Yesterday was intense. Our cat, Parvati, has kittens – they are about 2 weeks old, eyes open now and starting to get really mobile. During the night Parvati had vomited, and when we woke up yesterday something clearly wasn’t ok with her. Her breathing was rapid, eyes dilated, and she was twitching all over, electric spasms in her muscles, and she was having trouble walking. I knew straight away what was going on – I’d seen this in quite a few dogs over the years, but never a cat.
She had Eclampsia, more commonly known as milk fever. What happens with this is that a lactating mothers calcium levels get too low because she’s putting so much out in her milk. It’s a medical emergency, and animals will die from it quite quickly if it’s not treated. I rubbed the sleep out my eyes, and trotted down to the van, where I collected everything I needed – an IV catheter, an injection site to plug into it, tape, scissors, calcium gluconate in a 10ml glass vial, my textbook to check over the dose rates, and some homeopathic remedies.
My lovelyy wife held her in a vise-like grip, and I managed (just), to get the catheter placed and taped securely to her leg. Then I very, very slowly eased 3 mls of the calcium solution into her blood stream. You have to give this very slowly to give time for it to absorb out of the blood and into the tissues – if the calcium levels get too high in the blood, it is toxic to the heart, and can cause death. As I did so, the flickering and spasming in her muscles slowly eased away, and she started looking more herself. I put a cone on her head to stop her removing her catheter, just in case I had to give her any more calcium IV.
She pretty smartly removed her cone, so I put it on again, as tightly as I could without choking her. Then she sulked, and who can blame her! I always feel awful when U need to put a cone on any animal, but especially cats. They HATE it!
The next adventure has been feeding her 6 kittens by hand for 24 hours. Finally, this morning, most of them have worked out how to suck on the cat bottle – but a couple are still spitting out this horrible rubbery tasting thing and pushing it away from their faces with their little paws for all they are worth! I think I’ve gotten as much milk onto me as has gone into a couple of the more resistant ones. Parvati has been coming in at regular intervals to clean little kitten bottoms (they need their bottoms licked to stimulate them to go to the toilet when they are small), and to sit with them, though I haven’t been able to let her suckle the kittens. Her body needs a chance to re-adjust.
I’ll let her feed them again today, and fingers crossed (with the twice daily calcium syrup I have t give her from a syringe – ad doesn’t she hate that too!) she’ll be able to feed the kits without relapsing. If she does relapse, it’ll be 4 time a day feeding kittens for me the next few weeks. I’ll be feeding them at least twice daily anyway, to take a bit fo the load off mum.
The first time I’ve ever had to bottle feed kitten in over 20 years as a vet! It’s kind of fun 🙂