So, not that long ago, I overheard one of our volunteers telling another one about her adopted ICS cat and his health woes. Poor Mr. Lemmywinks has – of all things – chylothorax. Do you know what that is? Not many do! It sure does sound weird, and it’s rare in cats. Dogs, cows, and people can get it, too, and there isn’t always a good reason for why it happens. Sometimes, it just does.
Essentially, it happens when chyle fluid (fat deposits and lymph fluid that drain from the small intestine into the lymph system during digestion) is collecting in chest cavity, something it definitely is not supposed to be doing. Normally, some of this fluid is present but it absorbs into the body quickly as it moves through the lymphatic system, providing nutrients to the body as it goes. When it’s collecting in areas it’s not supposed to, it can prevent those nutrients from getting to where they need to be, and it can also prevent other body functions from working properly. When it’s in the chest cavity, it’s thick and milky so it can make it hard to breathe as it’s around the lungs.
And that’s what happened to Mr. Lemmywinks. He was starting to have trouble breathing, especially when he was playing (and he plays a LOT!), so his mom took him to the doctor. An X-ray and something called a thoracentesis, or chest tap, told the doctor that yes, this was definitely chylothorax, and more tests showed no known cause. What do you do to treat a disease with no cause? Well, that’s when you go to the research.
Scientific research in veterinary medicine is really interesting stuff. Some of the articles are a little hard to read, but you can often learn a lot by skimming for details about the treatment and the effects. Mr. Lemmy’s owner and her doctor found some stuff about the use of a plant mineral called rutin that was found to help with and possibly even cure chylothorax in kitties. It’s something you can get at the health food store that supports the lymphatic system – people can take it, and apparently so can cats and dogs. It was definitely worth a try, and it was the only option Mr. Lemmy seemingly had that didn’t involve surgery (double scary!).
Mr. Lemmy got 250 milligrams of rutin three times a day for two months but he showed definite improvement even after a few weeks. And some of the reason why he improved so quickly might have been because of some additional alternative medicine supplements his mommy also gave him – a small amount (3 milliliters) of mangosteen juice mixed with two drops each of ALCOHOL-FREE (very important) liquid herbs “mullein flower,” dandelion, and goldenseal, two to three times a day. It’s weird, I know, but this is the same mommy who goes to the acupuncture place to get her own health issues taken care of – did you know they stick needles all over you when they do that? Apparently they do it to cats too!
Anyhow, thanks to friendly folks on the Internet, Mr. Lemmy’s mom learned all about the right herbs to give and how much, and she kept him nice and quiet and free of stress for many days and weeks. It helped him get better. He only needed to go three times for those big scary thoracentesis sessions, and a few more times for X-Rays to see how he was doing. Every day, he gets a little better.
Isn’t is amazing what nature can do? Sometimes, alternative remedies like herbs can be the right thing, but you do have to do your research, be cautious, and ask your vet when you’re not sure. Many of the same people herbs don’t help animals in the same way, but in some cases, they do. For example, I once heard of a guy who gave mangosteen juice to his dogs every day and it helped them stay arthritis-free and happy well into old age. It sure did put a bounce in Mr. Lemmy’s step.
Hmm… maybe I’ll ask for some of that stuff for me!