Mysterious Illness In Kitten. Had to put him down with no answers :(

jhb04e

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Hello,

First let me say I am devastated.

I have never owned a cat, but my wife and I were outside doing some work in North Florida where we live and heard meowing. We found a 4 week old kitten with abscesses on his belly and leg. The abscesses didn't look to bad. After his leg swelled up, we took him to the vet and he received a shot of convenia. After that he was like a brand new cat. He was sweet, energetic and playful, as opposed to sweet and shy (if not lethargic). The only change that was alarming was that he wouldnt eat, except for a few bites here and there. I had multiple types of kitten food out for him to eat, along with water with formula in it and still very little consumption. This was over the course of 2 days. One evening, he started acting strangely. Like when he tried to get up, he would basically be doing barrel rolls. Since this was after hours, we immediately decided to take him to the ER vet, where his blood work was taken and he was observed. The vet found the following glaring abnormalities: (1) his glucose was extremely low, and when he was given glucose dextrose supplements, his glucose would rise, but he couldnt maintain proper levels off the supplements and (2) he could not maintain his body temp without external heat source and his temp fell to 96, and (3) he continued to barely eat. As time went on (we had him in there for about three days), he wouldnt go to the bathroom unless the vet staff attempted to handle him. Throughout this whole time, he presented apparent neurological issues, like wobbliness, head turned, and staring off into space. Other than the foregoing, his blood work was all a little bit off, but nothing startling. Finally, on our third visit, we found him to be very weak and have labored breathing. He seemed to be at the end. We were presented with the option of taking him to University of Florida Veterinary ER, or putting him to sleep. There were of course no guarantees that he would (1) survive the trip to UF (as he was on glucose supplements every 2 hours), (2) have a diagnosis at UF (3) have a treatable diagnosis at UF (4) survive any treatment or procedure or (5) have a good quality of life should he survive treatment/procedure and recovery. As it seemed to be best for the cat, we put him to sleep, poor guy. We are just so shocked at the sudden decline and that there are no answers. I heard the vet mention "liver shunt" as a possibility but he really had no idea. Has anyone else had a similar experience?
 

fionasmom

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I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for the care and attention that you provided for this kitten. He at least knew that someone loved him and was providing food and a home for him. His very short life would have been so much worse if you had not come across him.

A liver shunt basically means that, because of an undeveloped vein, toxic blood cannot be properly detoxed and will continue to circulate in the body. It is serious, there is treatment for it, but much of that depends on how advanced a case and there are often no guarantees. In your case, I completely agree with the 5 points you listed. Every one of them presents an unknown and there could have been failure at every step.

My guess, while I am not a vet, is that there might have been multiple involvements with this kitten, mostly congenital, and the condition in which you found him could have indicated that he was abandoned by his mother.

Losing a young animal who potentially had a happy life ahead of him is very hard. As I work mostly with ferals, I have been in this position, as have many other on TCS. If this kitten had any chance of survival, the amount of effort you put into helping him would have been successful; I hope that you can take some comfort in the fact that his brief life was happy because of you.
 
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jhb04e

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I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for the care and attention that you provided for this kitten. He at least knew that someone loved him and was providing food and a home for him. His very short life would have been so much worse if you had not come across him.

A liver shunt basically means that, because of an undeveloped vein, toxic blood cannot be properly detoxed and will continue to circulate in the body. It is serious, there is treatment for it, but much of that depends on how advanced a case and there are often no guarantees. In your case, I completely agree with the 5 points you listed. Every one of them presents an unknown and there could have been failure at every step.

My guess, while I am not a vet, is that there might have been multiple involvements with this kitten, mostly congenital, and the condition in which you found him could have indicated that he was abandoned by his mother.

Losing a young animal who potentially had a happy life ahead of him is very hard. As I work mostly with ferals, I have been in this position, as have many other on TCS. If this kitten had any chance of survival, the amount of effort you put into helping him would have been successful; I hope that you can take some comfort in the fact that his brief life was happy because of you.
This truly makes me feel better. Would it be safe to say that, in hindsight, the best move would have been to have taken to UF at the get go as my initial ER vet? Still no guarantees, of course.

Is it common for mothers to abandon kittens with congenital issues?
 
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jhb04e

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Also, is it possible to insure feral cats?
 

fionasmom

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In the case of your kitten, I honestly don't think that there would have been a different outcome if you had gone to UF right away. There might have been a more accurate diagnosis, just because they are set up with anything needed, but that still does not change the fact that this little guy was very sick and still might not have survived. I don't think that you denied him any care. Even with a diagnosis, questions 3,4, and 5 would still have been on the table.

Mother cats abandon kittens for a variety of reasons. A young mother may not have any knowledge of what to do. A feral mother who is ill herself may not take care of the kittens. Any ill kitten will usually be abandoned so that it cannot make the others sick. A kitten with congenital issues is a likely candidate for abandonment.
 
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