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Bakari’s Story – diagnosed with Flat Chest

| October 6, 2010
Bakari Flat Chest Russian Kitten

Bakari's Story - Flat Chest Russian Kitten

16/09/2005: Bakari arrived in this world quite normally, he was first born and there was no indication that there were any problems. Thembi my queen is quite small and we were not expecting 5 kittens from her, my vet had said 3 maximum but all the babies arrived very easily within an hour and a half. Bakari’s birth weight was average in the litter and average from my experience of 3 litters. He did not struggle to find a teat and latched on perfectly well. His weight gain was excellent in the first few days. Between 16/09 and 21/09 he had gained 62 grams but on the 22nd he only gained 6 grams and I noticed his chest seemed squashed. At that stage I thought perhaps his mother had laid on him.

I took Bakari to the vet on 22/09 and he was diagnosed with Flat Chest. My vet’s treatment was to Elastoplast Bakari’s two front legs together just above his elbows to pull his little legs underneath his body to prop him up off his chest and encourage him to lie on his side. At this point Bakari should have been put into a splint but I was yet to learn more about his affliction. My vet gave him a shot of anti inflammatory and discussed hand feeding with me. On arrival home I put him back with his mother, later I attempted hand feeding but he was not impressed with me, he appeared to be suckling from Thembi.

The next morning (he was now 1 week old) he had lost 16 grams in 24 hours. Bakari refused to bottle feed or syringe feed; I was very worried that I would cause more damage as I had never been faced with hand feeding anything so tiny. I contacted the cat list that I belong to and received some wonderful suggestions from other breeders. I eventually managed to get a few ml of food into him at around 11am. I was a total wreak and had tears just streaming down my face when he eventually stopped resisting me.

From 23/09 till 27/09 I hand fed around the clock at 2 to 3 hour intervals. By 27/09 he was 184 grams and I started skipping some of the late night / early morning feeds. I started adding Glucose to his feed (the tip of a knife’s worth). At that point it was two steps forward one step back but at least he had slowly gained to 320 grams on 14/10. There were many dark days when I felt completely helpless and depressed his breathing appeared labored so I wanted to try splinting him after reading up on various websites about FCK.

I took him to the vet again on 13/10 to get the go ahead for splinting him as I was concerned that he may have pectus excavatum. My decision was that if he did have that I would let him go and have him put down. My vet X-rayed him and he did not have pectus excavatum, simply a flat chest.  In his chest cavity his heart was pushed to the one side on the other side he had a functioning lung but the other was squashed by his heart.

The decision was made to try splinting him at three weeks old although I now know that this should have been done much earlier. I initially tried a toilet roll but he grew out of it within days, I then took plain card board and fashioned this with a thin layer of sponge inside. Once the splint was on his breathing became better and his food intake increased dramatically. Bakari’s splint stayed on for 2 weeks, he just became way too active and the splint was hindering his mobility. He would throw tantrums and howl as his siblings were starting to explore. I took him again to the vet at 5 weeks and we were both very relieved at his progress, his heart had started shifting to the center of his chest and his second lung had started functioning. He was around 400 grams at this stage his siblings were a full 100 grams heavier than him.

I hand fed Bakari till the end of October he was over 6 weeks old when he first started lapping milk out of a bowl, his siblings were already eating kitten kibble. I had to bribe him just to drink out of a bowl by holding his syringe in the milk. At around 7 weeks old he ate his first bites of solid kitten food.

Bakari was examined by my vet again at 8 weeks when he went for his inoculations and although the vet did not want to give me any hope that this little precious fur ball would make it, he said that there had been a vast improvement. Bakari is now over 10 weeks old and although smaller than his siblings he is one of the most active, curious and feisty babies. His chest has started to look/feel more normal and there is every indication that he will live a long and happy life. Of course Bakari has stolen our hearts and will remain with us as a pet. He has already chosen my husband as his special person.
Through this experience I have gained a new respect for the struggles of the veteran breeders, many of whom know Bakari’s story and have been through what I have, through their support and encouragement, the e-mails of heart break and tears Bakari survived. I have them and my wonderful vet who refused to give up on this tiny silver boy to thank for the liquid eyed kitten love that I now have the privilege of knowing.

My biggest concern was that FTC was genetic but from what I have researched and discussed with other Russian Breeders around the world this is possibly the first case of FTC in a Russian. The normal mortality rate in kittens is around one out of three, Russians however are a healthy hearty breed and Bakari has the heart of a fighter.

I have been in contact with FCK specialists in England and their diagnosis is that it is environmental i.e. Bakari’s mother being so small and having such a large litter, Bakari did not receive enough nutrients & minerals in the womb. My queens are now receiving extra vitamin supplements with their high quality vet food.

Please go to this site to read up more of what Flat Chested Kitten is all about:

A very special thanks must of course go to my husband for his love, patience and comfort through some very depressing moments. For holding my hand and for wiping away my tears. For never giving up on my ability to heal Bakari and mostly for his calming nature, with out Justin I would not have managed through this entire time.

Copyright & Credit:
Leanne Hewitt –

Category: Feline Health and Care, Feline Resources, Felines Disabilities & Medical Conditions

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