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Canberra Cat Vet Blog

Kitten deaths in Canberra

Thursday, March 01, 2018


Panleukopenia, also known as Feline Enteritis, has swept through the homeless and rescued kitten population of Canberra in the last month. Kittens died from dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhoea, and massive secondary infection. Aggressive support with intravenous fluids and broad spectrum antibiotics helped some but a high proportion of affected cats died.
Infection with the parvovirus which causes Panleukopenia is highly preventable. Mass vaccination prevents outbreaks. When less than 70 per cent of the population is vaccinated, the situation is perfect for the emergence of a disease epidemic. The current outbreak is a timely reminder that maintaining immunity in populations of animals with effective vaccines is essential.
The usual F3 vaccine is highly effective in protecting against Panleukopenia.
If you are unsure of your cats' vaccination status please phone us on 6251 1444 and we will check our records for you. Cats less than 12 months of age are most vulnerable and must have had an F3 booster after 16 weeks of age to be fully protected.

Enteritis outbreak - check your cats' vaccination record

Thursday, March 02, 2017
 
Since the 1970’s, vigilant use of feline core vaccines has resulted in strong herd immunity against feline enteritis (FPV), also known as panleukopaenia, caused by a parvovirus. Cases of the virus, which causes fevers, vomiting and dreadful diarrhoea, were almost unheard of.
 However, there has been a re-emergence of the potentially fatal enteritis over the last few years, with three outbreaks in Victoria between 2013 and 2015 claiming the lives of around 200 cats. Over the last month, shelter-based outbreaks of the disease have been reported in both New South Wales and Queensland, including Blacktown Pound in Sydney’s west.  At another shelter the infection claimed the lives of five out of seven cats in one litter, before the virus was identified, enabling appropriate treatment of the other two kittens.
The most common form of FPV is the acute form, which presents as a three to four day history of fever, depression and anorexia, progressing to vomiting and diarrhoea.  Severe clinical illness leading to mortality is much more common in young, inadequately vaccinated kittens three to five months of age. 
The key to disease control is still mass vaccination. “Disease in cats is caused by parvoviruses, small DNA viruses. The main one is feline panleucopenia virus but parvoviruses that infect dogs can also cause the disease in cats” Professor Vanessa Barrs, Specialist in Feline Medicine told media publications. When less than 70 per cent of the population is vaccinated, the situation is perfect for the emergence of a disease epidemic, she said. The current outbreak is a timely reminder that maintaining immunity in populations of animals where effective vaccines are available is essential.
If you are unsure of your cats' vaccination status please phone us on 6251 1444 and we will check our records for you. Cats less than 12 months of age are most vulnerable and must have had an F3 booster after 12 weeks of age to be fully protected.

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.

My kitten has diarrhoea...

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Many kittens develop diarrhoea especially in the first week or two in their new homes.

Often it is due to the big changes in their lives - a new family, leaving mum, new surroundings, but most often it is because of the new diet. Even good quality kitten food causes diarrhoea in a kitten that is not used to it. Find out what the breeder or foster carer fed your kitten and feed some of the new food mixed in with some of the old food. Gradually increase the proportion of the new food over a couple of weeks.  

Kittens lose the enzyme for digesting milk very quickly so avoid dairy products. Kitten foods contain all the calcium and protein that a kitten requires.

Check when the kitten was last wormed. Worm young kittens every 2 weeks until they are 12 weeks old to avoid diarrhoea from worms.

If your kitten develops diarrhoea switch to just cooked white chicken for a couple of meals and deworm with a reputable wormer like Milbemax. Do not use a wormer based on piperazine.

If the faeces does not firm up within 24 hours or your kitten is lethargic, vomiting or not eating consult a vet immediately. Kittens quickly dehydrate and become very ill because of fluid loss.

More serious causes of diarrhoea include enteritis (also known as panleukopenia), giardia, coccidia, cryptosporidium, trichomonas,clostridia, salmonella and campylobacter. Take a sample of the diarrhoea to your vet so that we can check for them if necessary.

Permethrin flea products toxic to cats

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fleas are out and about again with the warmer weather. Be sure to only use a cat flea product on your cat.

Dog flea products containing permethrin can be fatal if applied to cats even in small amounts. It is vital that dog flea products are not applied to cats.

In fact it is better that flea products with permethrin in them are not used on dogs who live with cats. A treated dog only has to brush against a cat to poison her. 

Last summer we saw Smokey cat who sleeps nestled against the family dog, Jessie. Last year Jessie was treated with a permethrin flea and tick product before going down the coast for holidays.

Some hours later Smokey started frothing at the mouth, vomiting and twitching. She was whisked off to us and spent several days in intensive care.

Next time the family will use a tick prevention product like Frontline or Frontera on Jessie that is safe for cats as well. They only use products intended for cats, like Activyl, Advantage, Comfortis or Revolution, on Smokey.

Furballs and vomiting

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Stomach and intestinal disease is so common in cats that many people think vomiting and ‘furballs’ in an otherwise healthy cat are normal.

 

Vomiting more than once a week, particularly if your cat is losing weight is NOT normal. Furballs are a sign of stomach or intestinal inflammation and should be investigated.

  

There are many causes of vomiting. The easiest to diagnose and treat is an intolerance to a particular food, usually a protein like fish, lamb or beef. If the vomiting stops when your cat is switched to a hypoallergenic diet then a dietary intolerance is the most likely cause. Once the offending protein has been identified you just have to avoid feeding it to your cat.

 

Cats that eat grass or other hard- to-digest plants frequently vomit. Preventing access to the grass may solve the problem but often they are driven to eat grass by an irritated stomach.

 

If a hypoallergenic diet does not eliminate the vomiting we suspect a more serious disease like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or a gut cancer. IBD and low grade gastrointestinal lymphoma are quite responsive to treatment. Occasionally more serious cancers are found.

 

An ultrasound may show increased thickness of the stomach or small intestinal wall indicating IBD or lymphoma. Occasionally another problem like a partial blockage or a solid cancer is found.

 

Unfortunately ultrasound does not distinguish between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and lymphoma. Biopsy samples of the stomach, small intestinal wall, abdominal lymph nodes, liver and pancreas obtained during abdominal surgery are the most accurate way of distinguishing them.

 

A veterinary pathologist looks at the biopsy sample under the microscope and determines if IBD or lymphoma is present and then classifies them. This information helps us make a treatment plan and predict the response to treatment.

 

Inflammatory bowel disease is caused by a chronically irritated stomach and intestinal lining. The inflammation is sometimes caused by an irritant in the food. Often the cat’s immune system overreacts to components of a normal diet. It is usually very difficult to identify the specific cause. The inflammation interferes with digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. Therefore cats with advanced disease lose weight and try to compensate with an increase in appetite. Treatment includes immunosuppressive drugs such as prednisolone, special diets and vitamin B12 injections. Often, cats get an initial short course of antiparasitic drugs and antibiotics to rule out other irritants of the intestine.

 

IBD is not a curable disease but proper treatment controls it and stops or slows the vomiting and weight loss. Overall, the prognosis is very good.

 

Low grade lymphoma is treated similarly but a low dose chemotherapy drug is added in. Many cats live for years with proper treatment.

 

If dietary intolerance, IBD or low grade lymphoma are left untreated higher grade bowel cancers may develop.

 

Curious cats and sore bellies

Friday, April 11, 2014

This week has been a busy one at Canberra Cat Vet - mainly fishing odd things out of cats' bellies!

On Monday Smitten the kitten was vomiting, hunched up and very dehydrated. We X-rayed her and saw a round object in her abdomen (see the X-ray below). We re-hydrated her on a drip, took her to surgery next morning and found a five cent coin stuck in a bend in her intestine.

Princess arrived on Tuesday. She wouldn't eat and was crying and jumping about intermittently. Her belly was painful but we couldn't see anything on X-ray. She went on a drip too and after a couple of days of force-feeding and pain relief (and scratching our heads - why wouldn't she eat? why did she have a sore belly?) she passed part of a tassel from a cushion - and started eating heartily!

On Tuesday afternoon  a ribbon went missing in prim Miss Mittens' apartment. Her frantic carer came down because the last time she had seen the ribbon was in  Miss Mittens' mouth. Meanwhile Miss Mittens was eating and grooming and seemed quite normal.

Ribbons and string can make the intestines accordion - like putting elastic through a waist band. Eventually they saw through the intestinal wall. Many cats die when the intestinal contents spill into the abdominal cavity and cause massive infection. Even with surgery to remove the ribbon and clean up the spill many cats perish.

Because Miss Mittens looked relaxed and normal her carers found it difficult to believe that she could get so ill. They were very glad they decided to let us take her to surgery when we found the ribbon already working its way through her intestines and causing trouble. Today Miss Mittens is home ruling the household with an iron paw again - but all ribbons have been banished from her kingdom!


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