What can I expect from my kitten's hospitalization?
November 3, 2007 8:26 PM   Subscribe

My 12-week-old kitten might have coccidia. He is in the animal hospital now. What can I expect?

Coal is the cutest, sweetest kitten I've ever met. Everyone who's met him has fallen in love with him (even the vet techs!).

I've had him since Monday. I know, a short time!

I spent most of the day yesterday at home with him, instead of going into the office. I noticed he hadn't been eating his dry cat food, but I thought it was due to the Upper Respiratory Infection he'd been diagnosed with earlier in the day. I planned to go and get some wet food on my way back from a wedding that night.

I came home from the wedding and found that he had some very bad diarrhea in the living room (way outside his litter box in the bathroom, which he had been using consistently all week). I cleaned it up, called the vet, and left a message. Then he had more diarrhea but this was a milky yellow and had blood in it. Needless to say I rushed him straight to the vet ER.

They didn't diagnose him with anything; rather they treated him for dehydration and gave him a little food. They released him to me and told me to take him to the Anti Cruelty Society (where I adopted him) today.

The vet at ACS told me that it's probably coccidia, though the 2 fecal tests have come up negative. The vet will keep Coal in the hospital to treat his URI and the coccidia. He was very nice and understanding, but I was kind of in a fog so I didn't ask all the questions I should have!

Coal will be in the hospital until Tuesday at the earliest. I am allowed to visit him between 10-4 every day, and I definitley plan to do so. Unfortunately, I have a lot of questions I just didn't ask the vet this morning, since I was kind of in shock (this is my first PET!). The vet was very nice, very caring, but is now off for the next two days; he didn't give me the contact information for the individual filling in for him.

So, I ask you, Metafilter: What can I expect from his treatment? What is an animal hospital like (on the inside)? What are good signs to look for tomorrow when I visit him? Is there any chance he could die?

I thank you all for your time and advice - I am just a worried, first-time cat owner!
posted by MeetMegan to Pets & Animals (5 answers total)
I've had many cats, but haven't had any personal experience with this particular type of problem. This site says it's relatively common:
We do not have any medicine that will kill coccidia; only the patient’s immune system can do that. But we can give medicines called “coccidiostats” which can inhibit coccidial reproduction. Once the numbers stop expanding, it is easier for the patient’s immune system to “catch up” and wipe the infection out. This also means, though, that the time it takes to clear the infection depends on how many coccidia organisms there are to start with and how strong the patient’s immune system is. A typical treatment course lasts about a week or two but it is important to realize that the medication should be given until the diarrhea resolves plus an extra couple of days. Medication should be given for at least five days total. Sometimes courses as long as a month are needed.
And Coal is a gorgeous kitten. I'm sure the two of you will have a wonderful life together.
posted by icebourg at 8:36 PM on November 3, 2007

Best answer: Poor Coal. You have done the right thing in seeking veterinary help for Coal so early on.

If the vet has tested for Coccidia and two tests have not shown it to be present, then he may not have it. But the vet is right to treat for it anyway, as in kittens who have less well developed immune systems to adult cats, it can be a serious conditon.

The diarrhea might be caused by other parasites. Often kittens are a haven for worms. Sometimes the stress of coming to a new home can cause an outbreak of coccidia. Coal is in the best place at the animal hospital for supportive therapies to treat his URI and also his diarrhea. Vets will tend to look for common things first, which makes sense before embarking on a raft of tests for other conditions that may be causing symptoms, coccidia (especially in rescue kittens) falls into the common things category.

A good animal hospital should be immaculately clean, have secure, easy clean, individual housing for each animal. Each animal should have access to appropriate food and liquids and very importantly, each animal must be clearly identified with a record attached to the housing. The staff should be polite, clean and attentive to the needs of the animals in their care. Sloppy/rude attitudes from staff are not going to inspire confidence. Staff should be happy to answer your questions and if they can't, they should be happy to refer you to someone who can.

Write down your questions for the vet ready for your next visit. Ask for contact names, sometimes a veterinary nurse or vet tech may be more contactable and be able to update you on Coal's progress as they will have more contact with the patient than the vet. If at any time you aren't happy with the care/treatment Coal is receiving, and no one listens to/attempts to resolve your concerns, then you are quite within your rights to find another vet.

When Coal comes home, be prepared to nurse him for a while. Make sure that you get Coal sorted with his vaccinations and fix yourself up with a regular cat vet to look after him in the long term.

As a first time cat owner, arm yourself with a good cat care book. Ask your vet to recommend one.

Good luck to you and the very sweet Coal!
posted by Arqa at 4:51 AM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

what they said. also, good luck to coal!
posted by rmd1023 at 7:27 AM on November 4, 2007

Best answer: Coccidia is detected by spores in the cat's poop. The vet (or a tech) smears a fecal sample on a slide and looks for the spores. If the kitten has been infected awhile, there might be fewer spores currently visible in the poop, which makes it harder to detect. Even a well-trained eye can miss something if it's relatively rare in the sample. It's easy to treat, and it's common in stray cats, as Arqa mentioned, so it's high on the list of things to look for when a kitten is having diarrhea.

If it is coccidia, the outlook is very good. I adopted a cat (and her 5 kittens, before adopting them out) who were all initially infected. Two weeks of medication cleared it right up. I think it usually takes less time-- I had to get a refill of the medication. It was a liquid I squeezed down their throats a few times a day. It wasn't expensive (this was in 2001).

It sounds like it's really the diarrhea and dehydration in combination with the UTI that's warranted a stay in the hospital for Coal. And it sounds like he's in very good hands with you and with the hospital staff. So even if it isn't coccidia, and is something else, being observed by hospital staff really is the best thing at the moment.

Seconding the list of questions to bring with you. It can be difficult to remember your questions once you're in the office and experiencing the hustle and bustle of treatment. Vets are ever busy, but a good one will answer all your questions or point you to a staff person who can. I'd get the number for the reception desk when I went to visit, so that I could call if I had any questions once I got home.

Good luck.
posted by Tehanu at 10:12 PM on November 4, 2007

Response by poster: As an update, Coal came out of his hospitalization very well. I had to give him a small dosage of Amoxicillin every day for about three weeks, and his URI has completely resolved. Apparently, he will always have a bit of the coccidia in his digestive system, and at stressful times it might come out. I just have to watch out for it.

The animal hospital was extremely clean. On one of my subsequent visits I asked to see the area where Coal was housed, and it was pristine and comfortable. Steel cages with warmed blankets in the cages, no smell of cat urine, and plenty of room for him to sleep, poop, and eat. I really had a wonderful experience with the Anti-Cruelty Society and I would recommend them to anyone looking to adopt a pet in Chicago.
posted by MeetMegan at 1:03 PM on December 18, 2007

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