Vascular Ring Anomaly can be Surgically Corrected

Question:
Blue Boy is a Sphynx cat, 13 years old.  Ever since he was a kitten he has had trouble with food.  He would scoop it up his mouth like a bull dozer and chew it while growling. After he stuffed himself he would regurgitate it and run away.  I fed him tiny amounts at a time and he was able to keep that down.  He acts hungry all the time. Is my cat bulimic?

Dr. Nichol:
Blue Boy is not bulimic. Even if he were a fashion model he wouldn’t care what anyone else thought. He’s a cat for cryin’ out loud! His constant hunger suggests that very little of the food he swallows actually passes into his intestines and gets digested and absorbed. Your kitty acts hungry because his brain thinks he is starving.

Regurgitation is a different beast than vomiting. The term regurgitation is used when food comes back almost immediately after being swallowed, usually because of a partial blockage of the esophagus-the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. Vomiting, on the other hand, takes longer to occur because it results from disorders of the stomach, small intestine, other internal organs like the kidneys or liver, or in some cases the nervous system.

Blue Boy’s lifelong history of regurgitating has me suspicious of a constriction of his esophagus, the most likely cause being a birth defect called a vascular ring anomaly. Arteries in the chest that were necessary during fetal development can remain long after they should have naturally atrophied. If these blood vessel remnants encircle the esophagus, only small amounts of food would pass, leading to a perpetually hungry cat who hurls shortly after swallowing. If Blue Boy were to inhale as he regurgitates he could face aspiration pneumonia. This would be a bad situation.

Don’t waste any more time. Blue Boy needs to see his veterinarian for an exam, lab profile, and chest and abdominal x-rays. An ultrasound and endoscopic evaluation may be essential to an accurate diagnosis. Surgery would be the best treatment for a vascular ring anomaly. In the meantime you can try giving him small amounts of slurried food with his front end elevated.