'Mr. Columbus' was a very sweet little kitten who came to us because he seemed to have a sore leg. His owners had only adopted him from a shelter three days previously, and he had been happy and playful until the morning of the fourth day. That day he woke up very unhappy, lethargic and not wanting to eat. He seemed to be limping on his left front leg too.
On examination Mr. Columbus was very subdued. He was limping on his left front leg and had pain when his elbow was manipulated. He was given an injection to relieve the pain and to see if his appetite and activity levels would go back to normal. Sadly, he did not respond to the injection. He continued to walk very gingerly on all his legs, not just the painful one, and spent most of the day asleep.
We were concerned that there was more to the story than a simple leg injury, as the leg was not obviously broken, and simple soft tissue injuries do not cause boisterous young animals to stop eating and playing. Mr. Columbus was also walking quite tenderly on all his legs, not just the obviously painful one. On closer examination we detected a tiny ulceration on Mr Columbus's tongue and the pieces all fell into place..... he was suffering from Calicivirus polyarthritis.
Calicivirus is one of the viruses that causes cat flu. Cat flu is an extremely common condition in younger cats, and usually causes no more harm than a sneeze and maybe some eye discharge that resolves on its own. Calicivirus can also sometimes cause tongue ulcerations and in rare cases it can cause a transient arthritis of all the joints - a polyarthritis. Poor Mr. Columbus was suffering from the painful polyarthritis related to his calicivirus infection.
Thankfully, this condition is easily treated. Antiinflammatories were given for pain relief and antibiotics were given to ensure there was no secondary bacterial infection associated with the calicivirus. Mr. Columbus was up and about within 1 hour of his antiinflammatory injection and continued to make an excellent recovery at home!