The Veterinary Centre

Henley and Twyford

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Case Notes: Willow's String Theory
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We first met Willow as a 9 week old kitten in July 2009, one of a litter of three brought in by Shelley of the TVAW. They were treated for mild flu symptoms and ear mites and soon declared fit for rehoming. Willow, being a handsome and outgoing ginger lad, soon found a home.

When we next met Willow, in February this year, he was 9 months old and a pitiful sight – painfully thin and undersized for his age, depressed and dehydrated, running a persistent high temperature and vomiting up almost everything he tried to eat. He had apparently been unwell since October and his new family had taken him to their local vets many times. Their vets had done a very thorough investigation, with all the logical diagnostic tests and x rays and scans, but it had come to the point where significantly more expensive measures were needed and Willow's owners simply didn't have the funds for this.

TVAW to the rescue! They agreed to pay for his ongoing veterinary bills and so he came back into our care. On physical examination, we had no more idea than his previous vets as to what was going on. Although he was so thin that we could feel virtually everything in his abdomen, we could not detect any obvious foreign body or tumour or an enlarged organ to give us a clue. His intestines did feel somewhat "thick walled", which made us wonder about inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but it would have to be incredibly severe to make him this ill.

We repeated some of the original blood tests and scanned and x rayed his abdomen again to see what had changed in the intervening weeks – not a lot was the surprising answer, considering how very ill he now looked. We ruled out a couple of rare diseases by dint of additional blood tests. Throughout this week of initial investigation and observation Willow was hospitalised and on an intravenous drip, as he continued to vomit back almost all food. We had taken him off all antibiotics, in case they were masking some symptom that might give us a clue. It became increasingly evident when observing him, heroically trying to eat, that he found swallowing really difficult and sure enough, as the week progressed, he developed an obvious swelling under his tongue. It was clearly time to get this lad under anaesthetic and have a look inside.

Willow in the Ward

An impressive ammount of string!
Helen was the surgeon and she started by exploring his mouth and throat. Dissecting into the swelling under his tongue she came across a loop of tough cotton thread deeply embedded into the flesh beneath the base of the tongue and appearing to tail off down the oesophagus from both sides. Via an endoscope down the oesophagus, she could see that the two threads disappeared into the stomach and onwards. The only option now was to open up Willow's abdomen and track down the rest of the thread.

After almost five hours under anaesthetic, and six separate incisions into the stomach and throughout the small intestine, Helen had managed to extract many feet of tangled thread. Much of it had become embedded into the lining of the gut as it had been slowly tightening with each gut contraction. She was very concerned that the intestine had been so traumatised by this prolonged insult that it would either fail to heal and result in a massive peritonitis, or it would heal but never contract normally or absorb nutrients properly again. However, he had survived this long, against all the odds, so she closed him up and we hoped for the best.

To cut a long story short, Willow proved to be a born survivor. After two weeks of intensive nursing care he was eating well, gaining weight and finally becoming the fine figure of a cat that he was always meant to be! He also found himself a new home – qualified veterinary nurse Debbie fell for his charms and was willing to take on the extra care and special diet that he will probably always need to keep his digestive system functioning. Whether, she can dissuade him from swallowing ridiculous things in the future remains to be seen but we are so grateful that TVAW gave him that chance at least!




Henley Vets and Twyford Vets
The Veterinary Centre: 271 Reading Road, Henley-on-Thames, RG9 1EL - Phone 01491 574490
Also at Twycombe Lodge, Loddon Hall Road, Twyford, RG10 9JA - Phone 0118 934 0259