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Catherine Stone

It May Not Be Just a Hairball: Part 2

Finley, a two-year-old male cat presented to me when he was experiencing an episode he had had one month earlier when he went to his regular vet.  Finley had spent a few days not eating very much and his owners took him to their vet, who thought the problem could be a hairball. The vet sent them home with a hairball remedy which they used for a couple of days and then he finally vomited a hairball.  After that episode, he seemed fine. So far, it sounds like just a hairball, right?

Symptoms, testing and diagnosis

One month after that episode, the cat had similar symptoms and the owners were concerned that there was more to the story.  They came to see me. I examined the cat, and on the surface, everything seemed to be normal. But I was suspicious so I ran some lab work on Finley.  It came back with some abnormal results which confirmed that it was definitely more than just a hairball. I took x-rays as well which showed thickened intestinal walls, which is very suggestive of intestinal inflammation.  So were the hairballs causing the inflammation or was the inflammation making it difficult to pass the hairball?

Doctor Katz rethinks the underlying cause and effect

I had a specialist visit my office to perform an abdominal ultrasound, a non-invasive test which looks inside the body to find out what the problem could be.  What he found was that Finley had parts of his intestine that were very slow moving. Normally our intestines are continually working with fervor to push food through, a mechanism called peristalsis.  His intestines were acting sluggish, which in medical terms is called an ileus. An ileus is caused by inflammation from the presence of a foreign object, cancer, primary intestinal disease, or even parasites.  Finley’s ultrasound did not show evidence of cancer or any foreign object that could be stuck.

It’s always best to first try the less invasive route to cure

His owners and I discussed an exploratory surgery to retrieve biopsies of the intestine to get a definite diagnosis, but ultimately they elected to treat Finley for parasites and hoped that would solve his problem.  

It has been about three weeks since I initially saw Finley.  His owners report that he is doing extremely well, and showing no further signs of belly pain.  I truly hope that this will be the end of this problem for Finley, but if it should reoccur, it is likely that we will consider a trial of steroids, to work regularly to control inflammation or pursue a surgical exploratory.  

We love Finley and want to keep him happy and pain-free!

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