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Fleas Kill Cats

June 12, 2011

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7-Year-Old Cat Nearly Dies from Fleas

China, a 7-year-old female spayed domestic short-haired white cat lay passed out on a thin towel in a recycled Christmas gift basket.  Fleas ran all over her skinny, sunken sides.

“Doc, I think she had a seizure.  Then I knew something was really wrong,” said China’s mom.  Flip-flops, sport bra in purple with lime green trim and white rimmed plastic sunglasses, China’s mom looked concerned, but distracted by the beach.  “She seemed a little tired.  I knew she had too many fleas, but I never thought it was that big a deal.”

If a cat is tired, check if the gums are white, or very pale pink, this could indicate life-threatening anemia.

Pale pink, almost white mucous membranes = anemia

Doc Truli put the stethoscope to China’s chest.  Her heart fluttered and skipped beats, she could barely raise her head, her gums were nearly white.  China needed an immediate blood transfusion to save her life.

The Trouble With Cat Blood Transfusion

“Do everything you can, Doc.  I love her.  I can’t believe fleas did this to her,” said China’s mom.

What most people do not know is, there is precious little cat blood out there to buy.  Most animal blood banks do not supply cat blood.  If they do, they rarely supply cat blood components, like fresh frozen plasma.

Black and White Tuxedo Cat Domestic Shirt Hair with gold eyes sits still while his blood is drawn from the jugular vein, mixed with EDTA and preserved for immediate transfusion to a dying cat

This cat saved a life.

In this day and age, we usually obtain blood from a donor cat who is healthy, at least 10 pounds, and approximately 2 to 12 years old.  Most donor cats need a little sedative to help them relax during the few minutes it takes to draw the blood.  China’s donor, Mikey, sat like a perfect boy and did not complain at all.

Did You Know?

Cats have blood types!

They have “A,” “B,” and a rare type called “AB.”  Unlike dogs and people, all blood types in cats react against the other types.  Almost all domestic short-haired and domestic long-haired cats in the United States are type “A.”  Many purebred cats are type “B.”  Rarely, a cat is an “AB,” which means their blood will reject either an “A” or a “B” transfusion.

China’s Transfusion is Just in Time

The blood pressure goes down really low when anemia and heart failure start to set in. Placing the intravenous catheter almost eluded Doc Truli.  There’s a knack to setting the catheter just right, and there’s no way China was getting her blood transfusion without intravenous access.

Mikey donated blood.  Doc started the transfusion.  After 15 minutes, China’s breathing evened out and her

Tired white kitty looks up from her blanket

I'm back from the dead!

Her eyes opened.  The nurses and Doc Truli were so excited!  “She’s starting to come around!”  China received her transfusion slowly over 2 hours.  A full unit transfusion usually takes 4 hours of slow blood replacement.

Did You Know?

A full unit blood transfusion (the size a medium to large dog needs) takes about 4 hours from start to finish.

Doc Truli’s Favorite Sign of a Successful Transfusion

About 2 hours after her transfusion, China looked restless and irritated.  After all, she’d been sick for days.  She did not have anything to eat or drink for a long time.  Doc Truli placed a dish of canned cat food in front of China./  She ate the whole thing!  A patient eating after a harrowing illness is Doc’s favorite sign of recovery.

“I love seeing a kitten, puppy, cat, or old dog enjoying their food after an illness that took away their appetite.  It’s so life-affirming,” says Doc Truli.

Flea Bite Anemia Aftercare

  • Get rid of all fleas
    • IGR – Insect-growth regulator home and yard products.  Many are poisonous, so follow the label instructions carefully
    • Hire an exterminator
    • A slow old-fashioned method to get rid of fleas is sprinkling Boric Acid Powder and leaving it down on the floor for 2 weeks.  Best with carpets with underlayment you cannot get to with sprays or poisons.  Safe for kids, birds, tropical fish, cats and dogs.
  • Have your veterinarian test your cat for Bartonella, the cause of cat scratch fever in humans.
    • You can acquire a devastating, potentially chronic disease called bartonellosis from the bite or scratch of a bartonella-infected cat.  The cat gets the infection from fleas.
  • Watch for Tapeworms.  Cats get tapeworms from eating an infected flea.  Tapeworms are intestinal parasites and intermittent shedders in the feces.  They look like tiny white rice-like segments moving out of the cat’s anus or dried up on the sleeping areas or stuck on the fur.
Tru Tip
Go to the vet for tapeworm medication.  OTC meds like piperazine do not treat tapeworms and Doc Truli sees cats poisoned by piperazine OTC.  The cat has two weeks of seizures and muscle tremors that are debilitating, and may die without treatment.


University of Pennsylvania Blood Group Typing Information

Bartonellosis Information

Tapeworms in Cats

12 Comments leave one →
  1. marco permalink
    September 17, 2015 11:27 pm

    I buried my cat last Friday due to fleas and I did not know. I miss my Lynx.

  2. Amy Evens permalink
    July 22, 2014 2:58 pm

    I wish I read this story a few weeks ago, it could have saved my cat. We buried him yesterday under the apple tree. I have learned my lesson regarding fleas, and my pets. I have flea bombed my house twice and yet I still found a flea on my leg today. What to do?

    • Amy Evens permalink
      July 22, 2014 2:59 pm

      I have a friend who owns a pet supply store, I am going to ask him to spread the word.

    • July 22, 2014 8:29 pm

      I’m so sorry you lost your kitty due to fleas.

      You need flea products that contain “IGR” – insect growth regulator. It usually takes 3 months of concerted effort to break the flea life cycle.

      -Doc Truli

  3. June 13, 2011 10:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing this great story, Doc Truli. Saving a life is a very special moment. I’m sure China’s mom is very happy.

    Bart in Pennsylvania

  4. June 12, 2011 4:02 pm

    Your bartonella link is the wrong one. It’s the cat blood type link again.

    • June 13, 2011 2:32 pm

      Thanks Sharon. Fixed it.


  5. June 12, 2011 2:04 pm

    Amazing post! Your personal experience really explained what flea caused anemia is like and also recommending Bartonella testing and talking about OTC dewormers etc so readers become more educated is important, too. I am going to share this on Twitter and FB!

    • June 13, 2011 2:33 pm

      Thank you, Teri!
      Get the information out, so more cats can avoid this preventable tragedy.
      -Doc Truli


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