Thursday, January 21, 2010

Follow This Logic

All three of the adult cats in the household have experienced a fever above 105 and have gone to the doctor in the past 2 and a half months. Two of them did not have elevated white blood cells and were only experiencing fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. One of them, my cat, had impaired motor functions and labored breathing as well as an elevated white blood cell count. Her trip to the doctor was more expensive than the other cats combined (even including the kitten's trip to the vet when we first got her) by thousands of dollars, and she still has at least two more appointments to go.

Miss Luna's doctors found evidence of exposure to Toxoplasma gondii. In a nutshell, it's incredibly common for a cat to be infected with this parasite yet rare for them to show symptoms. However, the symptoms of toxoplasmosis can account for everything that we've been seeing in all cats, including the kitten's blindness (which we thought was caused by feline herpesvirus).

The last cat to go to the vet was Roscoe a few days ago, and Roscoe does not have an exposure to toxoplasmosis. This doctor is certain that the problem is bartonellosis. This is a bacterial infection that can cause fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. It does not account for the additional symptoms I saw in Miss Luna, nor Aura's blindness. This (different) doctor decided on bartonellosis because a household epidemic of toxoplasmosis is improbable because the parasite is so common and cats rarely show symptoms.

But, and here's the fun part, bartonellosis is just as common and showing symptoms of it is just as rare as toxoplasmosis. How does this doctor account for two cats getting bartonellosis and one getting toxoplasmosis and all three showing symptoms of their respective infections when both infections rarely produce symptoms at all? And everyone in the household trusts their own doctors about what is being found.

Needless to say, I'm unbelievably frustrated. Nothing is conclusive, no conclusions add up, and after all the costs, stress, antibiotics, tests, and hassles, we may never know what's really going on.

Truth be told, I just want Miss Luna to be well, to be herself again. And she is improving greatly. She's waking me up in the morning, begging for food, trying to get my roommate's steak, and has started jumping on the kitchen counter to lick the fish juice off the Lean Mean Fat Grilling Machine. But, the other side of that is that it's also a really good idea to know what was wrong. I need to know if it is contagious, not just for the other cats in the home, but if I ever need to cat-sit my parents' diabetic cat where I would normally bring Miss Luna with me, I can't. I can't risk Callie, the diabetic cat, getting sick. I need answers. And it looks like the whole thing is going to be nothing but speculation.

Miss Luna goes to the cardiologist next week and the following week she is to have another blood test to check the toxo levels. I'm going to talk with a doctor then. I'm going to have all my records and notes and a timeline. I need to know if there is further concern.


  1. It may be that all three cats had indolent infections that their bodies were keeping under control, until they were infected with whatever Aura had. Kind of like people with tuberculosis--the infection can happen years ago, but if someone gets HIV, once their white cell count falls below what the immune system needs to keep the TB in check, they develop a full blown TB infection. I suspect that is what happened to your cats. The feline herpesvirus attacked the cats' immune systems, or at least kept them busy with fighting THAT infection, and the underlying parasitic disease, that had been lying indolent, saw their chance and came out. I'm no vet, but it makes some sense to me. Laurel.

  2. Yes, I understand and I think you're right.

    Bartonellosis was confirmed in Roscoe. So, it's possible that Miss Luna had toxoplasmosis to begin with, but when the fleas came in and started spreading bartonellosis, she had to fight that off and the toxo came forth. I'm going to include a test for bartonellosis when she goes in for the toxo follow up the first week of February. I wish the doctor I worked for didn’t retire. I know he would get the answers I need.

    My roommate said her doctor said we don't need to test all cats, but I need confirmation. I need to know what Miss Luna may have, and I need to know if it is a risk to other animals she may come in contact with. I need to know this particularly because of Callie. If I ever hope to have Callie in my home again, I need to know the risk. I'm not too happy with my roommate's reaction to me saying that I will test her anyway, nor with them now feeling that it's time to take care of the fleas more than two months after the fact. I am really starting to feel like I need to get out of this situation, even though the damage is already done.