Thanks to Dr. Melissa Cirinna for sharing this story of her own cat, Galileo, and his recent health challenge. Our veterinarians approach each case individually, and even when it is their own pet, they often face many of the same challenges to care and diagnosis as with a client's pet. Read on to find out how Dr. Cirinna handled this rather tricky case from her own household.
A few weeks ago I received a rather disturbing call from my husband - our cat Galileo would not eat his breakfast. As a matter of fact he would not even enter the room in which the cats are normally fed. Knowing Galileo’s love of food, this behavior was very concerning so I had Galileo brought to the clinic for a full examination and bloodwork. Galileo’s exam showed lethargy and mild dehydration and the results of his bloodwork showed an increase in his calcium levels (hypercalcemia). The two main causes of hypercalcemia are Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Intestinal Lymphoma. A definitive diagnosis is made by intestinal biopsy and histopathology. Treatment for IBD and lymphoma both involve the use of a steroid and an immunosuppressant, and for this reason Galileo was started on treatment immediately rather than pursuing a definitive diagnosis at this point. Now I could work on encouraging him to eat again.
When cats are ill they will often develop an aversion to their regular food and become anorexic. The causes for the original aversion can be anything from gastroenteritis (upset stomach), inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), stress, liver disease, kidney disease, bladder infection and a multitude of other diseases. The sheer number of possible differentials makes the anorexic cat a very difficult patient. To add another level of complexity, the anorexic cat is an urgent case. Unlike dogs, cats cannot go very long without food. If a cat is truly anorexic for more than a few days they may begin to develop hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome. During anorexia the cat begins to mobilize fat stores which can accumulate in the liver cells. The accumulation of fat hinders proper function of the liver leading to liver failure and death if the cat does not start eating. Thankfully, with proper supportive care most cats recover fully from hepatic lipidosis. Knowing the risk of hepatic lipidosis, I was anxious to get Galileo eating again. With some anorexic cats, simply changing their food to something more palatable will work and with this in mind we offered Galileo a high energy canned recovery food. Success! He readily ate half a can of food while at the clinic, however, we knew we weren’t out of the woods yet. The real test would be whether he would continue to eat at home. After 24 hours of intravenous fluids, I was able to take Galileo home to see if his appetite would hold up with the new food.
Stay tuned for Part II as we find out whether Galileo continued to recover at home or needed more veterinary intervention.