Mimi is a 2 year old spayed female cat that was presented for a several day history of acting oddly. Her owners noticed that she had been hiding more, cried when picked up, and had a dull hair coat. She was eating and drinking normally.
Mimi is an indoor only cat, with no previous history of medical problems, no history of toxin exposure or trauma. On presentation, Mimi’s physical exam was unremarkable, aside from pale mucus membranes. X-rays were taken and blood work was done. X-rays were done and were largely unremarkable, except for an enlarged gall bladder.
Bloodwork showed a non-regenerative anemia, meaning she had a very low red blood cell count, with no evidence that her body was producing more red blood cells. No other abnormalities were noted. A blood sample was submitted for review by a pathologist and showed no abnormalities in the size or shape of her blood cells and an abdominal ultrasound was performed and showed no abnormalities.
A non-regenerative anemia in animals is can be caused by many things including blood or intestinal parasites, chronic diseases such as cancers or autoimmune diseases, systemic disease such as kidney disease, or bone marrow disease.
Mimi was started on empirical treatment with systemic steroids and antibiotics in an attempt to treat any blood parasites or systemic causes of the anemia.
At this point it had been 5 days since Mimi’s initial presentation, and she continued to worsen at home. She was brought in for a recheck exam, and an in-house test showed that her red blood cell count was significantly lower.
Mimi was referred to an internal medicine specialist, where she had 2 blood transfusions and bone marrow biopsy. The bone marrow biopsy showed that her body lacked the precursor cells that make red blood cells, and she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
Mimi was started on high doses of steroids to suppress her immune system, and she began improving. Recheck bloodwork was done every 2-3 weeks that showed that Mimi had slowly started making red blood cells again. Over the past several months, we have been slowly tapering Mimi off of the steroids and she is back to her normal self.
We still do not know what caused Mimi to stop producing red blood cells. Unfortunately this is a common problem when diagnosing and treating non-regenerative anemias. Often times, cats with these problems require a number of diagnostics tests and expensive treatments, but the outcome of successful treatment can be very rewarding for the animals and their owners.