Thursday, October 21, 2010

Case of the Week: Max

Max is a sixteen-year-old Siamese mix. His owner brought him into the clinic because he had stopped eating and drinking and was drooling constantly. On examining him, I found that he was thin, very dehydrated and had a fever. I also saw a large ulcer on his tongue. My first thought was that it was likely he had severe chronic kidney disease and a poor prognosis. We drew blood and urine samples from him and did a panel to evaluate his organ and immune system functions.

His blood test results were surprisingly good. His kidney values were increased, but only a little above normal and he was concentrating his urine fairly well. These results indicated that his kidneys were still functioning well but that Max was dehydrated. I also found that his protein levels and one of his white blood cell counts were increased, which indicated an infection in his body.

It was at this point that Max's history became as important in diagnosing his problem as his blood tests and physical exam. Max's owner had recently adopted a new cat into their home. Max had not had any vaccines since he was a kitten. Therefore, he was not protected against the common viruses that are very contagious and widespread among cats, especially those in shelters. It is very difficult to test for the Herpes or Calici viruses that cause upper respiratory disease in cats. However, Max's symptoms - lethargy, not eating, running a fever, and an ulcer on his tongue - were consistent with upper respiratory disease.

Max received intravenous fluids at the clinic for two days and recovered slowly. We gave him subcutaneous fluids (under his skin) for a few more days and he gradually began eating and grooming again.

Vaccinations are important in all cats to help prevent disease. Because of widespread vaccination, we rarely see Panleukopenia (Distemper) or Rabies in cats in this country. The Herpes and Calici viruses that cause upper respiratory disease are very contagious and stable viruses that still cause problems in many cats. However, severe disease from these viruses are usually only seen in young cats and cats that have not been well vaccinated. Cats that are current on their vaccines have good immunity to these viruses and show minimal signs of illness when exposed.

It's important that owners not become complacent about their cats protection. Even indoor cats can be exposed to viruses. Always discuss with your veterinarian what vaccines are best for your cat.

For more information and guidelines for vaccinations throughout your cat's life, see our Life Stages Health Care Recommendations on our website.

Dr. Judy Karnia

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