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Anemia in a young cat

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

This afternoon was pretty busy. A lot of the annual wellness visits were rescheduled because the reminder calls got missed due to the holiday on last Monday. But there were plenty of sick patients to keep me busy.

Today’s case of the day is a young cat, who presented to the clinic with a reduced appetite. The cat is an approximately 3-year-old female spayed domestic shorthair. The owner adopted her about a month ago and the last two days she’s not herself and isn’t eating. No vomiting, and only drinking a little. On physical, she has normal vitals, temperature at 38.7 degrees Celsius, but her gums are so pale almost white. The conjunctiva of her third eyelid is white to yellow, and the inner ear skin is white. She’s missing a few incisor teeth, but that isn’t why she isn’t eating. She’s anemic, and my first thought was feline leukemia. While there are other causes of anemia in cats, at this age feline leukemia was in the top of my differential list. The owner had cost constraints, so I told the owner, why don’t we test for feline leukemia first before we decide on anything else, diagnostically or treatment. The owner agreed to the test. Turned out that the cat was positive for both feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. See the sample on the right? That’s what hers looked like. Sadly, with the current condition this cat was in humane euthanasia was the best option for her so that we didn’t have to see her suffer.

By the time everything was sorted, my technician had left for the day, which left me with an assistant to place a catheter. Fortunately the catheter gods were on my side tonight!

I feel so terribly for this owner. She’s spent this last month getting close to this cat, and now she is gone.

Last year, we had a six-year-old cat diagnosed with feline leukemia. It made me turn around and vaccinate my own cat Indi, thinking that I could be a source of infection for her.

If you need more information, check out the Veterinary Partner website or the Merck veterinary manual.

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