Sharka's Misadventure - garden bark causes intestinal blockage

Sharka the 6 year old Ragdoll cat was presented to us because his owners had noted that he was lethargic at home and was eating and drinking less than normal. When he was examined by Dr. Andrea the only abnormality that was seen was he showed he was uncomfortable when she palpated his belly and began licking his lips which in cats indicates nausea. Sharka was treated symptomatically as his owner felt that he was starting to look better. He was fed a bland diet that would be gentle on his tummy and easy to digest.

After 2 days his owner was concerned as Sharka was still not interested in eating. When he was examined it was found that Sharka was still quite lethargic and now he was dehydrated. Dr Andrea admitted Sharka to hospital so that we could perform a blood test as well as putting him on an intravenous fluid drip. As he had not been eating or drinking the intravenous fluid drip would rehydrate him and replace any electrolytes that he may be deficient in. His blood test indicated that he was in fact dehydrated and his white blood cell count was elevated which indicated that he had an infection somewhere. Dr Andrea administered antibiotics to Sharka to help him with the infection.

Overnight Sharka had started to vomit so an x-ray was taken of his abdomen in case we could see any abnormalities that might cause him to be sick. The x-rays showed that there was gas in his intestines which is an abnormality in cats. Dr Andrea gave Sharka some barium which is a radio opaque die that coats the stomach and intestines and can be seen on the x-ray. Barium can highlight if there are any blockages or disturbances in Sharka's intestines. Another x-ray was taken 3 hours after Sharka had been administered the barium and they showed that the barium was moving from his stomach and into his intestines. So Dr Andrea was confident that Sharka did not have an obstruction in his stomach but she was still puzzled as to why Sharka was still not improving.

The next morning Sharka had again vomited and was still not interested in food. After discussing with his owner it was decided that Sharka required exploratory laparotomy surgery. An exploratory lap is a surgery where the veterinarian opens the abdominal cavity and examines the abdominal contents. Dr Andrea performed the surgery and Nurse Janelle monitored Sharka's anaesthetic. Sharka was still on the intravenous fluid drip for surgery as this would maintain his blood pressure during his anaesthetic as well as support his kidney function by ensuring there was adequate blood flow to them. The intravenous fluids also assisted Sharka in excreting the anaesthetic drugs from his system. Sharka was also administered pain relief prior to his surgery and when he was recovering.

Dr Andrea examined the entire length of Sharka's intestines and discovered that he had a blockage in his duodenum which is a section of his small intestine. The duodenum is the first section of the small intestine and this is where the bile and pancreatic ducts lead into the intestines. The area of intestines around the blockage was very inflamed but once the blockage was removed it was expected to heal very quickly. Dr Andrea successfully managed to remove the blockage and much to our surprise the blockage turned out to be a piece of tan bark from the garden.

Sharka recovered well from his anaesthetic but did not begin to eat until the next day. He stayed in hospital for 3 more days so that Dr Andrea could ensure that his appetite had fully returned and that he was beginning to put on the weight he had lost by not eating previous to the surgery.

Since his surgery Sharka had not looked back. He has regained all his weight and when he came in for suture removal he was still happy to smooch us and say hello. His owner is thrilled to have his old Sharka back and his owner reported that Sharka is back to sitting at his front gate and greeting everyone who walks past again.