Short Takes: 06/07

A complication of kidney transplants; cats with heart disease and home care

Diabetes and Kidney Transplants

It hardly seems possible. But time flies, and what was once a rare procedure – kidney transplants for cats with renal failure – is now performed often enough that researchers can look at a relatively unusual complication of a once-rare operation.

And they can give it a name: PTDM, or post-transplantation diabetes mellitus, as veterinary scientists from the University of California-
Davis and the University of Pennsylvania did in the
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (Vol. 230, No. 6).

Of the 187 cats that received donor kidneys between 1986 and 2005, only 26 developed diabetes mellitus. But compared to 178 cats with chronic renal failure that did not get new kidneys, the kidney recipients were 5.5 times as likely to get diabetes. And the “mortality rate is higher for cats that develop PTDM than for cats that do not,” the scientists reported.

They found no ready explanation for the onset of diabetes mellitus in cats with kidney transplants. But we note two possible sources of consolation: Cats with new kidneys got to live longer than they might have otherwise. And because people are often asked to adopt the donor cat, the one-kidney newcomers have a better chance to remain free of diabetes and quite healthy for many lives to come.

Cats with Heart Disease Eat Well

Another study, reported in the same issue of JAVMA by veterinary scientists at Tufts University as “Dietary Patterns of Cats with Cardiac Disease,” indicates that owners take pretty good care of pets with sick tickers.

The researchers were looking for nutrient deficiencies or excesses when they interviewed owners of 95 cats with either congenital cardiac disease or primary cardiomyopathy. While some cats had occasional loss of appetite, almost all were getting the amounts of protein, sodium, potassium and magnesium recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

Virtually all the cats were eating more than the AAFCO minimum of fats, although the researchers were not judgmental about that. Rather, they said, they were interested in the potential for dietary intervention, if necessary, and they noted one curious fact.

Although a majority of the cardiac-disease cats were getting oral medications or supplements or both, only 34 percent of owners needed to hide the pills in tasty food or treats. Two-thirds of cats owners had mastered the trick of getting meds past those sharp feline teeth without injuring their fingers. For helpful advice on doing that yourself – as well as other at-home cat-care procedures, check out the free video instructions at

Unconventional Therapies

Medical marijuana for cats is not allowed, but researchers report in The Veterinary Journal (Vol. 173, Issue 1) about treating cats pain and inflammation with closely related chemicals – called endocannabinoids – that mimic the effects of marijuanas THC. Later in the same journal, things get stranger yet with a treatment called MDT.

Getting back to endocannabinoids, they are naturally occurring chemicals in all animals bodies that act on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. So does tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana plants.

Now veterinary scientists at Italys University of Turin have found that cats with pain and inflammation recover quickly after oral doses of one endocannabinoid called PEA (palmitoylethanolamide).

And MDT? The T is for therapy. D, as in debridement, means removing dead tissue from a wound so it can heal. Maggots, the M part, are disinfected larvae of flies. Reporting in The Veterinary Journal about cats with slow-healing wounds, scientists at the University of California-Irvine say MDT works perfectly. And the cats dont seem to mind. v