animerge’s internal medicine specialist, called with fabulous news. Elsa Clair was “a normal cat.” Her lab numbers were back to normal, as was her temperature. Her ultrasound was unremarkable. She had stopped drooling. She was alert and trying to rub him through the bars of the cage, though it was obvious she was scared. Like the other vets, he asked me questions about what she might have consumed.

Would I feel comfortable taking her home? With tears of relief choking my voice, I told him of course.

But what had happened to Elsa Clair? He asked me similar questions as the other two vets. He thought perhaps she did get into something, somewhere. The tech who checked us out when I went to pick up the cat told me it could have been as simple as she caught and ate the wrong insect. This was a possible answer, as Elsa Clair is an expert bug hunter. Dr. Zaid thought the bloodwork results may have been a mistake — a technology error — because a urine sample did not reflect similar results as the blood, which was really unusual.

Still, they sent us home with antibiotics, since Elsa Clair seemed to respond, a decision I agreed with wholeheartedly.

Did I do the right thing? Bring my cat to the emergency vet because she was drooling? Absolutely. And I’d do it again.

As for me, I’ll watch my little cow kitty, and keep an eye out for any returning symptoms. I’ll continue to be vigilant about anything any of my cats could get into. And I’ll continue to pay my premiums to Trupanion for pet insurance. I’ll probably keep Kuddly handy as well.

We may never know what happened to Elsa Clair. It doesn’t really matter that much to me. Or to my cat.

What mattered was I got her the care she needed, she was okay, and she was coming home.

Tucker checks out Elsa Clair after she came home from the vet.

Tucker checks out Elsa Clair after she came home from the vet.

If you've ever been in the hospital, that first bath or shower after you come home feels divine. I'm sure Elsa Clair felt the same way.

If you’ve ever been in the hospital, that first bath or shower after you come home feels divine. I’m sure Elsa Clair felt the same way.

Elsa Clair naps, happy to be home.

After a meal and a bath, a nice nap in the sun. You can see the shaved paw where the IV was.

Back where we started. Elsa Clair snuggles in my lap, this time without drooling.

Back where we started. Elsa Clair snuggles in my lap, this time without drooling.

This story is a lesson in knowing your pets, knowing what’s normal and what is not — and getting the right help for them.

If your pet is drooling, seek veterinary help. If it is some kind of poison that’s causing the symptoms, it’s very important to deal with it sooner as opposed to later, before irreparable damage is done to internal organs.

If money is an issue, invest in pet insurance, now. It’s emergencies like Elsa Clair’s that insurance comes in handy. You always hope you don’t need it, but you’re thankful if you do.

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39 Comments on "My Cat Suddenly Started Drooling, So I Took Her to the Emergency Vet"

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  1. Thank goodness Elsa Clair is all right. Reading this, I wanted to cry. Did you meet veterinarian Lorie Huston? She came to BarkWorld and BlogPaws. I called her at home on a Sunday (!) when I was pet sitting a bird that suddenly became sick. By the time she called back the bird was dead. I was a sobbing mess. She calmed me down, explaining that it sounded as though the bird was getting ready to die for some days. Talking to a veterinarian was so reassuring. You’re not stranded, wondering if you’re doing the right thing. You’re not alone. Lorie was my “Kuddly.”

  2. Leona says:

    So very glad she’s ok.

  3. I’m glad that Elsa is okay. That’s such a scary situation. I know what you mean about worry about our pets; after losing Blue suddenly, I’m very anxious about our dogs. We lost Jaffrey 2 weeks ago tomorrow and I’m now smothering Cosmo.

    Scout recently had a fever of unknown origin. The vets couldn’t find anything wrong with him and he was fine a week later. He hasn’t been sick since that weekend. I’m glad that he’s better, but I wish I did have an answer so that I know what to avoid or watch out for in the future.

    Cool thing about being pet bloggers is that we know how to take advantage of the resources available to us.

    • Oh I felt so bad about Blue and Jaffrey. Losses like that weigh very heavy on our minds. I remember the issues you had with Scout too; it took him awhile to recover. I think it’s great to have resources as a blogger, but sometimes I think I know too much about what can go wrong as well, and that feeds right into my worry loop. We just have to do the best we can and love our pets while they’re with us, and get them the very best care.

  4. Daisy says:

    Oh my goodness I was so nervous reading this, but I’m so relieved now that beautiful Elsa Clair is okay! I certainly understand how frightened and worried you were, I’m the same way. I agree, we all need to know and understand our pets so we can catch health issues right away. We thought about getting pet insurance for Daisy, and now we know we should have, but the premiums are so darned high we decided to go with what we thought were good odds that she’d be like our previous dogs who never had issues. Wrong calculation this time! We should probably revisit getting pet insurance. Again, I’m so happy everything worked out well for you and sweet little Elsa Clair!

    • Thank you for your kind thoughts.
      Please revisit getting insurance. Trupanion (who I use and love — and who did not pay me for this post) allows you to choose your deductible. This can lower premiums. I chose my deductible to be pretty high, knowing that I could manage a one-time expense of several hundred dollars in a given month. Past that and it would be a problem. So for me, insurance isn’t for basic care, or the one-off, non-emergency visits. It’s for those several thousand dollar unforeseen and awful cases: cancer, injuries, surgery, ER visits. Then I pay my deductible and the insurance pays the rest.

  5. Rebekah says:

    I am so very glad she is ok. I need to get pet insurance.

  6. So glad she is ok. We don’t have pet insurance, but a very good friend is our vet (which is kind of the same thing!)

  7. We’re sooooooo glad Elsa Clair is back to normal. What a scare! We, too, have pet insurance for all our babies. Worth every penny.

    (Especially when some kitty falls asleep on the mantel during the SuperBowl … and then falls OFF. We were sure he’d broken something – I’ve never seen a more pronounced limp in a cat.)

    Elsa Clair, be kind to the humans! Their hearts can’t handle these kind of things! 😉

  8. Emma says:

    So glad she is alright, but it would be soothing to your mind to know what actually caused it all. I’ve been to the ER vet once, it wasn’t too bad. Mom has taken cats there over the past 25 years or so for major emergencies, usually urinary tract related. Bert was in a couple years ago and needed emergency surgery because of a urinary blockage and it was not cheap but it was either pay or he would most likely die. We dogs are all insured which helps, the cats are not. Give Elsa Clair a good dog hug from me.

  9. Robin says:

    I’m so glad that Elsa Clair is feeling better. It stinks that a cause couldn’t be found. I would freak out as much as you did. My cats are my babies! Cinco, Manna, and I will keep praying and purring for Elsa Clair in hopes that this won’t ever happen again.

    • Thank you for your purrs and prayers. It helps me to know that there are others out there who care. <3 I am keeping such a close eye on her. I am so relieved and thankful that it turned out to be nothing awful, and was easily solved.

  10. Kitties Blue says:

    Susan, it all sounds like a scary experience, but I am happy to hear that the final outcome is that your girl is home and happy and healthy. I feel fortunate that we have an excellent emergency vet with a veterinarian I love. She saved Lily’s life! Good advice for everybody in not letting unusual things go unchecked. Giulietta developed this spot on her iris, and after googling, I knew I had to have it checked out. Have you ever heard of cats getting eye “freckles?” But is could have been something much worse, like melanoma. Sending Elsa Clair lots of purrs and prayers as she continues on her antibiotics. Fiona says not to feel too badly about that shaved leg. She has one too! Hugs, Janet

    • Thanks so much. I had not heard of freckles in a cat’s eye, but I’m with you. Always get things checked out; it’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s great you have a vet you love and trust. As for Elsa Clair’s shaved leg, I think she’s more irritated about her naked belly. They had to shave it for the ultrasound and it’s really cold here now, so she’s really missing her nice warm fur. Luckily I have a warm lap to offer her.

  11. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    elsa claire…. we R buzzed happee yur home frum de vet N we send de blessings oh St Francis; just coz him haz plentee ta spare & heez willing two share; ewe can keep em under yur pillow for safe keeping…just coz….

    pleez never scare yur mom or familee like that again oh kay…..sound like a deel ?? oh kay…..

    N hay, thanx for de tip bout Kuddly !!!

    bee happee, bee well ♥♥♥

  12. I am very paranoid when it comes to my boys. Of course, drooling is a way of life with a Basset Hound, but I always watch for any little thing out of the ordinary. We lost my Golden Retriever very quickly also so I never take chances. I have learned to NEVER trust Google because it always makes me think that death is imminent! LOL! I am pretty sure that I have self-diagnosed all of my dogs with a terrible disease as well as myself. ☺ I am so happy that Elsa Clair is fine. SHe is lucky to have you. ♥

  13. Deziz World says:

    We are very glad Elsa Claire is okay and back at home. We drool a bit when we get revved up to da luvvin’. And sissy sumtimes drools just cuz. She’s missin’ a mouthful of teefies to keep da spit in. MOL Weez glad this drooler is all better. Have a pawsum day.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi

    • See, that’s the thing. You know when your cats drool so it wouldn’t be unusual. But for Elsa Clair, it was very abnormal. But great pet parents like you know what’s normal and what isn’t and that’s when you need to trust your instinct to take your pet to the vet when something isn’t right.

  14. meowmeowmans says:

    We’re so glad that Elsa Claire is okay. That must have been scary, and we would have done the same thing as you!

  15. Ellen Pilch says:

    I am very happy that this story had a happy ending. Elsa Claire is lucky to have a smart Mom who knows her well.

    • Thank you. I think as pet parents, we need to be very observant. Our pets can’t tell us when something is wrong. I believe Elsa Clair’s drooling meant she was nauseous. But she had no way to tell me. And it was obvious that something was wrong. When we first got to the clinic, her temperature was 100; in just a few hours, she was up to 102.8. So glad I got her to the vet when I did.

  16. How scary! We’re glad Elsa Clair is okay. The hardest part I find is determining when it is an emergency or is something that can wait. I usually err on the side of caution. ~Island Cat Mom

    • That’s the part that drives me nuts, too. When you have three dogs and four cats, if you run to the vet at every little scratch or hiccup, it can get very expensive. Yet I never want to downplay something that turns out to be a really bad thing. That’s where the Kuddly app helped me; I thought the drooling meant something, but I wasn’t sure. To have a vet say it was important helped me feel comfortable that I was doing the right thing. (And having insurance also helped because I didn’t have to worry about the expense.)

  17. We’re so glad your story has a happy end ! We have a pet insurance, and Mum was very happy to have it when our Angel Loupi had his accident. Purrs

    • Thank you. We’re happy, too. I think pet insurance is a wonderful thing, and I tell everyone I know that it is the best and most important thing you’ll ever spend money on for your pet.

  18. So glad Elsa Clair is doing better!

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