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Miamiblond March 23rd, 2011 08:35 PM

Can Fleas cause low platelet and white blood cell count?
I am new to this site and writing because I am facing the decision that is SO tough for pet owners. My cat is 16 years old and has been very lethargic for a week now. (She is an indoor cat and has only been sick one time in her life, so she has had a very good life) I took her to the vet and after doing blood tests and detecting a heart murmer, we found that her kidneys and liver are working perfectly but that her platelet and white blood count were very low - her temp was low also. (He was also amazed at how healthy she appeared - teeth, etc. and couldn't believe that she was 16.)
I have had a bad infestation of fleas, she is a long haired manx, with two coats of fur, so getting rid of fleas is very hard! Mellie, my cat, is now taking Doxycycline to kill the nastiness that the fleas gave her, Benazepril for her heart and kidneys, and a vitamin that is loaded with iron. She does have a melanoma-like growth on her side, which I am pretty sure is cancerous because of the shape, black color and odd texture. The vet won't remove it yet because he wants her blood to get back to normal and told me that in older cats, cancer grows slower. So we will deal with it later. For the fleas, we gave her a Capstar and a Program shot that is supposed to last up to 6 months, and I am bombing my apartment for fleas this weekend.
She has now been on the Doxycycline 2x day, Benazepril 1x day and the liquid vitamin 2x day for almost two days but has shown little sign of improvement. She is eating - I am giving her 2 tablespoons of canned food (normally only a treat!) and adding a lot of water to the 'gravy' for her to stay hydrated, and she has been eating most of it, but drinks 2nds of the gravy, which is great. I have been feeding her three times a day and I think that she has eaten some dry food when I am at work, but not today. She hasn't used the litterbox today either.
I called the vet today because there is no improvement, and they said that it may take 24-48 hours for the meds to take effect, but am not really very optimistic.
I don't want her to suffer and will do what I have to do when the time comes, but at the same time, want to make sure that she has all the opportunities to get better. She is 16 years old, and the vet assured me that she is treatable and will live, but again, I'm just not seeing any improvement. Has anyone experienced any similar symptoms in their cat? Can fleas really cause a cat to get so sick and lethargic, and make their platelet and white blood cell count get really low? Normally I would just say that I am over reacting, but I know my girl and I know that she just does not feel good! I just wish they could talk and tell us where it hurts! It would be so much easier!

kathryn March 23rd, 2011 10:16 PM

Did they run an infectious disease profile for blood parasites? They should check for Bartonella but Doxycycline is the treatment for it anyways, and if your cat is infected you would get a false negative if you were to retest now for it since she has been on doxy.

There are a number of diseases can be spread by fleas & ticks which is why flea control is important. Most of them are uncommon and usually do not cause many problems in cats that are exposed, but in a cat that is older and already may have underlying problems, it is not totally surprising to find that a blood parasite has taken over.

Doxy has a problem with causing stomach upset. I can not take it personally because it makes me VERY sick to my stomach and quite ill.

Capstar only stays in the system about 24 hours and Program is only for ONE month, not six! Also, both are oral medications. Capstar would have been my first choice for an oral medication but I would have probably used Advantage for a topical, NOT program, but there is nothing that can be done about that now.

What kind of canned food are you using? Canned food is VERY important for cats and should never be considered to be a "treat". That would be like saying water is a treat for you.. it is totally important for proper functioning.

Are you using something like Nutrical? They make some brands for older cats with extra vitamins and minerals for them.

Sorry that your kitty isn't feeling well. But to answer most of your questions, the answer would be "yes" to almost all of them... yes fleas can cause this kind of problem.. yes I have seen stuff like this happen before..

Hope she feels better soon!

SamIam March 23rd, 2011 10:53 PM

Fleas can cause anaemia, and can even kill a cat or dog if untreated. Anaemia is a condition of overall weakness that can contribute to a whole host of other health problems that would otherwise be less significant or not present at all. This includes problems that on the surface seem completely unrelated to fleas.

If she likes canned food, let her eat as much of it as she wants. Treating dehydration I might even take away her dry food altogether, providing she is enthusiastic about the wet food to get all her calories that way.

It is good that you are keeping in close touch with your vet, because if things do not go the way they expected, your vet may want to change medications or adjust dosages. Work on those fleas, have you considered shaving her to help with that? Hope you will soon start to see some improvement.

14+kitties March 23rd, 2011 11:06 PM

[QUOTE=SamIam;996116] Work on those fleas, have you considered shaving her to help with that? Hope you will soon start to see some improvement.[/QUOTE]

Oh my dear, not so sure it's a good idea to shave an already sick cat and risk a) stressing her already overstressed system and/or b) nicking the possible cancerous growth on her side and have it possibly spread faster? A good, all around flea killer like Advantage would get rid of the fleas quickly and efficiently.
Has the vet mentioned doing subQs at all if she is dehydrated? They are easy to do. You can be taught quickly how to do it at home so she does not endure the trip to the vets all the time. Adding extra water to her canned food is great. I would try to increase the canned if possible. You could also try her on some raw liver or very lightly zapped in the microwave if she will eat it. Is the Vitamin VitaminB by chance?
Hopefully she will start coming around for you very soon. I know how hard it is to go through this. :fingerscr:pray:

SamIam March 23rd, 2011 11:27 PM

[QUOTE=14+kitties;996119]Oh my dear, not so sure it's a good idea to shave an already sick cat and risk a) stressing her already overstressed system and/or b) nicking the possible cancerous growth on her side and have it possibly spread faster? [/QUOTE]

Depends on the cat for sure. Some are quite comfortable with it, and if the cat has quite thick, matted fur, could feel quite good to get it all off, and help get rid of the hidden fleas and eggs sooner. :shrug:

kathryn March 23rd, 2011 11:40 PM

Considering that fleas don't live on HAIR they live on skin & sucking blood, I don't see how shaving a cat would be very effective :confused: Also a 16 year old cat that is already quite sickly, has numerous medical conditions and probably has never been shaved before.. that seems like a very effective way to kill a cat if anything. Even a totally hairless pet can get fleas... shaving doesn't do a thing to eliminate them, it just makes less hiding places for them, but even then you'd have to shave the cat head to toe to remove all the hiding places, and that is a good way to send the cat into shock. Even pets with little to no hair like a Chinese Crested or the Sphynx kitten I am fostering can get fleas in the right conditions..

To the OP, manually removing the fleas can help too :thumbs up If your kitty will let you, use a fine tooth comb to remove the fleas and then flush them down the toilet. Very effective. I have only had fleas in my house twice before- once when I FIRST got my cat Socks about 5 or 6 years ago, and a quick application of Frontline got rid of those.. since then only once did I accidentally bring fleas home on a foster kitten and I guess it was towards the end of the effectiveness of their flea stuff and a few of my cats picked up a couple fleas. Quickly applied Frontline again and flea combed everyone adn it was all good.

growler~GateKeeper March 24th, 2011 02:24 AM

Yes a large flea infestation can cause anaemia especially in very young/senior or immune compromised pets. The tumor itself could also be the cause of the low platelets/low wbc.

You can read more about symptoms/treatments for anaemia here: [url][/url]

You can also find some good information on cancer here: [url][/url]

:goodvibes: for fast improvement

[QUOTE=kathryn;996108]Program is only for ONE month, not six! Also, both are oral medications.[/QUOTE]

Novartis came out with an Injectable 6 month dose of Lufenuron aka Program in 1998 :)

SamIam March 24th, 2011 02:28 AM

[QUOTE=kathryn;996130]Considering that fleas don't live on HAIR they live on skin & sucking blood, I don't see how shaving a cat would be very effective[/QUOTE]

You are absolutely right Kathryn, I made such a quick mention of the possibility but I should have explained why shaving is a common component of a flea-elimination plan! Cat fleas can be very hard to get rid of because they can survive so long in the environment without any meal at all, and even longer if they have dander available, and the fecal matter from the adult fleas serves as primary food for newly hatching larvae long after the original adults may have been killed. Although the fleas favourite food is the blood of a carnivore such as a cat or dog, it is not the only food they eat, so a medication which circulates through the blood will not harm the fleas which are surviving in the cat's bedding or coat. As Miamiblond has mentioned, the completion of their extermination is not expected for a full six months! Unless the fleas are noticed immediately, once you have a flea infestation as few as 20% of them will actually be living directly off the host's blood. The flea bombs Miamiblond will be using are for the fleas that may me in the cat's bedding or throughout the apartment, but because pets (and humans!) are normally to be removed from the home when the bombs are set off, the cat's thick fur would serve as a safehouse for fleas, and easily harbour enough dander and flea feces as food to support such tiny pests, even if the coat has been kept clean and well-groomed. There are certainly advantages to shaving the cat's coat, in terms of tackling the flea problem, due to the harm the fleas themselves can do, as well as the illnesses they can transmit. Flea baths allow you to clean the coat without shaving, but most cats are intolerant of bathing. Shaving is the easiest and most effective method of removing the fleas, larvae and eggs from the coat, and many owners are surprised to find their cat tolerates or even enjoys the experience! As kathryn has stated, however, the job needs to be done by someone who is capable, and some cats are frightened by the sound of clippers so shaving is not always a viable option. In which case, as kathryn has mentioned, a flea comb can be used!:thumbs up

kathryn March 24th, 2011 10:55 AM


Novartis came out with an Injectable 6 month dose of Lufenuron aka Program in 1998 :)


[QUOTE]Product information on this website is for Non-U.S. residents only and is provided by Novartis Animal Health Inc.[/QUOTE]

It doesn't show up for me because I am in the US :o I've never heard of it as injectable before.

Miamiblond March 24th, 2011 08:16 PM

Thank you all for your opinions, suggestions, help, etc. It is very much appreciated! kathryn, I too had never heard of injectible Program flea control, I don't know why the vets don't mention it more often or why it isn't advertised! Another new thing (new to me that is) I found at Pet Supermarket is called Pill Pockets which is a soft treat that is hollow in the middle (think of an olive!) - you put the pill in the middle, squeeze the ends closed and my girl just eats them up! They are awesome and I highly recommend them for a pet that has to take daily pills.
Also, shaving her IS a total option - with her thick fur, she has been shaved at least once a year for her entire life. She is a pretty good girl when she goes to the beauty parlor, but I won't take her until/if she feels better!
Mellie has still not been herself - this morning, she went back under the bed to 'rest' and had a healthy appetite, but I had to bring it to her. Last night, after dinner she did groom herself, which is a good sign, but I am just not seeing any improvement. I called the vet again and he told me to bring her in. After looking at her test results again and going over the reasons why she is not acting herself: age, the blood issue, the medicines, and some type of parasite that is common from ticks, but he (the vet) swears that fleas can carry it too. He prescribed Prednisone to take with the Doxycycline and assured me that she will get better! I told him that I was ready and prepared to do the right thing for her if it was her time to go, and he laughed at me (in a good way)! He told me that because of her age, it takes a little longer to heal, so I should just wait at least two weeks for her blood level to get back to normal. I also have to keep a lookout for tapeworms - we didn't treat for them yet because she is taking so many meds already and wanted to make sure that she had them before treating, so I am now on poop watch!
After we left the vet, I had a talk with Mellie on the way home. I told her that while I didn't mind bringing her room service on occassion, she was going to have to start acting right again and showing a little of her old spark because she was worrying me. I told her that I was all ready to put her to sleep today and start looking for a replacement cat, but the vet talked me out of it!
You know, I think she understood because when I was fixing her dinner, she came to the kitchen to eat! And she is actually laying next to me as I am typing this... YAY! She probably didn't like the part about the replacement cat! She gets very jealous! :-)

SamIam March 24th, 2011 08:20 PM

Glad to hear she's making those first steps towards recovery!

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