Gracie is a 12-year-old Beagle who we saw for the first time in January. Gracie was a recent rescue for her owner and had very little history, other than a few vaccines in her past.
Gracie presented with occasional coughing, a very large abdomen and short and rapid respiration. Her color was good, but she appeared very uncomfortable. Gracie’s blood work was good, but ultrasound indicated a lot of fluid in her abdomen. Her chest x-rays revealed right heart enlargement and prominent and tortuous pulmonary arteries. These are all hallmarks of heartworm disease as it causes right heart failure leading to fluid build-up in the abdomen. Her heartworm test, though, was negative, as was a second test. A recent study has shown that, in some cases, the heartworm antigen (which we test for) can be bound up by antibody (produced by the immune system) and cause a false negative test. In these cases, heating the serum using a special process can cause the bond to break and can lead to a more accurate test. We developed this process in our clinic and, sure enough, Gracie was positive for heartworm disease. While this was not a good finding, at least we knew what we were dealing with.
We removed some fluid from Gracie’s belly to give her some relief and her breathing improved. We also started her on medications to decrease inflammation and start weakening the heartworms. Once she was more stable, we started a slow-kill heartworm therapy. Though there was some risk with this procedure, we did not feel we had much other choice. Over the last few months, Gracie has slowly improved. She finished her final heartworm treatment last month and her activity and attitude have improved dramatically. She still has a long road ahead of her, but she is fighting and improving every day. For these reasons, she is AHS’s canine Pet of the Month.
Rambo is a 4-year old neutered male cat who has been a patient at AHS his whole life. He presented as an emergency late one evening with the presenting complaint of straining to urinate. This is always a concern in a cat, but particularly in male cats. Sure enough, on palpation, Rambo had a hard round mass effect in his abdomen. This was his urinary bladder that was filling with urine, but was unable to express itself due to obstruction.
Rambo was rushed into treatment, sedated, and his bladder drained by cystocentesis. A urinary catheter was sutured in place to prevent removal and to allow urine outflow for several days. He was given fluid therapy, pain management, and medication for urethral spasms. Fortunately, his blood work was normal. It is not unusual for these cats to develop kidney issues as the urine backs up from the bladder into the kidneys. This can also cause life-threatening electrolyte imbalances. Early detection by Rambo’s owner prevented these from occurring.
Rambo was hospitalized for several days to allow the bladder and urethra to heal. His urinary catheter was removed and he was monitored closely to be sure he was able to urinate. Once a cat obstructs, they are prone to obstructing again. He was started on special food to help dissolve the crystals that were the original cause of the obstruction and help prevent future obstruction.
Rambo has recovered well and is doing great on his new diet. The diet will be life-long, but it also should prevent re-obstruction. For these reasons, Rambo is AHS’s feline Pet of the Month.