May 23, 2000
Sumner has recently been licking the cement floor of our enclosed porch and also the brick patio floor. He is just a year old, and never did it before. Today he dragged a piece of a broken clay pot into the house, and was licking it. I know that licking or eating clay can be a sign of a nutritional deficiency. But we feed the cats IAMS dry food, and Science Diet canned food. I would think Sumner is getting all the nutrients he needs from them.
He’s been to the vet a few weeks ago for a routine visit, and is apparently healthy. I wonder why he is doing this? I suppose there is no harm in it.
May 24, 2000
It’s bad news. We rushed Sumner to the vet as Sumner was just lying around, very weak. Poor Sumner has severe anemia, likely due to hemobartonella. Its some kind of bacteria, transmitted by fleas and ticks, which causes the destruction of red blood cells. It’s supposedly rare. The vet had to send off the blood sample to be tested, to verify if it is hemobartonella. So, while his food was nutritious, his red blood cells were being destroyed. Who would have thought of some rare parasitic disease for an indoor cat? If we had waited one more day to take Sumner to the vet, he almost surely would have died. He had a blood transfusion of oxyglobin to get his blood count up, and is on tetracycline in case he does have hemobartonella. He’s in the hospital now, but the vet said he might not live the night! Sumner was quite feisty about getting out of his carrier, so he still has strength and spirit.
I feel a little guilty about not calling the vet when he first started licking the bricks, but he was eating well and seemed ok, until just the past two days. We thought it was just some new weird habit. Since he’s up to date on all his shots, and had just recently been to the vet, we had no clue that things were so bad. The vet said cats hide illnesses until they get very bad. Sumner’s gums were pale, which is a sign of anemia, so everyone ought to check their cat’s gums every so often. We never thought about doing that, as there never seemed to be a reason to. This is a real shock.
May 25, 2000
The lab results were in today and Sumner does not have hemobartonella. That would have been good news at this point, since there is a treatment for it. The terrible news is that Sumner’s body is not making new red blood cells. The vet does not know why. He said it could be from some unknown virus. He started Sumner on prednisone, which he said may possible get his body to start making red blood cells. He wasn’t very hopeful, and left the cathedar from the blood transfusion on Sumner “just in case” (euthanasia). He was prepared to put Sumner “asleep” today. We took him home and are taking him back to the vet tomorrow for a blood count. It seems as if it is going to work, results should be seen by tomorrow.
Sumner still has strength to jump up onto chairs and the bed. And he’s still eating. But, it isn’t a very hopeful situation. We’re going to hold off on putting him to “sleep” at least until his blood count drops lower than it is, if it does. Even if the prednisone is supposed to work by tomorrow, I want to give it a few days.
May 26, 2000
The prednisone hasn’t worked yet, though it was only one day. But Sumner’s blood count has dropped. It’s down to 6.5 today, (normal is between 30.0- 45.0), so he’s not likely going to get better. But, maybe it could still work, so we’re keeping him home. He still eats and has energy to jump up on the bed, and fight getting his pill.
June 5, 2000
Great news!!!! Sumner isn’t going to die!!!! We just got back from the vet’s and his blood count is 30!! (35-40 is normal). He had been down to 6.5 just on May 26. The vet expected him to die.
The prednisone worked!!!! The reason the vet didn’t use epogen, as someone suggested to me, has to do with Sumner’s having non-regenerative anemia. I don’t remember all the technical explanations, but it made good sense when the vet explained it. The reason he used prednisone is on the theory that an unknown virus was/is invading his red blood cells, and Sumner’s body was killing the rbc’s to kill the invading virus. The prednisone suppresses the immune response, to keep the body from killing the cells. Of course, the mystery virus could still be in the cells, but since it is a mystery, there is no test or treatment for it, because no one knows what it is. Maybe it’s gone, or maybe it doesn’t actually do harm to the host.
Anyway, Sumner is to stay on the current does of prednisone until the end of June, and then goes for another blood test. The vet is going to try tapering down the dose after that. Periodic blood tests would reveal whether he needs more or less prednisone thereafter.
The blood replacement, oxyglobin, is what initially saved his life, to buy some time for the other treatment to work. It cost $280.00 but was well worth it. It is newly being used in cats. I don’t think it is approved yet for cats, but it is for dogs.
People need not be so quick to put their pets to “sleep/death” as even when things look so grim, they can get better.
The vet never knew for sure what caused the anemia, but chemical damage to the precursor blood cells from an eye ointment with chloramphenicol is most probably what did it. That ointment is known to have caused anemia in humans, and the package insert on the eye ointment said:
“Prolonged use in cats may produce blood dyscrasias. Therapy for cats should not exceed 7 days.”
That vet had prescribed chloramphenicol eye ointment for Sumner about two months prior to Sumner developing the anemia, and for two back to back rounds of 10 days each, so I am sure that was what caused it. Too bad that vet didn’t read the package insert. He should have known the dangers of chloramphenicol and cats and suspected that as a possible cause for the non-regenerative anemia. It is discussed in the Merck Veterinary Manual: