Oh … a while ago I was starting to write an article about the rescue and I was going to use the story of a Siamese cat delivered by its owner. I started that story and never finished it. As the days passed since that cat was euthanized, life took a strange turn for this cat adoptive person. You see, that little Siamese cat was turned over to be admitted to a local clinic. As he was going to be approached, he needed to be vaccinated. The owner’s health did not improve and the Siamese cat was delivered to the shelter. Shortly after that, he became ill while in a shelter and then went to be treated at a leading clinic in our area where he remained for 2 weeks of hospitalization. After several weeks of treatment for nosebleeds, sneezing, and not eating, they thought he was well enough to go to foster care to finish his recovery. Unfortunately, within days he died of unknown causes.
His story was to be about a broken heart, as it was clear that the owner adored this little boy. He was comfortable, friendly, outgoing, and curious, and with recovery he should have been a wonderful companion. The clinic never had a firm diagnosis of what was wrong with him, but it ranged from an upper respiratory infection with nosebleeds to a yeast infection. Two days later, the foster cat basically crashed and became lethargic, did not eat, and was brought back to the clinic. There he was seen by a vet tech and they sent him back with me to feed him a syringe in the hope that he would come back. The next morning he vomited what was being injected into him and was taken back to the clinic. This time he was euthanized, the shelter just wasn’t willing to pay for more tests or treatments. The vet said, “there must be another disease process going on and he just eluded all of his care and testing.”
About 10 days later, my sugary cat Atlas showed up one morning with a bloody nose and no food. Recognizing a possible connection, I took Atlas to the vet that day. As the exam progressed, the need for sedation and X-rays to determine what was causing the nosebleeds became apparent. I told Dr. Nappier, DVM at Westlake Animal Hospital about the foster Siamese cat and that the other clinic had never found the diagnosis. Dr. Nappier acknowledged the information, but said it was probably unrelated. Atlas received an antibiotic injection and was sent home.
The next morning, Atlas looked much worse and we followed up which later raised the suspicion of acute pancreatitis. The vet did a blood test to confirm the diagnosis. Atlas also underwent an EKG as he had developed a cardiac arrhythmia and potassium supplementation was also started. So, more fluids and instructions on how to treat this new diagnosis.
By the third day, Atlas was seriously ill. Dr. Nappier called me that morning and started asking me about that little foster Siamese cat. The reason is that the Atlas white blood cell count should have been high for pancreatitis. He was not tall, he was almost non-existent. Pancreatitis was not the correct diagnosis. Were conjoined twins fully vaccinated against panleukopenia? With a few phone calls to the shelter, the vet learned that he had been vaccinated upon admission to the boarding center before being transferred to the shelter. But this particular vaccine needs a booster 3-4 weeks later and it is unknown if the Siamese cat ever received that booster. It should also be administered before boarding an animal. It takes several weeks for the immune response of the animals to develop; otherwise, the pet is at risk for panleukopenia.
I canceled some client appointments and ran home to have Atlas see Dr. Nappier again. When I found Atlas, he was lying in a pool of liquid stench. A liquid pool of water-like diarrhea like I’ve never seen before. The use of a rapid canine test for Parvo confirmed Dr. Nappier’s suspicion. The diagnosis: panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper. All the symptoms finally fit together, a very unusual case.
With a confirmed diagnosis, I contacted Venita at, Diabetic Cats in Need, to let her know and tell her that I was going to put Atlas to sleep. I just don’t have the money to cover the thousands of dollars needed for a 24/7 treatment center that requires a fatal disease like this. And given what would be an unlikely recovery, it would be a reckless use of DCIN funds. As far as I knew, and even Venita thought, this diagnosis was a death sentence. After what seemed like a fast-paced 4-way conversation between Dr. Nappier, local internal medicine specialist Venita, and myself, we decided to give Atlas one more chance. Dr. Nappier believed that we had detected this just as the clinical signs were breaking down and strongly advocated not performing euthanasia, but testing the Tamiflu protocol. In a few days we would know if it would work. While there are some downsides to not going to a center 24/7, Venita approved of the treatment plan.
I am in rescue and I know how vital vaccines are for my cats, but this situation left a serious doubt. If Atlas was vaccinated, how did he achieve this? A detailed review of his case file revealed that the initial dose was mishandled at the shelter and the damn second booster was missed. Atlas has seen 3 different vets in the last 2 years and none of them spotted this error. And the likelihood that you will come into contact with this deadly virus as a house cat is pretty slim. Dr. Nappier said that “he would have to come in contact with a stray dog.” Atlas never had direct contact with any stray cats and even the foster Siamese kitten was in an isolated foster room. I sanitized the foster room with a 10: 1 bleach solution after the cat’s death. However, panleukopenia is transmissible if the handler’s shoes, clothing, or hands are stained. No one knew what disease process that little foster cat had. Then, for several days, I did not know that I should follow the protocol for a highly contagious disease. Clinics and shelters are not supposed to release animals like this without disclosing their owners or breeders. This also opened the door not only for Atlas to fall ill, but also for the feline clients he was caring for.
There are varying degrees of distress from vaccinating cats. Vaccines that can cause cancer (sarcoma vaccination) are one of them. But as I watch Atlas fight his way through a virus that kills in less than 12 hours after clinical symptoms, I wonder why an owner would choose not to use some of the new vaccines. FVRC (covers rhinotracheitis and calici) is available as a new nasal-administered vaccine. There is also a nasal version that includes Panleukopenia, but the injectable vaccine is more effective.
As I spoke to Venita, it took a perfect storm of missteps for Atlas to catch this horrible virus. And I realize, as I spoke at length with Dr. Nappier, that the odds of this exact situation occurring were almost impossible. I feel like I need to create a timeline to show how the near impossible happened. So this article is a bit long. Note that the internal medicine specialist said that she has not seen an adult case of feline distemper in 20 years of practice. The vet insists that due to the incredible efficacy of the vaccine, panleukopenia has almost been eradicated in adult cats. It is practically relegated these days to wild colonies, hatcheries, lodging facilities and shelters.
As for breaking the news to my pet sitting clients, it went surprisingly well, except for one client. The news for her was devastating, as she has forgotten to receive any type of vaccinations for an older cat at her home. She thought he was too old to receive his annuals. While my vet insists that even a series of feline distemper kittens would protect him and if he received annuals up to 5 years ago, he will be fine. Of course, I can’t say those things to my client. All I can tell you is to check with your own vet. It is up to her and her vet if they want to take any kind of preventive action.
So Attie’s life was at risk because of a series of unimaginable missteps, not as an intentional decision not to vaccinate, as I strongly advocate that pets are vaccinated according to the new feline protocols every two or three years. years. And with the advent of the ultranasal vaccine series for FVRCP, I see little to no reason not to. I know that my business puts me in contact with many pets that may or may not be properly vaccinated, and in the world of pet sitting we are often called upon to care for pets because owners do not want to subject pets to the additional vaccinations that requires boarding or potential illnesses that may arise with boarding.
Just because your pets are kept at home they do not live in an isolation room and anyone can potentially bring a fatal illness into your home. It could be a friend, a neighbor, your children who came into contact with the stray cat outside, or even your pet sitter for another animal on your route.
So if you decided a few years ago not to keep your pets’ basic vaccinations up to date, maybe check in with your vet again about new advancements and protocol changes. Think of that little foster Siamese cat that died and my Atlas, how unbelievable the setting is. A week ago, Atlas was resting in a cage in an isolation unit at Westlake Animal Hospital fighting for his life. Diabetic Cats in Need is kind enough to raise funds to help pay for your care.
Vaccination sarcoma concerns, whether a cat is elderly, or this scenario, you have a choice and newer options are available.