Note: aspects of this story are disturbing. Read with caution.
Truth really can be stranger than fiction. The other night I treated two animals in succession for precisely opposite problems. The first was starving. The second was at risk of serious complications from gluttony.
An animal control officer brought a starving cat to the hospital at about 10:00 pm. The cat’s owner had been found dead in her apartment earlier that night. The police estimated that the elderly woman had passed away from natural causes two weeks before she was found. According to the animal control officer the cat had eaten nothing in those 14 days except–I swear I am not making this up–its owner’s eyeballs.
The cat was very sweet, very dehydrated, and very emaciated. We administered IV fluids and offered easily digestible food.
While I was evaluating the unfortunate cat, another patient arrived. His name was Louie. He was a one-year-old Golden Retriever. Like the cat, he was very sweet. Unlike the cat, he was far from starving.
Louie had been visiting a friend’s house. The friend had a dog. The friend’s dog’s food was kept in a large bin. Louie had broken into the bin and eaten his fill. Or rather, much more than his fill.
Louie was suffering from a syndrome called food bloat (not to be confused with gastric dilatation and volvulus, also simply known as bloat). Food bloat is common in humans on Thanksgiving. It is common in Beagles, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers any time they have unfettered access to large quantities of food.
An X-ray of Louie’s abdomen revealed that his stomach was massively distended with food. He had taken his gluttony much further than the average American does on Thanksgiving. He had consumed at least 10 pounds of kibble. He had trouble standing and walking.
Louie also received intravenous fluids. But we certainly didn’t feed him! He was hospitalized overnight for monitoring and frequent walks to encourage him to defecate.
Fortunately, both cases ended well. But they definitely illustrate a feature of emergency medicine: you never know what will come through the door next.
Photo: Louie could seriously harm himself at this market in Turkey.
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