MEET OUR CURRENT STAR PATIENT...
Millie is a beautiful ragdoll cat who had coughed from time to time over many years. Recently the cough became more frequent prompting her owners to have it checked out. They had fortunately taken some video footage of her coughing so we were able to immediately localise the problem as a respiratory disease (rather than trying to retch up a hairball for instance – a behaviour sometimes mistaken for coughing).
We took some xrays of Millie’s lungs which showed the tell-tale signs of feline asthma – thickening of the bronchioles (small airways within the lungs).
It often surprises people to hear that cats can get asthma too. In fact the disease process and treatment is quite similar in people and cats. Sometimes there is an identifiable trigger for the asthma, like room perfumes, cigarette smoke or mould and preventing exposure to these can solve the problem. More commonly there is either no identifiable trigger, or it may be a seasonal issue triggered by pollenating plants etc in which case exposure prevention isn’t possible and instead we rely on medication. The cornerstone of treatment is corticosteroids and bronchodilators. These are usually administered as tablets initially, then we try and transfer the cats onto inhalers (puffers) once the disease is under control. This allows us to target the medication at the lungs exclusively, where it is needed. There are special spacers available made just for cats. Unfortunately not all cats will tolerate them though and end up staying on oral medications longer term.
Left untreated over a long period feline asthma can cause chronic irreversible changes in the lungs (bronchiectasis), but response to treatment is usually excellent so we always encourage investigating any unexplained coughing in cats.
Within 3 days of starting treatment Millie stopped coughing, and hasn’t coughed once since. Her owners are about to try her on the puffer but aren’t convinced she’ll tolerate it!
Wilbur, a beautiful natured 14 year old cat who ordinarily loved his food, had started to lose his appetite and had lost a significant amount of weight.
There was nothing obviously the matter on his clinical exam, and his blood tests didn’t shed much light on the cause either. The next step of the investigation involved an abdominal xray and ultrasound. These picked up an abnormal-looking section of colon and dilated fluid-filled intestines.
By this stage he had stopped eating altogether and looked pretty miserable. We operated on Wilbur to remove the abnormal section of bowel and he is now undergoing a course of chemotherapy chemotherapy at the Animal Referral Hospital in Sinnamon Park.
Chemotherapy is a very different proposition in pets to that in people. The doses and treatment protocols are selected to minimise side effects meaning most animals enjoy more or less normal quality of life throughout the treatment.
Wilbur was initially slow to recover from his surgery and had to be fed through a tube in his oesophagus to begin with, but once he started to pick up again he was unstoppable. His appetite is ravenous and he has regained almost all of the weight he lost while unwell. He tolerates his chemotherapy really well and, as you can see is full of spark once again!
They do work slightly differently and we asses each patient carefully to choose the one that is most likely to produce good results. In Louis' case we chose Royal Canin Satiety because it works mostly by helping dogs and cats feel full (without the calorie content of regular food!). It acheives this through careful selection of fibre types, higher protein content and addition of amino acids that promote satiety.
Louie, like most Labradors, loves his food. But this love of food was affecting his waistline. One day, having caught his reflection in a mirror and hating what he saw, Louie decided enough was enough and came to us to seek help.
To be fair to Louie and his fellow Labradors (who always seem to cop the rap when it comes to obesity in dogs), we must tell you that it has recently been discovered that food obsession in Labradors is likely caused by a defective gene in the breed rather than just a gluttonous disposition!
Regardless of his good excuse, Louis obesity was putting him at imminent risk of disease. Obesity in cats and dogs, just like in people, can lead to diabetes, osteoarthritis, liver disease and even certain cancers.
A study performed in the USA over 14 years compared the life expectancy of 2 groups of Labradors:
Group A was fed a controlled diet to maintain a healthy body condition score,
Group B was allowed to eat more or less as much as they wanted and were, unsurprisingly, obese.
They determined that the obese dogs’ lifespan was on average 1.8 years less than the lean dogs. That equates to a 15% shorter life on average. Louis needed help urgently, it was time for a prescription weight loss diet!
The two weight loss diets that we recommend are Royal Canin Satiety and Hill’s Metabolic. These are high tech diets, a far cry from the traditional weight loss diets that simply have low calories and high fibre.
Prior to commencing his weight loss regime Louie tipped the scales at 46kg and he had a “body condition score” of 8/9 (ideal is 5/9). Within 6 weeks he had lost over 4kg, and within 8 months he had reached his target weight of 32kg. He looks like a different dog now and is more energetic than ever.
Loki is an inquisitive pup whose exploration of gravity ended up with a lesson learned the hard way. Following a fall from a first floor balcony he wouldn’t put any weight on one of his forelegs and the paw on this leg was twisted sideways slightly. Xrays confirmed our suspicions – he had fractured all four of the metacarpal bones in this paw (the equivalent of “hand” bones in people). He had the bones re-set under anaesthetic and a splinted bandage applied (see the “before” and “after” xrays). These are common fractures in puppies and kittens seem to heal quickly. Fortunately they very rarely need surgery. In 6 weeks or so his paw should be as good as new and he should be able to go back to exploring his environment (at ground level at least).
Maxie’s owners came home one afternoon to find her unable to walk. Her back legs just wouldn’t support her weight. She was brought straight down to the surgery where an engorged paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) was found on her neck. In addition to her hind limb paralysis Maxie was showing the early signs of breathing difficulty due to paralysis of her larynx.
Maxie was given a sedative to reduce her anxiety and alleviate her breathing difficulties prior to receiving tick serum to neutralise the tick toxin in her blood. She also had a tick spray and multiple tick searches to ensure there were no other live ticks remaining on her.
Maxie was the perfect patient. She was very tolerant of all the treatment she received, even managing a purr from time to time. She seemed to particularly enjoy the tick searches, clearly thinking she was getting deluxe pats from each of the nurses looking after her!
She responded fantastically to treatment and was showing signs of improvement within 24hrs and was able to be discharged to continue her recovery in the comfort of her own home, and is now “ticking along” nicely.
We are now entering peak paralysis tick season so now is the time to ensure tick prevention is up to date on all your pets. Feel free to contact us at the surgery should you need any advice on tick prevention.
Eddie, being a Siamese, has a particularly long tail. This no doubt contributes to his handsomeness, but such a long tail is hard to keep out of trouble. Last week Eddie was found sporting a large open wound on the end of his tail exposing the underlying tendons. An anaesthetic and 4 stitches later his wound was closed again.
Tail tip injuries are always a worry as they are prone to losing blood supply beyond the wound, and cats and dogs have a tendency to chew the healing tail leading to further damage. Fortunately Eddie was smart enough to leave his tail well alone during the healing period and his tail is back to its original long lustrous appearance. We never did find out how he cut it open in the first place but I’m sure it will be a good “tail” of boundless bravery to tell to his feline friends.