Burmese and pica: Ace and his intestinal obstruction

Meet “Ace” the handsome, almost 2 year-old Burmese. Ace first came to us for a check-up as his mum was worried he had begun vomiting. A little graphic, but one of his vomits was noted to contain a large piece of hard black foam possibly from a dog toy that went missing some time ago! Ace was a little dehydrated and very sore through the middle of his abdomen, so he was admitted to hospital for intravenous fluid therapy, pain relief, gastrointestinal protectant drugs and further diagnostic procedures to determine the cause of his vomiting.

Firstly, we conducted a blood test in our in-house laboratory, which meant we had the results through very quickly. The results revealed Ace had an increase in a muscle enzyme called Creatine Kinase (possibly a result of the exertion of his vomiting), and further confirmed that he was dehydrated as there was mild haemoconcentration  (an increase in the proportion of red blood cells relative to the plasma).

Using our digital x-ray machine we were able to obtain x-rays of Ace’s abdomen allowing us to assess for any signs of an “obstructive” pattern that may indicate a foreign body (as we were very suspicious this cheeky boy had eaten something he shouldn’t have!). His x-rays did in fact show that the small intestine was very dilated and fluid filled, with small bubbles of gas suggestive of an obstructive pattern.

With high suspicions that Ace had an intestinal obstruction, we proceeded to surgery to thoroughly examine the abdomen.  This was conducted via a full exploratory laparotomy. A  one centimetre piece of hard foam was identified lodged in the mid ileum (one of the narrowest sections of the small intestine). This was removed via an enterotomy incision into the intestine to retrieve the foreign body then we sutured the intestine closed to create with a water-tight seal.

Ace was a cheeky little monkey in recovery and earned the nickname “Ninja” due to his amazing ability to remove catheters, bandages and anything veterinary! Fortunately he recovered very quickly, and only a few days after his surgery he was back to eating like a horse and lazing about the house like a king!

Burmese are very prone to a condition called “pica” which is where they eat non-food items such as foam, clothing or leather and unfortunately many of these non-food items do not digest and can block the gastrointestinal tract as they pass through. It is thought that this is a genetic condition and can be very frustrating to treat. Treatment includes minimising access to items that may cause obstruction, enriching the cat’s environment by using additional vertical space, food puzzles and regular play sessions. Some cats can also greatly benefit from being fed raw meaty bones so they have something more natural to chew on . If feeding raw bones it is important to always feed high quality human grade meat and freeze the meat for a week first.


Note: Whilst many cats do very well eating a raw diet, it is not recommended to feed raw meat to FIV positive cats or those that are immunosuppressed. Please ask one of our vets if you are unsure if you can feed to your cat. 

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