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White blood cell count and diminished appetite

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
My cat is about five years old and about one month ago she stopped eating. She hasn't been going poop too often either. She is still drinking water. I took her to the vet today and they did blood work. Her white cell count came up low, but her liver and kidney tests were fine.

The vet said that she could have distemper since her white blood cell count is low. She's been vaccinated for distemper since she was a kitten. Is this likely?

Does anyone know what else could cause a low white blood cell count? The vet gave her some prescription wet food, but of course she wont touch it. She will eat tuna, though. She loves tuna. I've been trying not to give her too much because I know its not good for her, but I am desperate to keep her hydrated and healthy.

Any advice or opinions are welcomed!
post #2 of 27
Low WBC counts usually mean infection and require a round of antibiotics. Did your vet not give her any? If he didn't, you need to either call him or take her to another vet.
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
Antibiotics for what? The vet said that low white blood cell count was indicative of distemper, which is a virus and is not treated with antibiotics. The only medication given to her was pills to soothe her stomach and entice her to eat.

Any idea what type of antibiotics are recommended and to treat what type of disease? What types of diseases are represented by low white blood cell count?
post #4 of 27
Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry! I've had a long day.... It's a HIGH WBC count that means infection! Geez...I need to go to bed. I apologize!
post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 
No problem!
post #6 of 27
post #7 of 27
Antibiotics can help treat or prevent bacterial infections in a kitty with a low white cell count
post #8 of 27
I just went through and read all the info on all those pages and got conflicting information! One says bacterial infections are when WBC are high, and the other one says to treat when the WBC are low.... So I would stick with one site or the other!! Because my brain hurts after reading all of them!!
post #9 of 27
Ummm...guess I've caused mass confusion here, huh? Should we try and start this thread again??
post #10 of 27
I think what this really says is that there IS a lot of conflicting information out there. However, I do think that your vet is being a bit dismissive in saying that low WBC is only indicative of distemper.

Here's a good overview article on FPV:

Here is a pretty good description of the symptoms of feline distemper or panleukopenia from :
The symptoms of panleukopenia can be very mild or quite serious. The lethal action of the panleukopenia virus is its attack and destruction of the defensive white cells of the blood. No other disease causes the extent of white blood cell loss, as does panleukopenia. The virus attacks all tissues that grow rapidly. Thus, in severe cases, the lining of the digestive system, the bone marrow, lymphatic tissue and developing brains of kittens are all destroyed to some degree. Intestinal tract damage results in the drooling, vomiting and diarrhea seen with this disease.

White cells called neutrophils are responsible for protecting cats against bacterial disease. Without them cats becomes very susceptible to secondary bacterial infections. The first sign that the cat is ill is often a sudden lack or appetite and listlessness. Symptoms begin so suddenly that owners may suspect their cat has been poisoned. This is followed in 3-4 days by undulating high fevers, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. Vomiting and diarrhea quickly deplete the cat’s body of water. Their skin assumes a clay-like consistency and does not spring back as it should when pinched. Erosions in the lining of the small intestine may cause the diarrhea to be bloody. These cats often assume a typical dejected “hound dog” stance over their water or food bowl where they remain for long periods. Some cats die within a few days. Others linger on but die during the next ten days. Cats may have several fever spikes during which their temperature reaches 106F. Cats whose body temperature drops to less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit do not survive. These terminal cats are semi-comatose and may exhibit convulsions. Cats that survive the first week of infection will often recover over the following month.
From what I know of this disease, you wouldn't have waited a month before taking your kitty to the vet if she had FPV - it gets REAL serious, real FAST! It's a lot more than just a loss of appetite, it's lethargy, a really high fever, depression (i.e. no interest in anything ), and it's something that a caring cat owner wouldn't dismiss. The only thing that really corroborates with what your vet said is the low WBC, but his treatment doesn't jive with the FPV diagnosis either. Antibiotics seems to be a natural progression, because even if the original cause is a virus, the low WBC would mean that the body is lacking the natural defenses to bacteria.

I've probably just added to the confusion here. Sorry! But there's a lot that your vet said that doesn't make sense to me either.
post #11 of 27
I hate to say it, but I thought the low WBC count could be indicative of FIP. (There is both a dry and wet form of the disease.) If this is the case, there are some ways to treat your cat. I am attaching a few websites for you to read. Dr. Addies website is great. Assuming your kitty had a full blood panel, what did her albumin levels, globulin levels and her A:G ratio or total protein look like? Did her hematocrit show her as being anemic?
From what I have read, corticosteroids along with interferon treatment may be successful. Keep us updated on what you find out from you vet. Healing to your baby.
post #12 of 27
Originally Posted by glitch View Post
I just went through and read all the info on all those pages and got conflicting information! One says bacterial infections are when WBC are high, and the other one says to treat when the WBC are low.... So I would stick with one site or the other!! Because my brain hurts after reading all of them!!
when a healthy body gets an infection the white blood cell count goes up. It's these cells that fight off the infection.
If the WBC is already low it means that the body is unhealthy (usually an underlying cause) and cannot fight infection off on it's own.

Sometimes vets will give antibiotics to ensure that the kitty doesn't get sick from anything else while the WBC is low since the immune system is compromised in this state.

Low WBC could be anything, really. If it was distemper it would have progressed very rapidly and I doubt your kitty would still be here.

Maybe it's time for a second opinion?
post #13 of 27
I agree on the second opinion! He did leave alot of loose ends there! There could be alot more going on than than... I think that distemper would have procably taken over by now... I lose my Kitten (that was her name) to distemper, she got sick one day, she was dead the next...

There is alot of people on here that know alot of stuff, if you get confused Im sure anyone would be willing to help you out the best we can!!

post #14 of 27
When Yoshi got sick last may they thought he had Fip. I said he cant he has never been out or anything. It turned out to be Kidney Stones. My Husbnads Dog had Distemper and he died fast from it. I think you need a 2nd opinion.
post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all the responses. I agree with everyone's comments about the distemper. My reading indicates that it progresses rapidly, and my cat probably wouldn't still be with me if that is what it is.

The FIP information was very interesting. She has had ALOT of eye problems over the past year, which is indicative of the dry form of FIP. However, she is not an outdoor cat and is not around any other cats, so I don't know how she would have contracted the disease.

I looked into feline leukemia, as well, but ran into the same problems as FIP in terms of exposure.

It's really a mystery to me at this point. But, needless to say I am more than worried at this point!

Again, I really appreciate all of your responses and I am still open to any other thoughts on the low white blood cell count.
post #16 of 27
My Willow died from FIP (confirmed via necropsy--FIP is nearly impossible to confirm when they are still alive). I adopted her when she was almost a year old from a reputable shelter. I had her for 8 years, and except for occasional bouts of cystitis and a very small kidney stone, she was healthy. She was indoor only and only went out on a harness occasionally. I have no idea when or how she was exposed--she could have had the virus sitting dormant in her body when I got her, or one of the other cats she and I lived with could have been a carrier that never showed symptoms. With FIP, there are far more unknowns than there are known facts.
post #17 of 27
Thread Starter 
Anyone who has had any experiences with FIP? What are the symptoms that you've personally experienced. I've read the research, but it would be helpful to hear "real" accounts!
post #18 of 27
The low WBC may just be incidental, and not something that needs to be treated. My Spooky lived her entire life with a mildly depressed WBC. The inappetence issue is what needs to be addressed. Not eating can cause a real problem with hepatic lipidosis. The blood tests on your kitty showed normal liver function, so at this point, HL isn't a problem. However, you need to make sure she keeps eating to prevent HL from happening. If you are real concerned about the low WBC, I would suggest finding another vet for a second opinion. Getting a second opinion is never a bad thing. Sometimes, another perspective on the problem is all that's needed to figure it out. Good luck to you and your kitty!
post #19 of 27
With Willow, it started as not eating as much, and quickly became not eating at all. I took her to the vet when she was eating less, and I told the vet that she was sick. At that point, her coat was still good, and she looked good overall, but I knew something was wrong. We did blood work, which showed mostly normal values, but her total protein and globulin levels were high, and her albumin levels were low. I syringe fed her when she stopped eating. The vet suggested an ultrasound, which along with the biospsies they took during the ultrasound showed pyogranulomatous lymphadentitis. Because FIP is thought to mostly occur in kittens and senior cats, no one thought it was possible that my nine year old cat had FIP--the ultrasound report even commented that she was "not of the typical age"--so we continued to run tests to rule out other conditions. Since she wouldn't eat on her own and trying to syringe feed her was causing too much stress, I had a feeding tube inserted. I was able to feed her while she slept--which she did a lot of the time as she got worse. She still purred and let me hold her, but she was obviously ill. When she got worse, she ended up with fluid on her lungs. Her symptoms were pretty non-specific (not eating, lethargy), but the blood test results of a low albumin to globulin ratio and high protein is often (though not always) an indicator of FIP. Other viruses might also cause a low white blood cell count--Willow's condition didn't cause her WBC to drop until she had been sick for a couple of weeks, and at that point, she was anemic too. In Willow's case, only the lymphocytes were low.

I wasn't ready to let her go, but when I came home one night, I knew it was time. I had the necropsy performed with samples sent out to one of the university labs that can test for FIP via PCR. The lab tests confirmed that's what she had. I have no idea when she was exposed--it could have been through one of the other cats we lived with (my roommate's cat, Spot--a stray, or Odo--a shelter cat) or she could have had it since before I had adopted her, eight years ago.

Has the vet looked for other possible causes? You might see whether there is any sign of dental disease or issues that could potentially be causing the lack of appetite. Does she show any signs of wanting to eat but then backing away? That could be a sign of nausea or pain in the mouth. While FIP is a possibility, it can't be officially diagnosed without excluding other possible causes, most of which are more treatable.

Foodwise, do you have a Trader Joe's near you? They have tuna with vitamins added specifically for cats. Solid Gold also has a really good tuna blend. Have you tried different types of Fancy Feast? We're in the process of switching my mom's cat from the tuna to Fancy Feast right now--she also wasn't eating well, but her issues are due to kidney failure and hyperthyroidism.

Antibiotics may be worth a try, even if you don't know what you're treating. When I adopted Zek, my boyfriend insisted on bloodwork to ensure that he was healthy. We found he had a high white cell count that increased on repeated bloodwork. The vet and I decided on a course of Clavamox just in case, even though none of his other blood tests showed any signs of problems. I just heard back a few minutes ago that apparently the Clavamox worked and knocked out an infection somewhere in his body, because his results are now normal. While I usually avoid potentially unnecessary antibiotics, in his case they were able to help even though we couldn't pinpoint the source of the infection.

I wish you the best, and feel free to ask more questions if you need me to clarify.
post #20 of 27
I really think a second vet opinion is in order, and that more testing needs to be done. At the very least, she needs follow-up blood work inside of a month.

A low white blood cell count CAN be indicative of an infection, thus the conflicting information. Apart from distemper or infection, it can be indicative of FIP, bone marrow cancer, and an autoimmune disease. It seems to me that further tests are necessary, and if you can locate a feline specialist in your area, that would be the best idea.

The not eating is of GREAT concern. When our Tuxedo developed an autoimmune disease, not eating was one of the later stages of the development of the disease. We'd put the food bowl in front of him, and he'd just stand there. Our (second opinion) vet told us to feed him ANYTHING we could get hiim to eat. Shrimp was what we could get him to eat. Tuna, Shrimp - it doesn't matter if it's not the best food for kitty, she MUST eat - and if she won't eat, at some point you're going to have to consider force-feeding her.

Before you get to that point, try baby food. Beechnut or Gerber - the meat baby foods. Try Chicken first. Then Beef. Then Veal. Cats have trouble digesting ham, but if she'll eat it, feed it to her. I'd also consider boiling a chicken (with nothing but water and chicken in it), and feeding her both the cool broth and small bits of chicken.

If it is FIP, there are things you can do to make her time with you more comfortable. The disease may have been dormant in her since you've had her - it may not even be an issue of how she was exposed to it. Could have been to another cat while at a shelter, or a problem at the breeder's (this has happened) - or she was born with it from a mother carrying the disease.

We almost lost our kitty twice to the autoimmune disease that affected him, and our first vet told his his symptoms were nothing to worry about. If we hadn't gotten a second opinion, he'd be dead. Please see another vet!

post #21 of 27
From what I understand of FIP, it is a mutated form of the Feline Enteric Corona Virus (FeCoV) which is very common amongst cats, though benign in nature. It is unclear, but genetics and a cat's immune response seem to play apart in the mutation of the virus. (Meaning that your cat may have been infected with FeCoV as a kitten, but only recently has the virus mutated into what is called FIP.) The mutated virus has the ability invade and grow in certain white blood cells. Because of this, the immune system reacts by creating a severe inflammatory response.
If you do receive a diagnosis of FIP, the vet might place your cat on corticosteroids and begin a series of Interferon injections. (It's a cycle of 7 days on, 7 days off for a period of months.) The purpose of this procedure is two-fold. The steroids knock out his own immune response, and the interferon restarts the immune system with a healthier response.
If you do have another cat in your house, it is critical that litterboxes, bowls, etc, are cleaned regularly with a diluted bleach solution.
Again, did your vet perform a chemistry panel? If so, it is important that you look at the albumin, globulin, and total protein levels. Please keep us updated!
post #22 of 27
Arg! More FIP!!

Anyways, Glitch died of FIP Nov16th. He started out with what looked to be just a cold, that graduated into anemia as well as a cold, that developed into lethargy, and so on and so forth! The ending stage was a belly full of fluid and shaking, not being able to walk, jump, eat, drink or do anything. I would have all the tests done you can! Figure out if it could be something else! Mine seemed to be fine up until one day he was put under stress, and all the cold we thought he had turned into something else! I have him in the "crossing the bridge" forum under "My baby Boy lost his fight to FIP"
he is also under the health forum under "My cat has FIP how do I comfort him?"
Keep in mind the thread is detailed and will make you cry....

Good luck to you, please keep us updated!
post #23 of 27
I just lost my babies to suspected FIP.

The sad fact is that 95% of all cats carry the corona virus, but most will never develop FIP. The way it seems to work is that the carried virus can mutate in the body during times of stress and usually in weaker cats, senior or baby being the norm but it can happen to any cat with a weakened immune system in times of stress.

I don't have any experience with the dry form of FIP but the wet form is usually diagnosed by the following symptoms...

low albumin
elevated biliruben
low white blood cell count
high, persistent fever that doesn't respond to antibiotics
dehydration (kitty drinking more water than usual)
lack of appetite
lethargy (more frequent sleeping)
and towards the final stages, accumulated fluid in the stomach or chest cavity.

In both my babies situations, the vets' initially thought they had upper respiratory infections at first.

... that's all I can think of right now. FIP is really not that common though, I pray it's something else but honestly at this point I think it would be premature to assume that it is anything.
kitty needs blood work and other tests, I hope you find a good vet to take kitty to.
post #24 of 27
I also pray it isn't FIP. The main thing with FIP is there isn't a set list of symptoms that describe it, it affects each cat in a different way, as it is their systems response to it - my cat just cried in pain when picked up, my neighbours cat had sickness and diarrhea.
post #25 of 27
that's true, both of my babies had different symptoms and it eventually manifested differently in each.

basically the vet will test for everything else... to narrow it down. The only way to know for sure is to do a necropsy.
post #26 of 27

My cat is also going through this, not eating, throwing up yellow liquids, etc.


- I used over the counter children's piedialite with a baby bottle to hydrate her and then baked chicken thighs (dark meat) and she started eating again - tuna is actually not good high in toxins.


I started with chicken baby food (no other ingredients) and used my finger to put little bits into her mouth to get her to start eating and then the baked the next day - she now eats.


I also gave her an antibiotic to fight inflammation for 7 days - she is better.  She then had an ultrasound:


She either has (had) infection, IBD or the worst case cancer to be checked.


Hope that helps you.

post #27 of 27
Please note that FIP and distemper are 2 entirely different diseases. FIP is Feline Infectious Peritonitis. Distemper is a common name for Panleukopenia. Different causes, different sypmtoms.

FIP is almost always fatal - and there are 2 forms - wet and dry. Wet forms just kills faster. There is no way to prevent FIP with any type of vaccine. It actually probably developes from another virus that almost all cats (other than bred pure-bred cats) come in contact with. Is is the corona virus. So any cat is potentially a carrier of this virus and in some rare cases, the theory is it developes/changes to the lethal FIP.

Panleukopenia is actually feline parvo in a sense. It is a virus very related to the canine parvo. It is hard to treat and the outcome is generally poor. There is no cure for it. Supportive treatment is the only way to save a kitten with this. However there is a vaccine for this. The annual FVRCP should prevent this disease. The "P' in this vaccine is for this conidition. In kittens, there is a series of 2-4 FVRCP vaccines that should be given 15-20 days apart to create the immunity. Kittens can get it even if they have had one of the vaccines. The incubation from exposure until symptoms is 3-10 days. However, I am not sure this is true. I have a kitten I am fostering and have had for over 2 weeks and she just got sick on Sunday with vmoiting and no appetitie and fever. She is at the vet now getting IV fluids and antibiotics and they suspect Panleukopenia. She has had her first vaccine 2 weeks ago. The only thing I can think is it is in the environment somehow. She is in a separate room from any other cats and non of the other fosters have any signs and have all been vaccinated, never go outside, etc. I have fostered for years and this is the first suspected case for me. So I am baffled and hope it is something else. I read it is hard to get out of the environment completely and can live up to a year. I just mopped the room with bleach and will go back now and wash everything with bleach in the laundry. I pray this kitten survives as she is the sweetest and cutest little girl and someone is interested in adopting her.

I hope this info is helpful.
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