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Possible Kitten Care Emergency (Advice/Info Needed)

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I am not a cat owner, but I am posting here on the behalf of a long-distance friend I am trying to help. This specific issue regards the extreme health problems of a litter of recently-born kittens in her family's possession. I figured someone here might be very knowledgeable on the topic of feline health and diseases and might be able to help by giving advice or information.

The mother, Lucy, is over one year old and nearly three weeks ago gave birth to a litter of four. The litter is Lucy's first. Unfortunately, around two weeks after birth one of the kittens began to degrade relatively quickly and died just this last Saturday. Another apparently exhibiting the same symptoms died yesterday, and another today. There is now only one left and she is deeply concerned that the fourth may die as well.

It seemed that prior to death the kittens displayed lethargy, reduced appetite, labored breathing, dilated pupils, and possible (but unmeasured) weight loss. At the time of death, the kittens screeched/meowed in pain, convulsed, seemed to be having difficulties breathing, and died after roughly fifteen minutes.

It should be noted that the kittens were all inadvertently exposed to fleas and had many of them up till death. The remaining one and the mother still do.

As I am not a veterinarian and have only done some basic reading on cat diseases in this time, I cannot properly diagnose or recommend treatment. I have suggested to my friend that she try to the best of her ability to get the remaining kitten to a vet, but this may be difficult due to financial problems. If anyone can suggest care alternatives (such as getting rid of fleas on the nursing queen and kitten) or can arrive at a potential diagnosis from the list of symptoms, it would be greatly appreciated. Any little bit can help. Thank you.
post #2 of 10
My first thought was Panleukopenia, which can kill off a litter quickley since their systems are so fragile and underdeveloped.

Other possibility is the fleas. That can drain the blood from such tiny bodies very fast.

Also has the mother been tested for FeLV and FIV?? I assume this was an accidental litter and hopefully her last and only litter.
post #3 of 10
Alot of people on here use Dawn dish soap. They use a flea comb, or a comb similar. Do not bath the cat or kitten, just a little bit of soap, and warm water on the comb, and comb them out.
I heard it worked great.
I would say the vet has some products that can be used, but like you said money is an issue here. So that probably wouldnt work.
Good luck though. I dont really have any help regarding the illness, unless they have that many fleas??

I have a sick kitten right now, but its a upper respiratory infection, and she is breathing just like a congested human, so that doesnt sound like what you have describe..

Hope they get well
post #4 of 10
At the shelter I worked at we had an enormous amount of kittens wiped out from panleuk and I believe the symptoms are the same. I also am thinking it cannot be specifically tested for but I could be wrong about that.

Take good care of that one and make sure she mother is tested, spayed and vaccinated asap when the baby is grown.
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
After doing a quick lookup on Panleukopenia, I'm uncertain as to whether or not that's it. She states that they do not seem to have had problems with vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or skin elasticity (reading off the list of symptoms from Wikipedia's entry on the disease).

I'm thinking it may be from the fleas. Could getting rid of the fleas help save the remaining kitten, or is it already too late?

Also, it does not seem certain that the mother was tested for FeLV and FIV. It was an accidental litter.
post #6 of 10
It sounds like feline distemper, but really it could be anything, genetic problems, heart problems, fleas, parasites, kittens are very fragile. The kittens could have been exposed to some sort of poison, or the mom cat was and passed it to the kittens. Though fleas are not known to cause convulsions. It could be a combination of different things as well. Your friend would be wise to get the surviving kitten to the vet immediately or face losing that kitten as well. Please also suggest she get momcat spayed as soon as possible.
post #7 of 10
Isn't distemper and Panleuk the same thing? Or am I mixing things up?
post #8 of 10
As none of us are in fact vets, it would be foolish for any of us to try to diagnose the problems in these kittens. However ...

The way I understand it is that there are two separate issues which may or may not be related ... first, you have very young kittens with a still-developing immune system who are infested with blood sucking parasites -- moderate to severe flea infestation (and subsequent loss of blood from those fleas constantly feeding) lowers the total blood cell count, but most importantly here, the white blood cell count. White blood cells are the ones that carry immunity to all of the other systems of the body. So, now you have very young kittens whose immune systems are still developing become even further compromised due to a lower-than-optimal white blood count. Now, viruses can attack and in these immune-supressed kittens, there are little to no resources left to fight whatever is attacking. In this case, and based only on what you've told us of the kittens symptoms my guess is that it is an attack by panleukopenia directly on the blood/lymphatic system. When Panleuk attacks directly in the blood, the symptoms may be different from when it attacks the gastrointestinal or nervous system which are the other two systems it seems to target.

You can only improve this kitten's chances if you can 1) remove the fleas and 2) increase the WBC. Know right now that even if you succeed at doing both, there are no guarantees this kitten will survive.

To remove the fleas:

Separate the kitten from it's Mother and isolate Mom until she can be treated as well. Make sure all bedding or other nesting materials are put into a securely sealed plastic bag or plastic storage tote and taken completely out of the house. Do not reuse the bedding, the plastic bag or the plastic tote if used. Get a bowl of hot water and add a drop or two of Dawn dishwashing liquid detergent. Swish it around to make a very thin layer of suds on the top of the water. Get plenty of papertowels and a fine tooth comb -- a lice nit comb is perfect on small kittens. With a DRY comb, run the teeth over the kittens and physically remove the fleas, quickly dip the comb in the soapy water, completely submersing it. Swish it around to dislodge all of the insects. Thoroughly DRY the comb with a clean paper towel each time (seal used paper towels into a plastic zip-lock type bag until you are ready to dispose of them away from the house) and repeat until there is no sign of fleas at all on the baby.

Repeat this process with the Mother cat and do not place the kitten back in with her until both have been treated, the bedding completely replaced and surrounding areas thoroughly vacuumed or mopped and dry.

If Mom is still attempting to nurse this baby and if baby is taking milk from her, there are food additives or supplements which can be given to Mom to boost the kitten's immune system. Ask your vet if they are recommended for lactating queens and if so, then look for them in the food/vitamins/nutritional supplements area of your local Petsmart or other pet-related store and start Mom on them ASAP.

I think it needs to be said that you should emotionally prepare yourself to lose this baby. With the possible exception of a blood transfusion, there is really nothing a vet can do for her except to provide supportive care and even then, there are no guarantees in one so very young.
post #9 of 10
Originally Posted by Jen
Isn't distemper and Panleuk the same thing? Or am I mixing things up?
Yes, they are the same. A lot of people, vets included, commonly but mistakenly refer to panleuk as distemper ... cats do not get distemper. They get panleukopenia.
post #10 of 10
Originally Posted by DefyReality
Also, it does not seem certain that the mother was tested for FeLV and FIV. It was an accidental litter.
When cats mate outdoors to strays of unknown origins....FELV/FIV should be a concern as they are both spread through mating. Gaye has provided great advise on getting rid of the fleas...I think your friend should also set up a spay date for her mom cat as well as an FELV/FIV test. If she needs a low cost clinic, simply go to the link in my signature for low cost clinics. It is arranged by state.

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