Icon WebMD Expert Blogs

Tales from the Pet Clinic

with Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM

This blog has been retired. We appreciate all of the insights that Dr. Hohenhaus shared with our readers.


The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, review, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have... Expand

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

The War Horse Kitten

Many New Yorkers believe the best play currently on Broadway is War Horse, adapted from the children’s story of the same name.

The War Horse is named Joey and inspired the name of the patient whose miraculous story I tell below.


Photo courtesy of Joey’s family

At 10 weeks of age and weighing only one scrawny pound, Joey was admitted to the AMC. She was all personality. When her cage door was opened, she would launch herself onto your shoulder and purr in your ear. But even at her tender age, she had already been through a medical war of sorts, hence her name.

Joey’s medical war started just before she was ready to go to her new family, when everything she was eating started coming back up through her nose and mouth. Even if food and water were given with an eyedropper, 15 drops were too much.

Because of her age, her AMC team considered a rare congenital problem where an aberrant blood vessel tightens around the esophagus and blocks the passage of food. To diagnose this rare condition, Joey was anesthetized for CT scanning. Three nurses hovered around this tiny kitten to ensure proper anesthetic monitoring. Fortunately the CT scan showed Joey did not have this condition and her internal medicine team was relieved since treatment for this condition requires immediate thoracic surgery. But, the CT scan showed a narrowing of the esophagus due to the presence of some abnormal looking tissue.

Joey in the CT Scanner

Joey in the CT scanner. Photo: Ann Hohenhaus

The second part of Joey’s medical battle involved using the bronchoscope to view the inside of her esophagus. This is the same piece of equipment used to remove the pen cap from Barclay’s trachea.

Normally we would not use the bronchoscope to look at an esophagus, but Joey was too tiny for the usual scope. Dr. Douglas Palma, Small Animal Internal Medicine specialist at the AMC, found a polyp of the esophagus was the cause of the narrowing. The esophagus had shrunken down to barely a pinhole and also had an out-pouching called a diverticulum.

Joey's diverticulum

The photo at right shows a thin wire passed through the esophagus on the right and the diverticulum on the left.

The next part of Joey’s war involved placing a feeding tube past the narrowing and into the stomach to allow the esophagus to rest and to allow Joey to get food and water.

Sleeping Joey

Joey sleeping on fleece in ICU the day after her multiple procedures.

Red arrows point to the feeding tube wrapped into her neck with a blue and white bandage.


The AMC veterinarians thought they had won the battle, but a couple of weeks after the feeding tube was removed, food started coming up through Joey’s nose again. This time the diagnosis was an abscess in the area of the previous diverticulum. Very strong antibiotics were required, and after an initial course in the hospital, Joey’s family continued the antibiotic injections at home.

Today, thanks to the dedication of her family and the skill of her AMC Internal Medicine team, Joey is no longer the scrawny kitten seen in these photographs. She still has not quite completed treatment and needs her esophagus stretched to allow food to pass more easily into the stomach, but she is well on her way to good health. Throughout this entire ordeal, Joey has been sweet, loving and as her family says, “a piece of work.” The AMC is happy to have contributed to this work in progress.

Posted by: Ann Hohenhaus, DVM at 10:11 am

Subscribe & Stay Informed

WebMD Healthy Pets

Sign up for the WebMD Healthy Pets newsletter and get the latest on food, exercise and health news for Fluffy and Fido.


WebMD Health News