Saturday, a local vet called me to let me know she was sending over a kitty for a blood transfusion. "Lucky" was a 4 year old, totally indoor male cat that had begun acting lethargic a few days prior to seeing his veterinarian. When he didn't perk up after 72 hours, the owners thought it was time to seek medical attention.
Lucky, as it turned out, was severely anemic. His white blood cell count and platelets were also low. All of these cells are produced by the bone marrow, so when all are low, it's extremely concerning. Lucky was also positive on a snap test for feline leukemia.
Feline leukemia is a weird disease that can manifest itself in many ways. One of these ways is by invading and living in the bone marrow. It's called "myeloproliferative disease." My concern was that Lucky had bone marrow involvement with his FeLV. This suspicion was fueled by the decrease in all the cell lines of his bone marrow. It would be necessary to obtain a bone marrow aspirate to confirm this.
I relayed all of this to Lucky's stunned and distraught owners. They had found Lucky and 2 other kittens in a tree stump 4 years ago. At that time, he'd been tested for FeLV and found to be negative. Since then, he'd been in the house. It was a shock to them to find out that he was suffering from feline leukemia.
Given the likely bone marrow involvement, Lucky's prognosis was extremely poor. We discussed options, including referral for bone marrow aspirate. The owners wanted to try a blood transfusion and see how Lucky did, then make a decision.
We proceeded with that, and surprisingly, Lucky responded very well. His anemia improved, the heat murmur caused by "thin blood turbulence" went away, and he started to eat and act interested in his surroundings again. Unfortunately, after much soul-searching, the owners decided the next day that they couldn't proceed with further treatment. My hope was that they would take Lucky home and keep him comfortable until he was ill, not eating, or otherwise doing poorly. Unfortunately, the owners couldn't make the decision twice. They were ready on Sunday. As much as I hated to do it (since Lucky was eating and moderately perky), euthanasia was what the owners wanted.
In the end, their decision was undoubtedly the right one. Lucky's outcome was inevitable. Still, putting down animals that are eating and purring is never easy, no matter how sick they really are.
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