Joey the senior cat triumphs over illness with help from friends

For most of his life, Joey was a happy, healthy cat—never sick and always in charge. With nary a sniffle, the scrappy domestic short hair has lived with his owner Amanda Arrowood since he was found as a kitten in West Philadelphia. But, at the age of 13, Joey started losing weight and suffering from chronic diarrhea.

Joey the cat is examined by Kathryn McGonigle
Kathryn McGonigle listens to Joey’s heart during a physical exam. (Photo courtesy: Penn Vet)

“When he first got sick, I tried medication for worms, which didn’t help,” says Arrowood, an ICU nurse at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital. Joey also saw his regular veterinarian, who couldn’t pinpoint the problem or a solution despite efforts with diet and medication.

She brought the feline into work for a consultation with Kathryn McGonigle, an assistant professor of Small Animal Internal Medicine at Penn Vet who specializes in geriatric feline medicine.

“Our goal is to systematically rule out different causes of the clinical signs the cat is having and identify conditions we can treat,” says McGonigle. “We started with a physical exam and laboratory tests.”

McGonigle found a major clue while examining Joey. “When I felt his belly, I could feel his intestine was mildly thickened, which can be a sign of intestinal disease,” she says.

For Joey, blood work and lab tests ruled out parasites, diabetes, chronic renal disease, liver disease, and hyperthyroidism, all potential causes of diarrhea or weight loss in cats. An ultrasound confirmed abnormal intestinal changes, and Joey would need further testing to identify the cause of the thickening.

“We offered Amanda the possibility of doing a biopsy, which would tell us precisely what was going on to best guide therapy,” McGonigle explains. “This path was not elected, not an uncommon choice with many pet owners. However, we had so much information already, we could pursue empiric treatment of intestinal disease with confidence. We looked at treatment options for the most common forms of the disease and began with the least disruptive approaches.”

Read more at Penn Vet News.