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McLeods detail loss of their pet

by Sandra Faye Douthit - Reporter
| January 5, 2012 12:47 PM

Family attributes death to feral issue

An emotional Troy Police Chief Bob McLeod recalled  Thursday the recent loss of 3-month old kitten, “Philbert,” after months of suffering caused by Feline Coronovirus (FCoV).

“It’s been very hard on the whole family,” McLeod said. “It’s hard to even talk about it.”

Feral cats, some carrying contagious disease, have been an increasing concern for residents in the Troy community.

“Philbert” was among a litter of feral cats saved by the city and adopted by the McLeod family.

“My wife drove to Kalispell to take him (Philbert) to a veterinarian,” McLeod said. “But ... he died sometime between Marion (Mont.) and Kalispell.”

Shortly after the McLeod family adopted “Philbert,” he showed signs of illness.

“We took him to the vet and originally they thought he had FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis),” McLeod said. “We told the doctor to spare no expense — do whatever it takes to make him better.”

McLeod expressed the family’s love for the kitten, and considered him a member of the family.

“Philbert” grew increasingly sick and required constant care.

“Philbert” had an immune system that was compromised, because of the environment he was born into. He never had the chance to create the antibodies to build a strong immune system.

“When we got him we did the right thing and brought him into get all of his vaccinations,” McLeod said. “Because his immune system was compromised he couldn’t handle the vaccines.”

“It was so hard watching him suffer,” McLeod said. “Especially when he started having seizures.”

The McLeod family authorized a full autopsy on “Philbert” to determine the exact cause of death. However, the autopsy report was skewed by the FIP vaccine titers remaining in the kitten’s blood when he was vaccinated, causing the veterinarian to conclude FIP was the cause of death.

The autopsy revealed red spots on the kitten’s brain indicating mini hemorrhages. “Philbert” also suffered with a fever of 106 degrees and meningitis because of the infection.

Veterinarian and owner for the Pet Emergency Trauma Services, Dr. Dean Aldrich, in Kalispell sought permission from the McLeod family to send tissue and blood samples to the Montana state health department for confirmation. The state determined FCoV caused “Philbert’s” death, not FIP.

In rare cases the FCoV mutates numerous times before it becomes FIP. FIP generally affects felines with compromised immune systems and/or kittens. Regardless of whether the feral felines in Troy have FCoV or FIP, Aldrich recommends locating the cats that might be infected with the diseases and carcasses.

Recently the number of feral cats has decreased in Troy, it has been reported many of them are now deceased. However, Aldrich said some of the diseases die with the host — the feline carrying the disease — although most all bacteria and parasites that live in pet waste can survive very extreme temperatures and are simple dormant in winter months.

When the weather warms, the feces will thaw and the parasites will infect new litters and felines with compromised immune systems. According to Adrich, disposing of cat feces and the carcasses in neighborhoods will help protect domestic cats, other animals and residents.