Saturday, May 7, 2011

For the Cat Lovers out there…….

With a house full of cats I usually can’t always react immediately when I notice something slightly wrong with one of the cats.  Last May I decided to take Charlie to my cat vet.  My previous vet, who treated both my cats and dogs, did not have a good track record when diagnosing or treating my cats, so I went back to the exclusively cat practice I had used years before.  PERSONAL OPINION – in my experience most vets know more about dogs than they do about cats.  Most of the vets I’ve used over the years have personal dogs, rarely do they have a cat or cats.  I don’t know if vet schools focus primarily on treating dogs or if dog “owners” comprise a higher percentage of veterinary clients than do cat “owners.”  Personally, I think that the veterinarians who specialize only in cats generally have a better track record when diagnosing and treating cats.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this time with Charlie.

This is Charlie last Friday, after his last vet visit.  Thanks Carla for the photos.

Charlie was always the first face in the food bowl, but he was losing weight.  My first thought was hyperthyroidism, possibly even diabetes.  His blood panel said no to both.  In fact, his blood work didn’t point to anything wrong.  He had some teeth extracted several years earlier due to plasma cell stomatitis.  The vet said he needed the rest of his teeth removed and felt this was the reason he was losing weight.  Although he was severely under weight, I agreed to the surgery, and he came through it quite well.  In fact, he started doing a bit better…..for a while.  Fortunately, he stayed stable while I was in the hospital in August and September.  Focusing primarily on my slow recovery, I didn’t take him back to the vet until February.   He had lost even more weight.  His blood work did show elevated levels for his kidneys, but not renal failure.  Nothing else appeared to be troubling with this second blood panel.  I continued to feed him 4, 5, 6 times a day, whenever he wanted to eat.  I gave him from 60cc to 100cc of fluids daily.  He was seriously dehydrated in addition to the weight loss.  I lost his brother Chaz in March and my eldest dog, Caleb, and another cat, Colin, in the ensuing months.  I took Charlie, Cissy and Claudia to the vet.  Cissy’s kidneys weren’t in great shape and Claudia had developed hyperthyroidism.  Charlie remained undiagnosed – his problem was a mystery.

Back in May, 2010 I had suggested to the vet that I thought Charlie had a malabsorption problem.  Basically, I felt that although he ate well enough, he simply wasn’t absorbing the nutrients from the food.  I was told that definitely could not be the problem.  During the past year, with the loss of so many animals and my health at its lowest ebb, I was frustrated and depressed.  I was watching Charlie struggle to stay alive and depending upon me to make him feel better.  I had declined a sonogram and the TLI/PLI test (which requires fasting – something I didn’t think he could or should be subjected to).  I had continued, throughout this treatment period, to ask about malabsorption.  The vet felt that he could have IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, although he had none of the typical symptoms.  I asked to try the treatment for IBS – steroids – but they failed to produce positive results. 

I took him back to the vet last week and asked to have a T4 test, for thyroid, run.  The vet ran a full blood panel and the T4 came back normal.  His kidney values had decreased somewhat, which was a good thing.  We talked for an hour after the results were in.   Malabsorption and IBS were discussed again.  I explained that I had suffered from IBS several years ago and I was/am convinced that was not his problem.  I don’t remember how she finally told me about exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.  This occurs when the pancreas does not produce the normal digestive enzymes.  Needless to say, I latched onto that.  It was the answer I had been searching for since last May.  I feel certain this is what has plagued him for all this time.  I’m also convinced that this is what killed Clark last year.  He wasted away until he simply no longer had the strength to eat.  I am, at least, hopeful now that Charlie has a chance to recover.  He’s on medication that gives him the pancreatic enzymes needed to digest his food.  He’s had a shot to bolster his production of red blood cells as well as a B-12 shot.  He also has to take folic acid tabs to help boost the iron he needs. 

The moral of this story:  don’t take “I don’t know” for an answer.  No vet has all of the answers and your cats/dogs are depending upon you to be their advocate, to search for the cause of whatever is causing their illness.  It’s okay to question a vet.  If your vet won’t listen to you – FIND ANOTHER VET!  Your animal’s life depends upon it. 

NOTE:  my favorite veterinary website online is -  It was this site where I discovered plasma cell stomatitis, which affected so many of cats several years ago, and nearly killed Chase.  My vet, at the time, was not concerned that I had so many 5-6 year old cats who needed multiple tooth extractions.  Even though I frequently expressed my concern that there was some root cause, she did not bother to dig any deeper to find what could be causing this.  My cats had been exposed to calicivirus years before, with only some of them getting sick from it.  Calici is a known cause of plasma cell stomatitis.   

BTW, according to the internet, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is RARE in cats.  It is most commonly seen in dogs.  Personally, I don’t think it’s rare.  Instead I think it is misdiagnosed.  I doubt that most people request a necropsy to determine cause of death.  If they did, I think the incidence of this disease would show that cats suffer from it much more frequently than veterinarians believe.  
Charlie & me last Friday


  1. So glad you are finally getting somewhere on his diagnosis, and you are so right about switching vets (and doing as much homework on your own as you can).

  2. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I have to fight the urge to have instant results. At least I feel as if I'm doing something that could help him get closer to normal.

  3. There are many "insufficient" vets out there, like doctors, without an ability or desire, to keep learning, to be like Dr. House, the detective, putting clues together, to find a diagnosis. There are not many humans anymore who want to solve puzzles and diagnostics is a puzzle problem, without straight forward answers. Too many people think in straight lines. This is dangerous when your life, or a loved ones life, human or animal, lies in their hands.