Three years ago we almost lost our beloved Chloe to a cat liver fluke parasite - a rare parasite that is potentially fatal. Cat owners are familiar with common parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms. Unlike these nasty little creatures, which are easily curable, liver flukes are extremely challenging to diagnose and treat, and without a correct diagnosis and prompt treatment, may prove fatal.
Chloe is normally what we term a picky eater. Enticing her with a variety of foods is a daily, and often frustrating challenge. Thus, when Chloe became absolutely ravenous 24-7, we became suspicious. She began meowing at her food bowl 10x a day, while tearing through our trash bags (yuck) looking for any discarded tidbits she could find. She was ravenous. She was also losing weight at an alarming rate. It was obvious something was quite wrong. We scheduled a vet appointment. After a quick exam, a notation of both weight loss and Chloe’s ravenous appetite, the vet determined she had a “common” parasite. She was dewormed, and prescribed Praziquantel, used to treat tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms. Two doses failed to cure her insatiable appetite and continued weight loss. Our vet did extensive blood-work which came back negative for parasites. However, it did reveal Chloe had abnormal liver function. Thank goodness our vet was extensively trained in Chinese medicine and specialized in parasitic diseases. One of the primary reasons it was so difficult to determine what was causing Chloe’s illness, was that cat liver fluke parasites are common in Florida and Hawaii-tropical areas, not in CT! However, he suspected Chloe was infected with a liver fluke worm. He scheduled her for an MRI (In the majority of cases, this is only detectable with MRI or CT scan imaging). The vet called us into the office to show us her MRI imaging results. Let me tell you, the visual was nasty. Turn your stomach nasty. I saw the cat liver fluke parasites clear as day. It is named fluke after the fluke fish. Just as a fish has fins, the fluke parasite has fin-type appendages. These parasitic “fins” were flapping back and forth as I watched. Below is an image of a liver fluke worm. Thankfully, it’s “fins” are not flapping.
So what is this nasty little creature? How is it contracted? What are the symptoms? And finally, how is it treated?
Liver flukes live in water. They are ingested by lizards and frogs. Our yard is a frog “hang-out” and Chloe loves to hunt these hopping critters. Upon ingesting (or nibbling on) a frog or lizard, flukes make their way into a feline’s biliary tract, liver, and or gallbladder. It is imperative to diagnose cat liver fluke parasites before irreparable damage to the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts occur.
The most common symptoms include:
• Loss of appetite
• Increased appetite
• Severe or rapid weight loss
• Enlarged liver
• Generalized disability/illness
Chloe presented with increased appetite and rapid weight loss. The MRI showed Chloe’s bile ducts were dangerously narrowed and her liver was enlarged. The vet gave us an option of traditional medication, but mentioned its toxicity. He stated that although it is the “quickest” cure, it had numerous, harmful side-effects. (I wish I could remember the name of this medication but I can’t. Your vet will know). He recommended a safe, holistic “concoction” of the following:
• RX Vitamins Liquid Hepato-supports normal liver function
• RX Vitamins RX Renal Feline-supports normal kidney function
• Dandelion Root-detoxifies the liver
• RX Biotic-helps maintain normal intestinal micro-flora (probiotic)
He advised herbal treatment would take between 4-6 mos to work, however, it was extremely safe and non-toxic. The exact dosage and method of administration depends on the weight, age, and temperament of your cat. Since Chloe refused to take her medication in food, we had to be creative. We mixed all of the herbs together with a small amount of chicken broth (you can also use water), put them in a syringe, and squirted the mixture down her throat. She wasn’t happy, but this delivery method was quick and effective. Due to the severity of Chloe’s condition, treatment was required for close to 9 months.
The holistic approach is quite expensive. It cost us thousands of dollars. It requires replenishing supplements monthly, and scheduling follow up MRIs and blood work. (Chloe had scans/labs every 3 months for 9 mos). However, it is totally safe, non-toxic, and has no side effects!
Chloe would not be alive today without our vets wonderful care and depth of knowledge about parasites. Prior to this, she was a healthy six year old cat, with many years of life ahead of her. This is what I’ve learned and would recommend:
• If your cat is being treated for a parasite and does not respond to traditional treatment
• Or, is suddenly losing weight, although has an insatiable appetite
• Goes outdoors, especially near a water source, such as a pond, etc.
• Your vet is unable to determine what is going on, no matter how many tests are performed
Please insist that your vet check for the cat liver fluke parasite. It will require blood-work, a thorough exam, and imaging. It will not be cheap, but may save the life of your beloved cat!
Momma to 3 kitties
For more about Barbara and her cats go here. My 3 adorable neurotic cats.