Dog ate chocolate?

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Cat died.

Species: Cat
Breed: Domestic Moggy
Age: 3-6 months
Dear Doctor Haynes,

I started looking after a stray young tomcat (who I presume was around 3 – 4 months old) at the beginning of this week.

He spent most of Monday and Tuesday sleeping on a coat in an old car on my driveway with a bowl of cat biscuits before my conscience got the better of me and I took him into the house on Tuesday night.

He was clearly quite anorexic and seemed to have little appetite. He did drink a little bit of skimmed milk on Tuesday night, but the cat biscuits weren’t stirring his appetite in the slightest. On Wednesday morning I gave him a pouch of wet kitten food which he wolfed down quite enthusiastically. But after that he ate next to nothing – water, cat biscuits, skimmed milk (it was all I had in) and two more pouches of wet cat food all failed to stir his appetite.

I left him in the house on his own of Wednesday night with water and a pouch of food; and whilst he was extremely lethargic and devoid of appetite, I put it down to exhaustion – and simply thought he was relieved to have shelter and that he just needed rest.

On Thursday morning I returned to find him dead. He was laid out on his side with his back legs stretched out, his head thrown back at an acute angle and his eyes open but his mouth closed. In front of him were two pools of vomit – one of which consisted mainly of cat biscuits (which was surprising, because he’d barely touched them in the previous 24 hours). Strangely he didn’t have a look of particular distress on his face when I found him (but of course I guess that is subjective). He’d also urinated on a polythene sheet a couple of times in the night – whilst the urine contained no obvious levels of blood, it was nevertheless quite darkly coloured with a difficult to describe bronzy / golden (but not alarmingly so) hue.

Before I’d left him for the night I had noticed a little stiffness in his hind legs (but again not alarmingly so), and I’d noticed that his back of his hind legs were permanently damp – I’m not sure whether with urine or with saliva (I noticed that he did seem to have a mild penchant for licking around his legs – but again, it didn’t seem to be particularly abnormal at the time.) He would also always squeal when I picked him up under his ribs – at the time I put it down to him being just a bit whingey, but the more I think about it I think it was a sign of distress.

I’m really sorry for the step-by-step monologue here, but the whole event has left me pretty (and uncharacteristically) distressed. I’d grown very fond of him in those few days and I really thought he’d be OK.

I would be very grateful if you could give me any insight as to what might have gone wrong. I feel overwhelmed with guilt at the moment not knowing if I could have done more or whether in fact, his demise was inevitable. But any light you can shed on this, good or bad will be well appreciated and would certainly be worth a great deal more than the nominal, but appreciated low fee you charge.

There’s a short video I recorded just before I left him for that last night, which I’ve uploaded to - I don’t know whether it’ll help or not.

Kind Regards,

Gareth Mitchell

(This has even led me to write an article at such is the profound impact it has had on me).

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, the poor little guy. It is quite obvious from the video that this cat is extremely unwell. I've included the video here:

I won't be able to tell you with certainty what happened to George but I can give you my thoughts.

I think the chances are high that he had some sort of urinary obstruction. It may have been a partial obstruction. When this happens, urine can leak out drop by drop and this can be why he seemed to have damp back legs. When cats have a urinary tract obstruction they often will lick and lick at themselves in their groin area, so saliva could have been a possible reason for the dampness as well.

A urinary tract problem can cause what appears to be a stiffness in the back legs. The way he is walking in the video it seems that he is uncomfortable in the back end. In cases like this it is not actually the legs that are causing him discomfort, but rather it is the bladder that is sore.

The dark coloured urine makes me think that there was a partial blockage as well.

If this was the case, then what happens is that the kidneys get affected which messes up the cat's electrolyte levels. The resulting kidney failure causes a lack of appetite. The out of whack electrolytes can cause high potassium levels which can cause the heart to stop.

If this was a urinary tract blockage, treatment is possible, but in the state that you found George, it is debatable whether he would have recovered. Treatment would involve having a vet administer an anesthetic, placing a urinary catheter as well as an intravenous catheter and keeping him in the hospital for several days. This treatment can be very costly and there is no guarantee that he would have survived.

There are other possibilities. The "bronze" coloured urine could be a sign of liver disease. It's possible that he had gotten into something toxic to his liver. There would have been no easy treatment for this.

You mentioned that he smelled bad. If it was a urine smell then this fits with a urinary tract blockage. However, if it was something else it's possible that he had an infection somewhere - Perhaps it was an abscess from a fight with another cat. These types of infections can smell really bad. The infection could have become toxic and affected his liver causing the bronze urine. Or, it's possible the urine was just really dark because he was dehydrated.

In any case, this does not sound like anything that you could have nursed back to health with good home care. It is possible that he could have been saved with veterinary care but no matter what the cause it would have been very expensive and there would have been no guarantee for survival.

Thank you for taking George in and loving him in his final hours. I'm sorry for your loss.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.