I work at the humane society. We recently adopted out a 13 week old long haired Siamese mix. This kitten was an orphan but was doing really well when he came in at 6 weeks old. This kitten did come in with a lot of fleas but we did give the cat a capstar pill and he was just fine after that. He was at the shelter until 13 weeks of age, and he was adopted very soon after hitting that age. He was vaccinated at eight weeks old, and again at 12. He was scheduled for his last at 16 weeks.
He was very hyper and playful, and showed a lot of energy. We even gave him a bath with a mild dawn dish soap and blow dryed him before he went home to make sure he was completely flea free and dewormed him against round worms. Having fleas, we were aware he probably did have tapes and was going to give him a pill once we got more stock from the vet which was going to be later that week.
The kitten ended up listless and just suddenly died 4 days later, despite being fully vaccinated , dewormed, and well cared for. This has obviously broken my heart and I could not sleep, trying to search for an answer of what happened. The other two siblings are just fine, but are not long haired. We haven't seen one case of upper respiratory in months, so I do not think that could have been the reason.
I do not think tapeworms would have killed a kitten that quick and young, as this is the first case like this we have ever had. I could understand if it was a long time that he had tapes, but it wasn't. We was going to do an autopsy but the cat had already been refrigerated and the vet said it would not be possible after that.
This was the second case this month, so we are obviously a little confused as well since the other cat is almost the exact same situation.
Any advice or insight? I do feel like this is all of my fault :(.
Dr. Marie replied:
Oh, I am sorry to hear of this situation. As you likely know, I won't have an exact answer for you as to what happened to this poor kitten. It sounds like you did all of the right things and I certainly do not think that you were to blame for his death.
Whenever I see a young kitten that seems relatively healthy and then dies suddenly, I think of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is a condition where the cat is born with a heart that is too thick. Cats can suddenly die with this condition. There are often no external signs to indicate that this is the problem although some cats do have a heart murmur.
The other thing I wondered about was whether the fleas were carrying something else such as mycoplasma hemofelis (hemobartonella). This is a blood parasite that can cause extreme anemia and can be fatal.
I don't think a tapeworm would do this.
It's also possible that he had a virus such as feline leukemia, FIV or FIP. Although, these conditions are less likely to cause sudden death.
If this continues to happen with other cats, you may want to consider getting permission to have a full post mortem done and possibly a diagnosis can be made.
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Dr. 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.
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