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Canberra Cat Vet Blog

The unwell cat

Thursday, January 19, 2017

   Cats often don't give us many clues that they are ill. Perhaps they miss a meal or hide in the cupboard. Perhaps they look for a cuddle; or perhaps they want nothing to do with you. Some will vomit or have diarrhoea. The occasional one will show pain by hunching over or curling up and wanting to be left alone.

Many of these vaguely ill cats have pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas. The pain and nausea put them off their food. As cats obtain most of their fluids through their food rather than from what they drink they become dehydrated very quickly. The dehydration exacerbates the pain and nausea and so a vicious downward spiral continues.

Fortunately most respond to a drip to rehydrate them, and pain relief and anti-nausea medication. Within 2 or 3 days they are back to their normal selves. 

Pancreatitis is a very common complaint in middle-aged to older cats. If your cat doesn't seem to be her or himself call us sooner rather than later as cats often suffer pancreatitis silently.

Furballs - or not?

Thursday, December 01, 2016

 

 

RIP Spunky

Spunky was a big boy and aptly named. He ruled the house and his carers' day centred on his every need - because he wouldn't let them forget his standards and requirements.

He often brought up a furball, so often that his carers just thought it was normal for him to bring one up every week or so. Six months ago it became more frequent and he started bringing up food as well. He seemed as bright, happy and demanding as ever so at first they thought nothing was wrong. After talking to us they tried out a few different foods, including a hypoallergenic diet, thinking that maybe something was interfering with his delicate digestion.

He vomited all the more and started to lose weight despite appearing normal. We tested him for all the usual causes of vomiting in cats - kidney disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism - but everything came back normal. Something nasty was going on.

Dr John recommended biopsies of his stomach and intestines. His carers were reluctant to go so far and played with his diet a bit more. Eventually they decided that something must be done and he came in to hospital for an anaesthetic and investigation. Samples were sent to the pathologist.

The result was a diagnosis of low grade lymphoma of the intestines. This is the end result of chronic inflammation of the stomach and bowel.

The good news is that it can be controlled with low grade medication if caught early. Spunky lived another healthy 5 months, but the lymphoma spread to his stomach at the end. Many cats live much longer than 5 months. Some, especially if the lymphoma is advanced on diagnosis, have a more limited time to live.

If we diagnose the inflammatory bowel disease in the early stages we can prevent it from developing into lymphoma all together. Spunky's carers urge everyone to take notice of any 'furballs' or vomiting early on. Furballs are simply a sign that the stomach or intestine is inflamed - they are usually not because of the fur. If you see them more than once a fortnight, discuss it with your vet.

Pica or what did you just eat????!!!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pica is the abnormal appetite for non-food materials, such as wool, fabrics, cat litter, houseplants or licking concrete or stones.

It can arise as a behavioural problem or can be the result of an underlying medical problem such as anaemia.

Behavioural pica

Behavioural pica often is a long standing problem in healthy cats or in playful kittens. They are usually seen at a clinic for vomiting and reduced appetite due to an intestinal obstruction with odd objects, or toxic substances. Behavioural pica may also increase during times of stress (e.g. new pets and moving house).

Siamese and related breeds are particularly prone to fabric eating and this is often a chronic problem starting at a young age. It is presumed that there is a genetic component to the habit and , although incompletely understood, it is thought that the endorphin release the cat experiences makes the habit addictive. Some cases are very difficult to manage and consulting a veterinary behaviourist is highly recommended.

Pica due to medical conditions

Pica can be seen in cats with chronic anaemia or intestinal problems – they consume excessive amount of grass or plant material and consequently vomit, have diarrhoea or lose weight.

Grass/outdoor plant ingestion in cats

Grass eating is common in cats. The reasons for this is not fully understood but it is suspected that grass has some beneficial effects on the stomach and intestines, including easing nausea. Grass eating is not problematic unless the is also showing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea or eating a toxic plant (i.e lilies). Some owners grow grass on trays indoors for their cats to eat – this may discourage houseplant eating in indoor cats.

Empirical treatments

Steps can be taken to prevent cats from eating odd things:

  • Place wool, blankets and clothing out of reach or sight
  • Hide electrical wires or protect them with cord guards
  • Remove houseplants
  • Use non-clay based litter or placing only shredded/torn up newspaper in litter trays.

Behavioural pica can be challenging to manage; a thorough examination and consultation with a veterinarian will help rule out common causes and allow prompt treatment.

Cough or vomit?

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Siamese like Nicholas commmonly suffer from asthmaIt's easy to confuse coughing with retching or vomiting in cats. A coughing cat crouches, sticks her elbows out and opens her mouth to get more air. A vomiting cat sits with the front legs straight, her abdomen contracts and she produces fluid or food.

Many coughing cats have asthma or chronic bronchitis. Like human asthmatics cats with asthma react to something they have inhaled like pollen, cigarette smoke or dust mites. We saw several asthmatic cats during the recent bushfires when the smoke hung low around Canberra.

Cats with bronchitis have long term inflammation of the airways causing thickening of the small airway walls and reduced airflow.

Asthma and bronchitis often overlap in cats. In general, asthmatics have sudden episodes of difficult breathing, wheezing and coughing, while cats with bronchitis have more chronic but less dramatic coughs.

Infections of the bronchi and lungs make asthma and bronchitis suddenly worse.

Other causes of coughing in cats include inhalation of foreign material, such as grass or cigarette smoke, flu virus infections, lungworm, heartworm or lung cancer.

Once we sort out the cause of the cough with X-rays, bronchoscopy or other more specific tests, we target the treatment. For asthma and bronchitis treatment can be lifelong or as necessary.


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Canberra Cat Vet 16-18 Purdue St Belconnen ACT 2617 (parking off Gillott Street) Phone: (02) 6251-1444

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