Posts Tagged ‘IBD’

Latifah, aka Tifah, aka Teefie, aka Teefah da Teethless… a sweet sad little princess who wishes she had a home she didn’t have to share with other cats, and who’s life-long ambition is to hold the world record for most diseases/ailments in a single cat.


Latifah was found wandering the streets and admitted to the shelter in June of 2005 by a kind person who realized she needed help.  She was in bad shape, down on her hocks (neuropathy), matted, and thin – and was quickly diagnosed with diabetes mellitus.  She had obviously been someone’s cat as she was declawed, and most likely was thrown out when she became ill.  Maybe the former owner didn’t know she was ill, only knew she was urinating excessively (and perhaps out of the litter box), or maybe they just didn’t care.

I originally agreed to foster Latifah for a cat shelter, in an effort to better regulate her diabetes with a diet change to all all canned food (from canned and dry).  She wasn’t on a large dose of insulin at the shelter, 2 to 3 units twice daily, but she’d had episodes of hypoglycemia (insulin shock) a few times.  In looking back at her records, the cause became rather apparent to me.  Latifah loves canned food.  She’ll eat dry if canned isn’t available.  During the day, caretakers provided her canned food three to five times daily.  During the night, there was only dry food.  Her “hypo” episodes occurred during the day.  She was eating significantly lower-carbohydrate food (canned) during the day, but getting the same insulin dose.  This dose was too much on the lower-carbohydrate diet.  This was compounded by the fact the dry food she ate at night effectively put the liver “to sleep” so it wasn’t prepared to release glycogen to save her from these “hypos”. 

I fostered Latifah from March 17, 2006 to October 20, 2006.  Her blood sugar levels quickly decreased and grew more steady on the canned diet.  She went off insulin completely for weeks at a time.  Unfortunately, when her other medical conditions (stomatitis, arthritis, gastro-intestinal issues, pancreatitis, etc.) flared up, so would her blood glucose levels and she’s need some insulin to bring them down.

Latifah in tent

I grew so enamoured with her, I adopted her on October 21, 2006.  Besides the diabetes, Latifah has pancreatitis, stomatitis, a heart murmur, and an intestinal disorder. However, she does very well on a proper diet – primarily homemade raw food based on the recipes at CatInfo.org and CatNutrition.org. She does well on Dr. Hodgkins’ treatment protocol for feline diabetes.

Latifah showed symptoms of hyper-thyroidism (ravenous hunger, thin, poor coat), so in early 2007 I took her to a specialty center for a technitium (or scintigraphic) scan. The scan confirmed the hyper-thyroidism, although her T4 blood levels were normal. She had radioactive iodine treatment and the hyper-thyroidism resolved quickly.

Her stomatitis (mouth inflammation) was a huge source of pain for her.  The shelter veterinarian extracted all her teeth in September of 2006.  Still, sometimes the inflammation was so bad she struggled to eat.  We finally found a protocol that keeps her comfortable, using Metacam (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and cyclosporine, as well as the supplements lactoferrin and agaricus blazei.  The drugs have risks, but I feel they are with it as they improve her quality of life significantly.

Latifah thinks of the kitchen as “her” room, but most days she’ll let the other cats come in for their meals. 

Latifah on cat tree

 Update:  Sadly, I lost Latifah on February 16, 2008 to something neurological.  Fly free, my sweet princess.

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In my spare time, I often research feline nutrition – yes, I’m THAT much of a super geeky crazy cat lady.

Every so often, I run into an item of information that doesn’t make sense to me.  What I love about what I understand about feline nutrition is it makes sense – it’s logical!  An obligate (true) carnivore, evolved from a desert species, needs meat and moisture.  Even my simplistic mind can get a grip on that!  As my nutritional heroes say – this isn’t rocket science!

So, it bugged me when I discovered taurine requirements were lower for dry food than wet food.  Why?  WHY?

For those that don’t read articles on pet food in their spare time – taurine is an amino acid.  (An amino acid is a component of protein.)  Most species (including humans and dogs) can manufacture enough taurine on their own, so it’s not an essential amino acid for them.  Not cats, one of the facts distinguishing them as true obligate (strict) carnivores rather than an opportunistic carnivore (meaning they’ll eat meat if they can get it – but they can also survive, even thrive, on plant proteins.)

Interesting little sidenote – when cat food was first created, it was basically dog food – made into smaller cans or smaller kibble pieces.  In the 1980’s a researcher was studying heart disease in cats when he found that nearly all his patients were deficient in taurine levels.  When he supplemented taurine, they improved.  Thus, pet food manufacturers began supplementing cat foods with taurine.  Turns out taurine, which naturally occurs in raw meat, is easily destroyed by cooking.  It also oxidizes quickly once meat is ground – and may be degraded by freezing.

So, back to my ponderable.  Why is less taurine needed if cats are on a dry diet?  WHY?

Well, in doing some other research – I found a great recent study on carbohydrate malabsorption.  The study found that carbohydrate malabsorption was a common feature in IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) in felines.  That didn’t surprise me in the least.  In my experience (with five cats with IBD so far – either adopted or fostered), foods containing high levels of carbohydrate (such as dry food) were not tolerated well at all.  Again, cats are obligate carnivores – they’re not designed to eat carbohydrates, they’re designed to eat protein and fat.  They have absolutely no nutritional requirement for ANY carbohydrate. 

Then, reading another study, one of the items they noted was that cats on antibiotics required less taurine than cats that weren’t on antibiotics.  Through some research, they concluded that taurine was in some way utilized by the healthy gastro-intestinal (GI) bacteria.  Antibiotics, as we know, kill off not only unhealthy bacteria, but healthy ones as well.  So, by having less GI bacteria, the cats needed less taurine.

LIGHT BULB MOMENT:  So… if carbohydrates may affect GI bacteria (as indicated by malabsorption), and dry foods are naturally higher in carbohydrates (as a starch is required to process those little kibbles), and GI bacteria utilize more taurine – then it makes sense that less taurine is needed in dry foods because dry foods are probably damaging the healthy GI bacteria that would otherwise utilize the taurine!

YAY!  I think I get it!  Or, at least I have a theory – and I’m always happier having a theory, even if it may ultimately be proved incorrect – than I am just being clueless.

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Ralph, aka Ralphie Fuzz Butt, aka the Miracle Man, aka the Poster Boy for Proper Nutrition… he’s the biggest reason I am such a fanatic about cat food.

I adopted Ralph on December 2, 2004. He’d been at the shelter since November 1998, when he was admitted at around age 3. That made him around 9 years old when I took him home. Ralph suffered from IBD (a gastro-intestinal disorder) and anemia. The anemia caused a heart murmur. One of the medications he took caused liver damage. The other suppressed his immune system, so he was constantly catching viruses and fungi, such as ringworm, getting infections, and it had induced diabetes. In fact, he spent much of his time at the shelter in ringworm isolation. At the time I adopted him, he’d spent nearly a year straight in the ringworm ward… and over 26 months of the last three years there. Because of the ringworm, when I adopted him he had to reside in my bathtub (with shower doors closed) so as not to expose my other cats. When we moved to our new house, December 27, 2004, he lived in a room in the basement.

I was determined to try another form of treatment for his problem. I changed his diet to a wholesome grain-free canned food, and supplemented with vitamin B12 injections weekly. I also weaned him off both the medications he was on. Ralph is my “poster boy” for illustrating what a HUGE difference the proper diet can make. Cats are carnivores and should not be eating foods loaded with grains. Read more at catinfo.org and catnutrition.org. The information there saved Ralph’s life.

As of his vet visit on April 22, 2005, Ralphie was ringworm *and* anemia free! Yay!

He got a complete work-up in September 2005, and his heart murmur was gone and all blood values (including liver and blood glucose) were normal. No anemia, no infection – all clean! Only thing necessary was a dental, which he got. Subsequent bloodwork panels have shown some elevated white blood cell counts and globulin levels, and low potassium levels – nothing alarming.

You may notice Ralph’s cloudy eye in the pictures. A veterinary opthamologist examined him and feels the cloudy eye was caused by a birth defect. That’s actually good news, as it means it’s unlikely to worsen over time. She thought he still had vision in both eyes, but the sight was most likely better in the clearer eye.

Ralph is always excited to greet any visitors, and patiently waits, hoping they will sit down so he can hop in their lap and purr loudly. He adores the other cats, and wrestles and cuddles daily with Louie (Aloysius) and Studley.

Update:  Ralph passed away in August 2009.  His memorial post is here.

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Barf art

Apparently, training for the Barf-Olympics is going on full force. As a human bean, I’m obviously not privvy to details such as when or where the actual event will take place – but I can certainly tell that Team Barf is in training and plan for a great showing at this year’s events.

Rumpelmintz (a.k.a. Rumpelbarfz) has some new tricks up her sleeve – apparently she plans on writing something in barf. Pretty amazing to behold, I must admit. This morning she put together this lovely piece. I think it says “#@&% you” but I’m not entirely sure.

barf art

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Rumpelmintz, aka Rumpelbarfz, aka Rumpelbeast, has been with me since she was a kitten, in 1995. She was born to a stray a friend took in. Rumpelmintz is extremely smart, unfortunately she never uses her genius for good.

Rumpelmintz spent the first 10 years of her life training for the Barf-Olympics. She scored many a point for “Team Barf”. I asked the vets about it again and again. There had to be something wrong with her. They’d look her over, do some bloodwork, and say she was fine. Meanwhile, she decorated the walls, the floors, and the furniture with her barf artwork. She’d climb to the tallest cat tree and spray the walls, floors, and furniture in one gush. My mother called her the “Exorcist Cat”.

I now know Rumpelmintz suffered from a gastro-intestinal disorder, known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Fixing the problem wasn’t that difficult, she simply needed a food change. No more dry kibble. She did well on a grain-free canned food, and fantastic on raw. Of course, getting her to *eat* it was another matter. She’d only ever eaten dry food, and getting her to understand canned or raw was edible was a long and difficult process. Once her food was changed, she also lost a bit of weight she needed to.

Rumpelmintz adores playing laser tag. She detests the other cats. Hates them. Wants them dead. She loves people to admire her and tell her how beautiful she is, and she’ll run up to them so they can do so. She prefers they not actually *touch* her. She also feels is necessary to supervise any repairs done in the house. Though, I once found she’d fallen asleep on the job.

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