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Friday, November 19, 2010

Pica

Pica is a medical condition veterinarians sometimes encounter in practice. Pica comes from the latin word for magpie, a bird with a reputation for eating almost anything. Pica is considered a symptom of disease (like vomiting or fever, for example), not a disease per se. Pica can be exhibited by dogs and cats suffering from a plethora of medical conditions, from gastrointestinal parasites, to anemia, to liver disease, to cancer. While most humans who exhibit pica have serious mental illness (OCD, schizophrenia, etc), dog and cats almost invariably have a physical condition, often a lack of a dietary requirement or nutrient of some kind, or any disease that results in a loss of nutrients from the body. Anemia (absolute decrease in red blood cells and hemoglobin) is a very common cause of pica. Anemia, like pica, is not a disease but a reflection of disease. Many, many diseases result in anemia: gastrointestinal parasites (especially hookworm infestations), iron-deficiency, auto-immune diseases, blood parasites, hemorrhage of any kind (especially GI ulceration), and cancer. All of these conditions, and others, can result in pica.
Patients with liver shunts (essentially, blood from the intestine doesn't go to liver but bypasses it) sometimes exhibit pica. In a nutshell, the animal is trying to make up for what cannot be produced by the liver, since the liver is not receiving nutrients from the gut.
One very recent case I saw involved a cat with true red blood cell aplasia, a rare auto-immune disorder where the immune system destroys the red blood cell precursors in the bone marrow. This cat swallowed a few shoe laces and elastic bands - you really had to see it to believe it. The objects in the poor cat's stomach were the least of his problems.
Now, can magpies suffer from pica?

X-ray from a mentally ill man with pica. The large white area on the radiograph is a collection of hundreds of coins, needles and other objects not typically eaten by healthy men. The whole story here.

6 comments:

GoLightly said...

Do M&M's count?
:)

Thank heaven for good chew toys for my puppy dogs. They want to chew that? Immediate re-direct to a chewie.

Only if the magpie eats his prizes. I thought they used their weird objects for display? They really eat stuff they shouldn't?

Flip exhibited pica immediately after getting a treatment whose name has entirely fallen out of my brain (ivermectin there it is). Dog, she was sick.
Gravel leaves sticks wood chips etc. were all vacuumed up in the time it took to say STOP.

Interesting post, Doc. Thank you!

cv said...

I am doctor from India and i have this habit of going online in search of medical articles..this article did catch my attention, wonderful blog ..the explanation of Pica was amazing..thanks for the x-ray..Hope you keep updating many more..


Veterinary CV Template

emilene said...

Brilliant blog!

Regards from a sunny Cape Town!

Holly Bowers said...

Doc,

I love your site ... wonderful content and writing style. I have a new site and will link to you. Let me know if you'd like to do the same and if you have time, I'd welcome any feedback from you. Thanks for your time and I'll be a regular reader.
Holly Bowers www.VeterinaryConsumer.com

veterinaryconsumer@gmail.com

Long Island Veteriniaria said...

I love your style of writing. You seem to be very knowledgeable in the field.

TorontoVet said...

To all readers and those who have a left a comment here: thank you so much for reading and for your support.