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Pet of the Month April 2016 – Winston!

by admin on April 1st, 2016

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Young Winston is featured this week as he has fortunately made a swift and complete recovery following treatment for vomiting using an extended course of antacids and a bland diet. Apart from showing off his good looks this article illustrates a common feline problem and the approach taken for pets whose response to treatment is not quite so immediate as his.

You’ve probably witnessed your cat vomiting from time to time without raising too much concern. Vomiting is a protective mechanism that can result from something minor such as overindulgence or access to an irritant, or it can be a sign of a much more serious condition associated with a primary gastrointestinal disorder (e.g. an ingested foreign body) or a systemic disorder (e.g. kidney disease).

What is the difference between your cat vomiting and and your cat regurgitating? Why does it matter?

The oesophagus is a narrow, muscular tube that allows food to pass through on its way to the stomach. In healthy cats, food will move quickly through the oesophagus to the stomach with little to no delay. When you take your cat to your veterinary surgeon because he or she is vomiting, they will ask you questions in attempt to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation.

Regurgitation is the passive ejection of contents from the oesophagus. The cat will lower its head and food is expelled with little or no effort. The food is usually undigested, may have a tubular shape, and is often covered with a slimy mucus. Cats will also attempt to eat the regurgitated material.

If the muscle of the oesophagus is considered diseased, it will either result in widening of the oesophagus due to loss of muscular tone (called ‘megaoesophagus’), or narrowing of the oesophagus, which acts as an obstruction to material moving down into the stomach (e.g. a stricture, a tumour or a foreign body can all cause narrowing of the oesophagus). A dilated (widened) oesophagus will not effectively, or efficiently, move or push food from the oesophagus into the stomach. This delay can result in regurgitation shortly after eating. The danger of regurgitation is that the contents may also be inhaled into the airways causing pneumonia and a cough. It’s therefore important for your vet to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation as this will have an impact on deciding which diagnostic tests to perform, and also will help when deciding on the most appropriate treatment options.

Vomiting, on the other hand, is an active process. Cats will often vocalise, be apprehensive and heave/retch to vomit. If food is present in vomit, it is partially digested and can also contain a yellow fluid (bile). Vomiting can be divided down into primary (gastrointestinal) causes, or secondary (non-gastrointestinal) causes.

Primary causes of vomiting are those diseases directly affecting the stomach and upper intestinal tract. Secondary causes are due to diseases lying outside of the gastrointestinal tract and can include neurological disease or accumulation of toxic substances in the blood. Neurological disease and/or toxic substances will stimulate the vomiting centre in the brain and cause the animal to vomit. Additionally, vomiting can be further divided into acute versus chronic causes.

Some common causes for sudden (acute) vomiting in cats include:

  • Diet-related causes (diet change, food intolerance)
  • Gastric or intestinal foreign bodies (eg. toys, hairballs, or where one part of the intestine moves inside another part of the intestine)
  • Gastrointestinal parasites
  • Urinary tract causes: acute kidney failure, ruptured bladder
  • Acute liver failure
  • Pancreatitis
  • Ingestion of toxins or chemicals
  • Viral infections
  • Certain prescribed medications
  • Inner ear/neurological disorders
  • Decompensation of a more chronic disease

Some common causes for chronic vomiting in cats (vomiting greater than 3 weeks duration) include:

  • Gastritis/gastroenteritis (infectious, toxic, dietary indiscretion/intolerance)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (gastritis, enteritis, colitis)
  • Severe constipation
  • Diabetes (ketoacidosis – this is a form of uncontrolled diabetes)
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer (gastric/intestinal)
  • Inner ear diseases/neurological disorders
  • Heart worm disease

What should I do if my cat vomits frequently?

An occasional, isolated bout of vomiting is normal. However, frequent vomiting can be a sign of a more serious condition. Your vet will normally ask you a very detailed clinical history and perform a thorough physical examination. This information can help your vet narrow down potential causes from the very long list of possibilities.

The presence of fever, abdominal pain, jaundice, anaemia or abnormal masses in the abdomen will help your vet make a more specific diagnosis. The mouth should be carefully examined as some foreign objects such as string can entangle themselves around the base of the tongue with the rest of the object extending into the stomach or small intestine. A nodule may be palpated in the neck of cats with hyperthyroidism.

Many times, a full physical examination may be normal and unremarkable. At this stage, your vet may choose to adopt trial treatment/supportive care by implementing a brief starvation period, with or without administration of fluid therapy and various medications (e.g. pain relief, anti-nausea medications, antacids) and assess your cat’s response.

Further investigation of vomiting in cats

Depending on response, your vet may need to perform further investigations to differentiate primary from secondary causes of vomiting. Depending on history, clinical examination, and response to trial therapy, further tests may be needed and may include blood tests, urine analysis and faecal examination to rule out possible toxicities, parasites, and metabolic diseases. Further blood tests may include FIV/FeLV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukaemia Virus) to assess viral status. Although FIV/FeLV are not common primary causes of vomiting, they may reflect underlying immunosuppression which may make the cat more susceptible to certain diseases. Your vet may also decide to perform tests to assess the pancreatic health (e.g. pancreatitis).

Depending on the case, your vet may then decide to proceed with ‘second tier’ testing. This usually would involve some diagnostic imaging – x-rays and ultrasound – which can be useful in identifying masses, foreign objects, and other gastrointestinal tract problems such as pancreatitis.

Finally, if indicated, further ‘third tier’ testing may be indicated to obtain a biopsy of intestinal tract tissue if cancer or inflammatory bowel disease is suspected. Biopsies can be collected using either minimally invasive procedures (endoscopy and/or laparoscopy) or more invasive procedures (exploratory laparotomy). Endoscopy (a small camera attached to a long flexible tube) is commonly used to visualise the inside of the oesophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine and to obtain small biopsies called ‘pinch biopsies’. It may also be possible to provide therapeutic interventions with an endoscope. Laparotomy (open surgery) or laparoscopy (‘key hole surgery’) may be considered for those cases where samples of organs lying outside of the stomach/small intestine and full thickness biopsies of intestines are needed.

This information will help your vet to identify the cause, streamline a treatment plan, and also provide you with a prognosis.

What are some treatment options?

The treatment for vomiting depends upon the underlying cause.

Non-specific treatment may include a 12-24 hour fasting period. Fluids may need to be withheld for a short period of time until vomiting has ceased. Water should never be withheld from an animal with known or suspected kidney disease without replacing fluids intravenously or subcutaneously (under the skin).

Water can be reintroduced in small volumes after a 6-12 hour period. You may wish to start with tuna water (not brine) or chicken broth (with NO added onion/garlic or powders) to encourage fluid intake. Gradual increases in volume may commence over the course of the day if vomiting does not recur.

Provided oral fluids have been well-tolerated, small volumes of a bland, high quality protein source (boiled chicken breast, tuna in spring water, turkey breast, boiled white fish) may then be introduced. It’s advisable to start with a teaspoon size portion every 4-6 hours for 1-2 days. Again, if tolerated, gradual increases in food volume may be attempted with the aim to wean back to the original diet over a 3-5 day period. If a cat is bright and alert and has had no previous health problems, episodes of acute vomiting may be managed at home, although veterinary consultation prior to home treatment is strongly advised. In certain situations (e.g. depression, dehydration, or symptoms lasting longer than 12-24 hours), your cat may require fluid therapy or drugs to help control vomiting. You’ll need to see your vet to determine the proper course of action.

What other symptoms should I watch for?

The causes of vomiting are so varied and can be extremely difficult to accurately diagnose. It’s therefore important to monitor for other signs of ill health that may help direct your vet in his/her quest in identifying the underlying cause.

What to watch for:

  • Frequency of vomiting. If your cat vomits once and proceeds to eat regularly and have a normal bowel movement, the vomiting was most likely an isolated incident
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration (sticky gums, weak, sunken eyes, increased ‘skin tenting’)
  • Lethargy
  • Blood in vomit
  • Weight loss
  • Change in appetite and water intake (either increased or decreased)

When is it time to see the vet?

Please see your vet if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above or if vomiting persists. Depending on your cat’s age, medical history, physical examination findings and particular symptoms, your vet may choose to perform various tests and/or admit your cat for more intensive treatment.

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Pet of the Month – March 2016

by admin on March 2nd, 2016

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Max developed marked swelling of opposite fore and hind limbs within hours of a muddy walk. Rather uniquely he had emphysema and oedema in his legs. Max was depressed and inappetant and the following day developed skin lesions and a low platelet count was detected on his routine bloods. He was sent to Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists for fear he had contracted Alabama Rot and he was continued on aggressive fluid therapy, pentoxyphylline, a drug that helps stop vasculitis and general intensive care with frequent monitoring of his platelets and kidney parameters. His urine output was monitored. His feet were maintained in dressings and antibiotics were used for the secondary infections which occurred following the skin lesions and he had opiates for analgesia. Acute Kidney Injury typically develops in 1-10 days so this protocol was continued until he had passed the 10 day mark and then medications were continued until his skin lesions resolved.

Max was home in time for Christmas and we are delighted to report that he has continued to do well.

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Pet of the Month – February 2016

by admin on February 4th, 2016

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Pet of the Month

What a narrow escape Kiki has had! On her night-time travels she slipped when walking through a broken greenhouse and managed to slice her neck open, narrowly missing her jugular vein.

Thankfully she returned home shortly afterwards and on seeing the blood her owner immediately rushed her in to our clinic. We are delighted to report she is doing very well and recovering from extensive corrective surgery – a very near miss indeed!

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Pet of the Month – January 2016

by admin on January 4th, 2016

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Fitzalan house pet of the month

We are delighted to report that Hadley, who has featured in this column before for eating mussel shells is doing very well after an operation to remove two Mast cell tumours (MCT). Sadly his proclivity for eating unsuitable foodstuffs continued on December 27th when half a Christmas pudding “disappeared’! Induced emesis and intravenous fluids have thankfully settled this unwanted event.

MCT is the most common skin tumour in dogs; it can also affect other areas of the body, including the spleen, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and bone marrow. MCT represent a cancer of a type of blood cell normally involved in the body’s response to allergens and inflammation. Certain dogs are predisposed to MCT, including brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as Boston Terriers, Boxers, Pugs, and Bulldogs, as well as retriever breeds, though any breed of dog can develop MCT.

When they occur on the skin, MCT vary widely in appearance. They can be a raised lump or bump on or just under the skin, and may be red, ulcerated, or swollen. In addition, many owners will report a waxing and waning size of the tumour, which can occur spontaneously, or can be produced by agitation of the tumour, causing degranulation. Mast cells contain granules filled with substances which can be released into the bloodstream and potentially cause systemic problems, including stomach ulceration and bleeding, swelling and redness at and around the tumour site, and potentially life-threatening complications, such as a dangerous drop in blood pressure and a systemic inflammatory response leading to shock.

When MCT occur on the skin, they can occur anywhere on the body. The biological behaviour of these tumours can vary widely; some may be present for many months without growing much, while others can appear suddenly and grow very quickly. The most common sites of MCT spread (metastasis) are the lymph nodes, spleen and liver.

Diagnosis can be simply achieved via a fine needle aspirate. This requires no anaesthesia and only rarely sedation. Early identification and surgical removal are key to the most favourable outcomes.

Hadley initially found the operation sites to be very itchy after surgery, something not uncommon with MCT. After removing a few of his own sutures Hadley was given additional medication, resutured and had to wear a full body suit! All is now fine.

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Pet of the Month – December 2015

by admin on December 2nd, 2015

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Fitzalan House Pet of the Month

We are delighted to report that Harvey who contracted meningoencephalitis several months ago and has a focal brain lesion is now back home and feeling much better after a recent relapse.

As in humans, the system of membranes which envelops the dog’s central nervous system is called the meninges. If this system becomes inflamed, it is referred to as meningitis. Meningoencephalitis, meanwhile, is the inflammation of the meninges and brain.

This inflammation can result in severe malaise, depression and vomiting as well as neurological symptoms such as impaired movement, altered mental state, and seizures.

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Pet of the Month – November 2015

by admin on November 2nd, 2015

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pet of the month fitzalan house  pet of the month fitzalan house

Gemma has had a very lucky escape!

She went lame whilst chasing a ball over the weekend. When this failed to resolve her owner brought her to the surgery for examination. Gemma’s right foreleg was found to be painful and swollen so she was admitted so radiographs could be taken.

We were shocked to discover that a 30cm long metal rod had penetrated her body in the region of her right shoulder and got stuck behind her shoulder blade, missing her chest by millimetres (see image on right). It had obviously been protruding from an unseen object and broken off inside Gemma as she ran by, leaving no visible exterior sign of injury, such as laceration or bleeding, to indicate that she had been impaled.

We used the radiographs to define the rod’s location and it was then surgically removed. We are delighted to report that Gemma, who has been a fantastic patient, is recovering extremely well!

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Pet of the Month – October 2015

by admin on October 2nd, 2015

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Pet of the Month

Poor Jake was recently involved in a road traffic accident. He suffered severe head injuries and developed respiratory difficulties as a consequence.

Jake has been a marvellous patient and has thankfully responded very well to intensive treatment. He is now continuing his recuperation at home.

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Pet of the Month – September 2015

by admin on September 7th, 2015

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Pet of the Month Reny

Just like people, dogs can show allergic symptoms when their immune systems begin to recognise substances -or allergens- as dangerous.

Poor Reny was only playing in the garden for a short period when his muzzle swelled up tremendously and his left eye began to close. It often takes some detective work to find out what substance is causing the allergic reaction and sometimes it is never known. It could be due to an insect bite or sting or a noxious substance to name just a few of many potential causes.

Prompt action brought about a swift resolution although Reny did need to be hospitalised for a short period to monitor him.

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Pet of the Month – July 2105

by admin on July 31st, 2015

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pet of the month - July 2015

Poppy is a lovely cat who suffers from the colon disorder called idiopathic (meaning the cause is unknown) megacolon. Constipation (infrequent or difficult defecation) is fairly common in cats. If it occurs only occasionally there’s usually not much to worry about. However, in some cats, constipation begins to occur more and more frequently, ultimately leading to obstipation: constipation that can’t be controlled by medical means. There are many potential causes of obstipation, but over half result from idiopathic megacolon.

As the name implies, the cause of idiopathic megacolon is unknown, but cats with mild or moderate forms (or perhaps those with early stages of the disease) often benefit from increased dietary fiber, administration of laxatives or stool softeners of various kinds, and drugs called prokinetic agents (like cisapride) that stimulate the muscles of the colon. As things progress, the occasional enema performed at a veterinary hospital may be necessary. Unfortunately, the need for enemas or other methods of removing feces from the colon becomes more and more frequent; ultimately, cats with advanced stages of the disease may simply stop responding to any medical therapy and the colon becomes little more than a big, flaccid bag containing a mass of hard feces.

Subtotal colectomy – surgically removing the major portion of the colon – is at that point really the only remaining option. This is major surgery, but the overwhelming majority of cats respond quite favourably. The most common postsurgical problem is diarrhea, but most cats begin to form stool of an acceptable quality within several weeks or less. Life returns to normal, or near normal, within several weeks. Though a subtotal colectomy is not necessarily a perfect solution, the majority of people whose cats have had one are quite pleased with the results. They continue to share life with a cat friend who, without the surgery, would not have survived.

We are very pleased to report that Poppy has been coping very well with more conservative treatments including laxatives, prokinetic agents and the occasional enema.

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Pet of the Month – June 2015

by admin on June 30th, 2015

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pet of the month monty

Monty is our pet of the month. He can be seen here having his painkiller ‘patch’ changed as part of his treatment for Pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. Unlike dogs, cats with pancreatitis do not usually show vomiting or abdominal pain as their initial sign. In more than 50 percent of affected cats, lethargy, poor appetite or not eating, dehydration, increased respiratory rate, and a lower-than-normal body temperature are the initial signs. Only about 35 percent of the cats with pancreatitis will vomit.

Diagnosing pancreatitis can be problematic. Ultrasound is one of the best methods, and new blood tests are helpful.

All cats with pancreatitis will need extensive fluid therapy and careful monitoring of their electrolytes. If the cat is vomiting, food may need to be withheld, but ideally not for more than 48 hours and pain control is essential.

He was been a wonderful patient and we are delighted to report that he is now fully recovered.

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