Jun 19, 2012

Pale and wan

In the last few weeks we have seen several anaemic cats. Their carers brought them in because they sensed something was wrong but they weren’t sure what. 
All of the cats had gone off their food and were a bit quieter than usual. Anaemic dogs
are more lethargic than normal, but it’s hard to tell if a cat is lethargic, especially in winter!
On examination we found the cats’ gums were paler than usual and ordered a blood count. All of them had red cell counts that would have humans gasping for an oxygen mask. Cats are definitely experts at conserving energy and hiding any illness.
The youngest kitten had found a tasty box of rat poison, which stops the blood from clotting normally. He had bled into his chest and was having difficulty breathing. The direct antidote and a few days in hospital soon had him back on the prowl.
The pathologist found some blood parasites called Hemoplasmas in a blood smear from a four year old Burmese named Chloe. Rest and a course of antibiotics soon had Chloe in the pink again.
Old Jester was not so lucky. His vet found that he had an enlarged liver. When we took a sample of the liver we found cancer cells. He had bled into his abdomen. Chronic diseases like cancer also suppress the bone marrow where blood cells are made. 
Old timer Lord Wellington had kidney disease. Cats with kidney disease are often anaemic. Wellie is on a special diet for his kidneys, which has bought him several extra years of life so far. He is comfortable with his moderate anaemia at the moment as he has had time to compensate for it. Anaemia of kidney disease is difficult and expensive to treat but his carers are considering his options at the moment. 
Blood transfusions in cats are always a risky business. Both donor and recipient have to be exactly the same blood type. We also cross match the bloods because some cats react even to their own blood type. On most occasions we can avoid a transfusion if we keep the patient quiet and unstressed for a few days.
If you think something is not quite right with your feline friend you are probably right! We always take your gut feelings seriously so don’t hesitate to call us. Better to catch dropping blood counts early than let your cat suffer.

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