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Baby Bengal with a broken back...

Monty was recently referred from a neighbouring practice for further investigation of an unknown illness causing progressive weakness and generalised pain.

Whilst most kittens are very playful and adventurous, Monty had become progressively withdrawn and rarely moved from his bed. When placed on the floor he was reluctant to move and shuffled along looking stiff and awkward. The clue to Monty's problem was his diet. His owner reported that he only ever ate raw chicken and would not eat cat-food like his housemate!  A meat-only diet has a low calcium to phosphorus ratio and prevents normal growth and development of the skeleton. The skeleton is actually slowly reabsorbed to try and maintain blood calcium levels. This eventually leads to such a weak skeleton that animals are reluctant to move properly and break their fragile bones very easily.

Some x-rays confirmed that Monty did indeed have a very fragile skeleton, severely depleted of calcium, and a pathological fracture (break) in his vertebrae (spine) and fibula.

Informative image: Bengal kitten with weak bones and a broken back

Monty could not run and play like most kittens of his age should do, becoming withdrawn and rarely moving from his bed.


Informative image: Lateral spine xray showing bones depleted of calcium

An x-ray of Monty's spine from the side showing the weak "ghost-like" bones severely depleted of calcium. The second lumbar vertebra (L2) is shorter than the ones either side and slightly angulated because it has fractured and the ends have collapsed together.

The treatment for this condition is relatively simple and involves correcting the diet, cage rest and painkillers whilst the skeleton heals. Unfortunately this was not quite so simple for Monty and he went on hunger strike, refusing to eat any type of cat-food he was offered. In the end Monty had to have a feeding tube fitted into his neck and was hospitalised for around 2 weeks whilst he got his strength and appetite back.

Before pet foods became commercially available, nutrient and vitamin deficiencies were reasonably common as it was more difficult to feed a balanced diet. Whilst feeding white chicken meat may sound natural, in reality it is not a balanced diet as in nature the whole chicken carcass would be consumed including bones, skin, some feathers and the innards. Feeding chicken meat only leads to problems with calcium metabolism as the calcium to phosphorus ratio is very low in meat only diets. In dogs, this particular nutritional bone disease used to be known as "Butcher's dog disease" but is more correctly referred to as nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism.

Nowadays we virtually all feed our pets on good quality "complete" pet-food so such diseases are extremely rare. By law, a "complete" diet has to be nutritionally balanced and contain all nutrients, vitamins and minerals essential to maintain good health.

Now, two months later he is a playful, healthy young kitten again and we are hopeful that there will be no lasting damage to his spine or joints.

Thank you to Monty's owner for allowing us to share his story. 

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