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Kitten who beat the odds is honoured by RVC

A brave kitten has survived an infectious disease that routinely kills affected cats rapidly, thanks to staff at the Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC’s) Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital (BSAH) in Camden.

The tiny kitten, called AJ, was stricken by feline panleukopaenia virus, which is also known as parvo virus and feline infectious enteritis.

The virus causes haemorrhagic vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as damage to the lining of the intestine. It also travels to the bone marrow and lymph glands, which causes white blood cells to be depleted. Kittens and cats with the virus often become feverish and stop eating and the disease is most often fatal.

AJ received round-the-clock care from vets and veterinary nurses at the hospital, and also veterinary students who spend time at the hospital as part of their training.  He spent a week in the hospital’s isolation ward and was under the care of around 20 team members during his stay. He was well loved by the whole team, including the dedicated reception team.

In honour of his remarkable battle against the fatal disease, the hospital team nominated him for the RVC Brave Heart Award and Head Vet Paul Pollard announced AJ as the winner. The award is given to those patients who have beaten the odds to survive or endured a long-term illness, winning the hearts of the hospital team in the process.

Commenting on AJ and his battle against the virus, BSAH veterinary surgeon Dr Anita Guo said: “AJ is such a little champ! He’s a courageous and sweet kitten that managed to survive panleukopaenia. The amazing nursing team that I work with has been instrumental to his battle as they worked 24/7 to treat him. My vet colleagues also helped with his care by sharing their experience and latest evidence on new treatments for AJ.

“He came into the BSAH a very poorly kitten – he was running a fever and not eating, weighing only 800gms. He had been recently purchased and hadn’t really had time to settle into his new loving home. He was admitted into our isolation facility for investigations as we were concerned that he had an infectious viral disease. These are most common in young unvaccinated kittens. Our in-house blood tests showed that AJ had feline parvo virus, a highly infectious disease that has a high mortality rate.”

Dr Guo added: “AJ was so poorly that he needed to be fed via a stomach tube and our dedicated nurses initially fed him every hour throughout the day. The first night he was very poorly and all the vets in the BSAH discussed his care on our internal discussion forum to discuss and agree what treatment would give him the best chance. We started him on interferon, a drug to boost his immune system, and antibiotics to help him fight any other infections he would be prone to getting due to his reduced immunity.”

Highlighting the importance of vaccination, vet Head Vet Paul Pollard said: “AJ is a sweet little kitten who, with round the clock veterinary care, managed to beat the odds and get home to his family. However, most kittens and puppies who contract this disease are not so lucky.

“AJ contracted feline parvovirus, also known as panleukopenia. This virus is highly contagious with a mortality rate of over 90 percent. It attacks the bone marrow reducing an animal’s immunity, and its intestines, causing diarrhoea. Vaccination against this disease is very effective which has reduced the incidence of the disease to very low levels.

“This is due to the vaccination protecting the kitten but also if lots of cats are vaccinated the disease cannot spread through the population due to “herd immunity”. The worry that we have is that this is the tip of the iceberg and more cats and kittens are at risk as the immunity in the cat population is reduced.”

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