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Lexie's life-threatening infection

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Lexie's life-threatening infection 20/04/2016

Hi, I'm Justine. I'm the Head Vet, Pharmaceuticals & Pathology, at Lort Smith Animal Hospital. I'm also the proud mum of Lexie, my beautiful one-year-old cat. I adopted Lexie almost one year ago.

Over the next few months I'm going to write a blog about Lexie – a mixture of cat and pet health tips, along with a bit of everyday life adventures. I really hope you enjoy it!

Dr Justine

Lexie's life-threatening infection

I recently celebrated my cat Lexie’s first birthday. The party was very exciting, we all had some cat-friendly cake and Lexie thoroughly enjoyed opening her presents (especially the bubble wrap they came enclosed in!).

I met Lexie when she was a tiny, very sick kitten at Lort Smith Animal Hospital.

So how did we meet you ask?

Well it was a typical Autumn day in March 2015. I was completing my morning rounds at Lort Smith Animal Hospital and checking on each of my patients.

Entering the isolation ward of the hospital I set sight on the most beautiful set of bright golden eyes.

Lexie was a 12-week-old kitten, who was being lovingly cared for by an animal shelter. A carer had brought her into the hospital after she developed vomiting and diarrhoea.

Lexie was severely dehydrated, had stopped eating and was losing weight rapidly. Her condition was critical and our veterinary team were extremely worried she would not survive.

Lexie was placed on intravenous fluids immediately to help correct her dehydration. She also had some blood and faecal tests.

Lexie's blood tests revealed her white blood cell count was very very low. White blood cells help the body to fight infections, so this told us she had a severe bacterial or viral infection. Her infection was so severe, that all her white blood cells were used up before the bone marrow could produce any more to compensate.

A faecal sample was sent to the laboratory to help diagnose if she had a viral or bacterial gastrointestinal infection.

The results confirmed a condition called Feline Infectious Enteritis, also commonly known as Feline Parvovirus or Feline Panleukopenia.  

Infection occurs when the virus enters the body through direct faecal-oral contact (or indirect contact via contaminated objects or a contaminated environment. Once an animal has contracted the virus, it starts to infect rapidly dividing cells including the lymph nodes and intestine. The intestinal lining starts to break down and pets become very dehydrated. Once the virus reaches the bone marrow, it stops the production of white blood cells.

The virus is highly contagious and deadly. Young unvaccinated cats are more prone to contracting the disease, but kittens and cats of all ages are susceptible. Unfortunately there is no cure and treatment consists of supportive care to help the immune system fight off the infection.

The virus is quite sturdy and can last a long time in the environment (sometimes years). Infected cats and kittens can shed the virus for at least six weeks after infection.

Due to the contagious nature of the virus, patients are kept in our isolation ward of the hospital. Some patients will require 10- 14 days of treatment.

Patients will require intravenous fluid therapy to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.  Pain relief, anti-nausea medication and antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections are also required.

Lexie developed secondary Salmonella and Cambylobacterial bacterial infections due to her suppressed immune system. She received two different antibiotics and a six week course of Vitamin B injections to help improve her metabolism. 

Feline infectious enteritis is an easily preventable. By vaccinating your pet you can help prevent this deadly disease. Kittens require an initial course of 2-3 vaccinations, then yearly boosters.

Many owners assume that pets only need one vaccination and they are fully covered for this disease. This is definitely not the case and it's vital to check with your veterinarian to ensure your beloved feline companion is fully covered.

Lexie was one of the lucky ones. She survived and was discharged after 10 days in hospital. A few days after that, she came home with me for the first time!

I am forever blessed to have met and cared for her. I cannot imagine life without my beloved companion.

Next blog, Lexie and I will share with you our road-tripping adventures!


Dr Justine 

Lort Smith Contact Details