Behind the Scenes, Cat News, Product Reviews & More!
Behind the Scenes, Cat News, Product Reviews & More!
After a bad weekend, I called Benny's vet first thing on Monday morning. I was surprised, they had a diagnosis! It completely stumped me, but it totally made sense.
Benny has a liver shunt.
I never suspected liver issues. Benny's blood work had come back normal during this ordeal. He wasn't showing any signs of struggling to use the litterbox, or having other digestive complaints. He wasn't throwing up.
There are two types of symptoms that liver shunt cats suffer from- neurological and digestive. Neurological? Yes! It makes complete sense why he was suffering his odd symptoms- altered mental states, behavioral issues, drooling, shaking, seizing, blindness, deafness, and paralysis.
The liver controls bringing in blood from the system, cleansing it, and pumping it back out. When they have a shunt, it acts like a bypass, letting toxins escape back into the system. Its not uncommon for many of these toxins to enter into the brain, thus affecting their functions. Benny was very lucky that he was only affected neurologically, and the vet told me this happens when the system reacts negatively to the excess ammonia, that comes with unbroken down proteins.
So, cats with liver & kidney disorders don't properly break down proteins found in regular cat food. Cat food is typically high in proteins, between 30-40% is most common. Cats suffering from these issues should have as few proteins as possible, along with a drug that acts as a laxative, basically it bonds to the proteins, making it easier for them to digest and pass.
There are two types of treatments for liver shunts.
1) First is to run a series of tests and then operate on the shunt. Depending on the cat's condition, it can be extremely risky, and not all survive. You have to stabilize them before surgery, and they can suffer from complications post-surgery.
2) The other option is controlling the condition with a low protein diet and drugs. If the cat is seriously ill and suffer from digestive problems, they will need to be on antibiotics to help take the toxins out of the blood. Others may be milder (like Benny's) and only need a laxative with their low protein food.
We are going with the latter, and will be controlling his diet. Benny will need to eat smaller meals of the Hill's Prescription Diet l/d Liver Care Chicken Flavor Dry Cat Food. I also bought special wet food to give with the dry food- Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support D Morsels in Gravy Canned Cat Food. I will give an update on how the food and laxative is working for him in the coming days.
Its been two days now since he's had any issues, and he has only been getting a little bit of wet food at a time, and this morning I was able to start him on Lactulose, the laxative the vet prescribed. I really had absolutely no clue that his food was causing him so many troubles. I should have been able to put two and two together, and it was the only part I ignored. It wasn't too long after he had a hearty meal, did he start showing symptoms of a problem. It would start with drooling, and if he ate a lot, would move into that strange altered state, and it might progress to shaking and possibly a seizure.
The last seizure was really scary, I saw signs that he was starting to press his head against objects. I thought at first he was blind and just running into things, but it didn't seem right. If you ever see your cat press its head against anything for more than a moment, VET ASAP.
Here are some links to very helpful liver shunt articles-
The other tell tale sign of potential liver problems in cats, is the presence of copper colored eyes. It means they have an excess of copper in their system, and they're more prone to liver problems. I never knew this either, and I really appreciate my observant vet!
The prognosis of cats diagnosed with liver shunts vary. Some are mild enough to recover from with a simple change of diet, while others need life saving surgery. Liver shunt cats can lead a full life, and its really hard to say if their life will be short or long. Some survive months after diagnosis, some live a very long time with proper care.
I definitely wouldn't discourage anyone from adopting a copper eyed cat, or one with known liver issues. Educate yourself, and learn the alternatives (if there are any) to expensive treatments and surgeries. Had I listened to a lot of the articles out there, I'd be getting ready to put him down because I didn't have the $3-7,000+ needed for the surgery. Instead, we found out through forums and actual owners of liver shunt cats, that many cases can be managed with diet and drugs. Its not a death sentence.
If your cat has any weird symptoms or has seizures, the vet may push you to consider putting them down, instead of figuring out the problem. If their quality of life hasn't been affected too greatly, or there is severe damage done, definitely stabilize them and start researching! Talk with people, post to cat health forums, ask for a 2nd opinion. I nearly put Benny down after his first seizure because at that very moment, we thought he had suffered permanent damage.
Cats go into what is called a postictyl state, and they will have altered and compromised function while they recover. It can be anywhere from 10 minutes, 2 hours, a half a day, 2 days. It depends on the cat and severity. It makes me sick how many cats were probably improperly put down because the vet didn't understand how cat seizures work. I really hope Benny's story can help owners understand what goes on, and to be able to get them correctly diagnosed and treated.
I know I threw a lot of knowledge out there today, and in the coming days I'll be breaking it down in more pieces.
Please let me know if you have any questions about anything, in the meantime! I'll do my best to answer them, or point you somewhere, where you can get answers. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can leave a comment. Thanks so much!