Note: the faint of stomach may not want to proceed with reading this post, which makes copious mention of fecal parasites and includes a cameo appearance by a dead rat.
So, one of my cats (either Shadow or Brodie, as I can tell their poop from the girls', but not from each other's) just tested positive for giardia, otherwise known as "beaver fever" (I remember being warned not to drink from streams in the woods as a kid because of this very same entity). The vet sent the results today and I'm supposed to talk to her tomorrow about treatment options, which will likely include medicating all the cats here just to be on the safe side.
Mind you, nobody has any symptoms at present -- the positive test was due to the appearance of a very tiny number of cysts in the fecal sample -- but now I'm actually beginning to wonder if giardia could be the root cause of Brodie's twitchy stomach. Mainly it manifests these days in the form of "gets the runs and exudes gas that could knock out a rhino if any amount of corn is consumed", so it could just be a wholly separate thing, but who knows.
(Cats can harbor the parasite for years and my guys will be 3 next month. Giardia also apparently can be tricky to diagnose as it is not consistently shed in the poo; all the kitties here have had poo tests in the past and all were negative, but that doesn't necessarily mean there wasn't something there.)
...but all that said, while kind of gross, I'm not figuring this to be worth panicking over. Again, nobody is currently symptomatic, and it's not like giardia is super rare in cats. If Brodie didn't pick it up as a kitten I'm guessing Shadow managed to roll in something out in the back yard. He likes to flop on the ground and cover himself in dirt and we do sometimes get neighbour cats visiting the garden who could be leaving, er, "presents".
OH and Shadow did actually catch a RAT recently during one of his (supervised) evening yard-frolics. Thankfully he didn't eat it -- I mean, I'm all for raw feeding, but NOT when the "food" might have been poisoned. It was kind of weird, as he didn't even "play" with it -- he just ran straight at it, did the neck-bitey thing, and then proceeded to bring it to me and drop it in front of the kitchen door. I guess he figured he'd done his job (and he did look SO pleased with himself!). Given the life cycle of giardia and the fact that I'm pretty sure it's not actually transmitted from rodents to cats this probably wasn't the root of the beaver-fever, but I was definitely VERY glad Shadow was up to date on both shots and flea/tick/worm-prevention meds when he displayed his hunting prowess.
Needless to say, though, I really want to get this treatment over with. I'll happily treat all the kitties if that's what it'll take, though I'm a bit concerned over what I've read thus far about giardia sometimes being really hard to effectively get rid of in kitties.
...and on another subject entirely, I'm also going to be discussing the matter of Nikki's kidneys with the vet. She's not officially in chronic renal failure at this point, though given her age (nearly 11) and breed (Siamese) it actually wouldn't be excessively surprising if she ended up with that diagnosis in a few years. I've done enough reading to know that this wouldn't be the end of the world, and since her numbers mostly look really good (her BUN/creatinine are perfect) I am not figuring much is due to be done in the short term other than step up efforts to keep her hydrated.
The vet's concern is due to a slightly low urinary specific gravity (which can indicate a diminished ability to concentrate urine) and a slightly elevated amylase reading. I'll of course take her recommendations into consideration, whatever they may be, but I am really hoping she doesn't try to insist on a low-protein diet right now. I know that used to be the go-to solution for feline kidney issues, but really it doesn't make sense to restrict protein in an obligate carnivore unless there is clear evidence that this will actually prolong health and life. And I'm pretty sure that unless a cat's kidneys are in extremely bad shape, protein restriction generally does more harm than good. (Though if anyone can point me at some good literature -- as in, NOT articles on some sort of "alternative new age happy health" site -- indicating either way, that'd be awesome).