So I’m about 233 miles into the 600+ mile part of an epic family road trip. One or the other of my kids is interrupting me approximately every five words or so. Good times. The kids are taking a break from video games and drawing at the moment, which at least makes me feel a little better that they aren’t 100 percent rotting their brains.
It’s interesting; this is the most paperless road trip we’ve been on, what with the advent of the iPhone and the fact that this car has a navigation system. I’m not drowning in MapQuest maps and road trip bingo pages. There are apps for it all now.
I just did my driving stint, so the hubby has taken over. Only down side to the car blog is that my blog notes are in the back of the car. So no ACVIM notebook info today, just my brain. Since I’m on vacation I don’t want to write about anything sad either. Be prepared though, because something horrible happened involving a colossal vet screw up (thankfully not anyone in my group) that I will blog about another day.
Today’s story involves a case I saw a few months ago. I had a week where every case I saw was totally straight-forward and easy to figure out. All the animals I saw had ailments that were text book perfect cases. It was a good week.
Sometime midweek, one of my good, long-time clients called and spoke to my receptionist about the fact that her cat bit her during a seizure.
Seizures in cats are pretty rare. Sometimes they seizure as a result of metabolic things like kidney failure, or from viral things, like FIP. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of ever having seen a good old fashioned epileptic cat. I know they exist; I’ve just not met one. If it’s an older seizuring cat, I can’t help but think brain tumor.
This cat was 13, so I figured it was going to be bad. So much for my easy case streak.
I’ve known this particular client (I’ll call her Mrs. Smith for this story) for about 11 years. She used to come in with her husband, a super nice guy. I watched him deteriorate for years in the grip of Alzheimer’s. He came in with her for every visit. They loved their cats.
One day he didn’t come, he had passed away. She took care of him 'til the bitter end.
Mrs. Smith and I have been through a lot of cats. I think we have a good rapport with regard to her pet care philosophies and financial limitations.
She doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, but will spend it if it can provide long term benefits and good quality of life. If the prognosis is poor or hazy then we have to talk euthanasia. She loved her cats but she was practical and her budget had been deteriorating steadily over the years.
She had tears in her eyes and I had a knot in my stomach when she brought in her fluffy domestic longhair cat "Bandit." Bandit had been having at least one or two seizure episodes a day. She would stiffen up, arch her back and kind of "shiver."
I gave her the run through of possible causes and proceeded to examine the cat, not expecting to find much. However, when I was doing the pre-exam, "hello, nice to see you" scratch, I felt a familiar grainy sensation. I had black stuff under my nails (i.e., flea "dirt," poop, digested blood — for the non-flea initiated).
Upon closer inspection, the cat was loaded with fleas. My heart leapt with joy!
I’ve seen this one other time, some cats are so sensitive to flea bites that they go absolutely nuts, exhibiting behavior that looks very seizure like.
I believe it is classified under the umbrella term Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome. Fleas are often the trigger, sometimes not. Some cats attack and mutilate their tails as part of the syndrome. Others ripple their back muscles in this weird psychotic way and run around screaming like banshees.
Bottom line is, in this case at least, I was able to cure the cat for the cost of a couple of tubes of topical flea killer.
It’s rarely ever that easy, but boy is it nice when it is.
Dr. Vivian Cardoso-Carroll