Babi, a ginger cat, can count himself lucky that the country has not banned the sale of alcohol as the Covid-19 third wave intensifies.
A vet in the small Free State town of Fouriesburg had to rush to a bottle store to find the purest possible in order to save Babi’s life.
Apart from perhaps a headache, the pet cat is now kicking healthy – all thanks to a team of vets at the Cluny Animal Trust, a non-profit veterinary organisation.
Imogen Tarita, a fundraiser for the trust, said Babi was rushed to them by Mme Reitumetsie and her grandchildren who love their cat.
“The children noticed he was acting funny. They scooped him up and carried him, without a box, almost 2km across the valley from Mashaeng township to our clinic in Fouriesburg. They were lucky that we had both of our vets there at the time.
“Babi is known to be a fussy cat, but they became very concerned when he wasn’t eating. He also seemed very weak and feeble, barely able to stand. Thankfully, Dr Katherine Barker was at the clinic with Drs Eunice Olevano and Mariska Malan.”
The veterinary team suspected poisoning, so Barker did a cystocentesis (which involves the insertion of a needle through the abdominal and bladder walls to get a urine sample).
The feline’s urine was a strange lime/yellow colour.
Babi then started to projectile vomit watery liquid.
The urine tested very high for increased glucose levels, so, initially, they thought it might be diabetes, but Babi does not have a history of the disease. And because he was acting and eating normally just the day before, that was quickly ruled out.
The team went back to the drawing board and started again. This time they decided it had to be kidney failure, and with such a sudden onset and rapid decline, it had to be linked to poison.
“That was when they started thinking about the time of the year. It is very cold here in the Free State, with temperatures reaching -5°C most mornings. They came up with potential anti-freeze poisoning and quickly checked Google for more information.
“Sadly, the prognosis for anti-freeze poisoning is very poor if not caught early, and we initially feared the worst. But because Babi had vomited, the team was convinced we had caught it early enough and we had to try everything we could do to save him.”
Information on the internet said the urine would be fluorescent, so Barker rushed back to her private practice to get her fluorescent lamp.
Babi’s urine was neon, confirming the diagnosis.
“Anti-freeze poisoning is treated with intravenous ethanol… That is not something that we have just lying around, so back to Google we went; what could we use in its place?
“Barker rushed off again to the local bottle store and got hold of the purest bottle of vodka she could get. Thankfully, the team had Babi hooked up to a drip, so it took them a couple of minutes to work out the dosage which they had to dilute.
“We then intravenously dosed Babi with vodka.”
Tarita said that even though it was diluted, he got drunk. They had to repeat the process every six hours for a day and a half and then every eight hours for another day.
She explained that basically the propylene glycol in anti-freeze causes crystals to form in the kidneys which destroys the tubules in the kidneys. Ethanol, or in this case vodka, dissolves the crystals and allows them to pass in the urine.
“By the fourth treatment, Babi was almost back to normal, eating and he looked like a million bucks, very different from when he was first brought in.
“So, we kept him for a couple of days for observation. His family were thrilled to have him back in their arms.”