By Beth Guerra, DVM and Beth Davidow, DVM, DACVECC
Reposted Tuesday, October 21, 2014
On a weekly basis, we see middle aged to older cats for a variety of vague symptoms, including lethargy, weight loss, and decreased appetite. Vomiting, diarrhea, or increased thirst and urination may be added to the list. Since our feline friends cannot communicate in our language, it is important to obtain a careful history and also pursue diagnostics, such as bloodwork, x-ray, or ultrasound, to rule out disease processes. We would like to address two common “older cat” diseases that we routinely diagnose on an ER visit.
Rigby is a female boxer/pitty mix owned by one of our staff members at ACCES Renton. Riggerbees – one of her many cute nicknames – enjoys steak and potatoes and rolling in the grass. She is cute and silly but also stubborn like her human father. Adopted from the mean streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she donates blood to give back and help save lives, oh and the free toys of course!
At one of my prior jobs, I saw a puppy on emergency that presented for sudden onset of salivation, vomiting, and mild tremors. He had been outside in the yard for about an hour prior to onset of symptoms. The owners were questioned about possible exposure to toxins, and they noted that due to recent rains, a large crop of mushrooms had sprouted in the yard. I induced vomiting, and the puppy brought up a large amount of grass, dirt, and some unidentifiable brown chunks. I dug through the vomit (a favorite veterinary pastime) and pieced together some mushrooms from the remnants. A few minutes after vomiting, the salivation and tremors resolved.
Toby (aka Toby Tobes, Toblerone, and little tobski) enjoys playing, meowing at hummingbirds, chasing his sister Cleo around, and cat crazies. He is very loving and always greets his owners and follows them around talking. He also likes to make sure Cleo’s head is clean and gives her extra kisses. Toby is an early riser (between 3:00 am – 4:00 am) and likes to let everyone know that he is awake! He knows where the toys are hidden and tries to get at them any hour of the day.
Sadie, aka Sadie Sue, is an adorable white boxer with floppy ears and black spots. She enjoys hiking, running, playing on Bainbridge Island trails with her “sister” Cecilia, and eating people food. She is a true lap dog although she doesn't realize that she is too big to be one. Sadie is loyal and appreciative but can’t resist stealing stuffed animals and tearing them apart! Sadie Sue was a rescue dog that shows her appreciation by making her owners laugh and smile every day. Her mom volunteers at shelters and helps place many homeless dogs with loving families.
Joolz is a Cinnamon Toast Crunch colored Pit Bull who likes to eat. She is an extreme cuddler who also likes to lie on her brother, swim, destroy toys, and, again, eat. She will do anything for a treat. She has a few bad habits but makes up for them by donating blood to save the lives of dogs in need. Her mom and dad think she is special and so do we!
Many owners ask me after a serious trauma whether it makes sense to put their pet through a large surgery or several days of intensive critical care or whether it wouldn’t be kinder to just put them down. Especially when the radiographs show severe fractures, there is the question of long-term quality of life. I think what has impressed me most over my 18 years as an emergency and critical care veterinarian is the ability of animals to heal. A following case is a good example.
Strider Takes a Chance On a New Future.Strider, a 12-year-old tabby cat, presented to ACCES Seattle for a consultation following a right forelimb thrombus (blood clot). Strider had previously been diagnosed with heart disease and kidney issues. Additionally, his right front leg was now very damaged due to the clot and amputation was seen as the only option. Due to his other disease processes, he was a very risky surgical candidate but his mom felt his quality of life was still good and she was not ready to give up on him.
Divot Gets the Extra Support She Needs.Divot, a 10-year-old Rat Terrier, transferred to ACCES Seattle for treatment, including a blood transfusion, for suspected Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA). IMHA is a disease in which the body’s immune system begins attacking and destroying its own red blood cells. Divot had become increasingly lethargic, was refusing to go on walks, exhibited a declining appetite and had become severely anemic.
Sunny Gets A Little Help from Some Friends.Sunny is a five-year-old cat that had been losing weight for a month and had stopped eating for nearly 24 hours. His primary veterinarian discovered elevated liver enzymes along with a low-grade anemia and transferred Sunny to ACCES Renton for further care. An abdominal ultrasound was performed which showed an enlarged liver. (The liver plays a significant role in blood clotting.) To confirm his diagnosis, a needle would need to be inserted into Sunny’s liver to collect a sample to send to the pathologist.