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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 16710
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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Hi we have just had to put to sleep two kittens within a week

Resolved Question:

Hi we have just had to put to sleep two kittens within a week of each other, they were just 1years old.The mother was a stray but pregnant ..and healthy. She carried them well over the period they normally do, both kittens were healthy we kept them in till 6months and they were spayed.
The first sign with one was her being sick every time she ate for about 3days, then her breathing which we then took her to vets. Given antibiotics on the Monday by Friday we had to put her to sleep.her liver blood count showed problems there.the second kitten we took I on the Friday just because of her breathing.. They then said must be FIP. And drained fluid from her chest.this was sent off. We brought this one home even though they recommended euthanasia. I wanted to wait for test. But her breathing deteriorated today and we took her back. The FIP tests partly back said it was unlikely to be this so they did some internal blood tests and it showed leukemia.. And due to her breathing it was kinder to put to sleep.
What we can't understand is how in a week two kittens of perfect health are both ill then died. The mum is heathy ..is it likely this can happen and so quickly.. Is it common for this and can you think of any alternatives it's just so upsetting.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 years ago.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. My deepest condolences on your loss and I'd like to help with your concerns about losing two young kittens in such a short period of time.
It is uncommon to see two cats in a household die in such a short period of time, but it does happen.
I know that your one kitten was tested and found positive for feline leukemia, was the other kitten tested for feline leukemia too?
Has mom been tested for feline leukemia?
Immunosuppressive viruses like feline leukemia can allow other disease processes make cats sicker than they would be if they weren't infected, because of their compromised immune system function, and predispose them to cancer, anemia and secondary infections. The younger a cat is when exposed the more likely they are to be unable to fight off the infection, get sicker at a younger age and die from complications of the infection.
If mom hasn't been tested for feline leukemia she should be. If she is infected, even if she seems apparently healthy, then she could pass the virus to her kittens in utero and they could be born with it. Symptoms may not show for months, or even years in some cases, but that would explain two young cats getting deathly ill so early in life.
It is also possible that both cats were infected with the virus that causes FIP, feline infectious peritonitis. There are different forms of the disease, the dry form which may only show as weight loss, elevated liver enzymes and wasting, and the wet form which causes fluid accumulation in the chest or abdomen, weight loss and wasting. This can be a difficult disease to test for because we don't have on definitive test that we can do on cats that are alive. After death we can take tissue samples and can often get a diagnosis. Sometimes blood testing (antibody levels) comes back negative simply because the body doesn't have enough time to produce large numbers of antibodies early on. We often base our diagnosis more on symptoms (straw to yellow colored, thick fluid in the abdominal or chest cavity, liver enzyme elevation, fever, lack of appetite and lethargy). Like feline leukemia the younger a cat is when exposed the more likely they are to get sick. Almost all cats have antibodies to the virus which causes FIP (corona virus), but not all get sick. So even if mom has antibodies to the virus it doesn't mean that she will ever get sick, though she may have passed it to her kittens.
It is also possible that you just had terrible luck with your two youngsters and their illnesses had nothing to do with each other. Rarely young cats do get sick enough that we cannot save them, and there isn't anything that can prevent it.
Odds are though with their symptoms and the rapidity of the way things progressed an immunosuppressive virus like Feline Leukemia or FIP seems more likely.
I am so sorry for your loss, please let me know if you have any further questions.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi Dr Kara
Thank you for your response.. I just thought how unlucky are we for two kittens to get ill together.. The first one they only did a blood test which told them the liver count and she was too jaundiced to do any further tests. With the second one she declined slower so they did test the fluid from her chest which said it wasn't FIP and today a further blood test which said it was leukaemia. We bury them in our garden so didn't leave for any further tests.
We have to take the mum in and for her to be tested but if she's positive what does that mean? I don't think we could lose another one so soon.
Just really want some closure so we understand why... Would the leukemia jab have helped them it was one we didn't do at the time as couldn't afford it which is ironic now having spent over£1000 and have nothing to show for it....
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 years ago.
It is unlucky any way that you slice it, whether they be related deaths or not. I am sure that your hearts are breaking. I understand now why further testing was impossible given how sick the youngsters were and how quickly things moved. It's really not important now because it won't change things for them, though it may have given you some peace at least knowing what happened.
The feline leukemia vaccine is one that I recommend for all kittens, if they test negative for the virus. Once they test positive and have the virus the vaccine won't do anything to help them. The reason that I recommend it for all kittens is that we have found if we vaccinate them as kittens, and give one booster a year later, that protection is long lasting and even if they are never vaccinated again if they are exposed later in life they still have some protection and are much less likely to get sick. We also know that adult cats in general tend to be less likely to get sick with exposure to the virus. By vaccinating them at an early age we protect them when they are most susceptible, and we are giving them long lasting protection.
If the kittens were infected from mom in utero then there is nothing you could have done differently, but if they picked it up outdoors from other cats, then the vaccine as young kittens could have prevented it.
If mom is positive but acting healthy it is good knowledge to have because we will take extra precautions to keep her heathy. She should be a indoor cat, both to keep her from spreading the virus and to keep her from being exposed to other illnesses that cats can give to each other including upper respiratory infections. Then excellent nutrition, dental care and more frequent physicals and blood tests to watch for any disease processes early on in their course will be recommended. If she feels fine there is not need to consider doing anything but keeping her that way.
Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
thank you..i will get mum tested as in some way i hope it was passed through her then i won't blame myself.
one last question..how is it spread..we live on a farm no nearby cats to speak of..
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 years ago.
Spread of feline leukemia is usually through close personal contact. That includes sharing litter boxes and food and water bowls, nursing, mutual grooming, and sharing toys. It can be passed through sexual contact and fighting, but that is less common. And of course passing it to kittens in utero is possible too.
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Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 years ago.
I want to add another thing about testing mom.
When you have mom tested know that there are two types of tests.
1) ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) which be performed in your veterinarian's office. ELISA-type tests detect both primary and secondary stages of viremia. Primary viremia is when a cat is initially exposed, and they can still fight off the infection and not be chronically infected.
2) IFA (indirect immunofluorescent antibody assay) tests must be sent out to a diagnostic laboratory. IFA tests detect secondary viremia only, so the majority of positive-testing cats remain infected for life.
If a cat has a positive ELISA we recommend an IFA to make sure they are truly infected, and not in the stage where they are fighting the infection and not truly sick yet. If a cat has a positive ELISA, and a negative IFA and seems healthy, they should be retested in 6 months.
Cats that are chronically infected will sometimes have a negative ELISA, but a positive IFA.
So in your case if your mom kitty has a positive ELISA odds are that she will truly be infected because of the way her kittens died, and you can choose to have an IFA or simply believe that odds are she is infected and truly carrying the virus.
If her ELISA is negative I do recommend an IFA, because it is still possible that she is truly infected and you will want to know that.
Let me know if you have any more questions.