Tuesday, 20 April 2010
2010 has not been a kind year for our pets. So this post is to catch you up on all what’s been going on. Some of you might know most of this, some of you might only know a little of it, and some of you might know none of it. So now you’ll know.
In the very final days of 2009, Kitty Fantastico started throwing up, stopped eating, and lost a lot of weight at an alarming speed because of it. These are all, of course, very bad signs, so we took her straight to the vet where they discovered (A) that she had a urinary tract & kidney infection and (B) that her kidneys were basically shot all to hell. When the vet got the results of the kidney test and the numbers were all several times higher than they shoulda been, he called me and told me that I should take Fantastico to the emergency animal hospital. Like, immediately.
This was horribly traumatic for Carrie & me, as you might imagine. Her kidney numbers were so bad that there was a good possibility that she would not ever come home. But a good sign: she started eating again, quite heartily. And when we went to visit her the next day she did purr at us despite being very uncomfortable what with being shaved and a-tubed with I.V stuff. But a bad sign: her kidney numbers weren’t significantly improving. They were going down a li’l bit, but not with any speed. Like (for example) one of the chemicals might have a normal range of about 20-30, and when she went into the hospital it was 110, and after two days it was down to 104. That was improvement, but not significant improvement.
We were told that we might as well come get her, because there wasn’t really any reason to have her sitting miserable in the very expensive hospital when she wasn’t improving. She might as well come home where she’d be relatively comfortable while, y’know, she waited to die, which would probably happen pretty quickly. We didn’t go home empty-handed, though; they gave us special “kidney diet” food, antibiotics, and an I.V. bag full of fluids that we were to administer ourselves subcutaneously.
Yes, every evening we had to hold Fantastico down and stick an alarmingly large needle into the scruff of her neck, and make sure that she didn’t move while a large volume of fluids drained from the bag directly into her body.
after several days of this and meeting a specialist and getting re-tested, a good thing happened: her kidney numbers started plummeting. They weren’t anywhere near normal, but neither were they in the “instant death” range they had been in. The antibiotics were clearing up the infection, which helped a lot. But a sonogram confirmed that her kidneys were basically shot, and probably had been for many months before she even showed any signs of sickness.
The antibiotics also, though, made her nauseated so she didn’t want to eat very much. She was already dangerously underweight (down to a scant 8 pounds), so that wasn’t good. I got an alternate food that wasn’t quite as kidney-friendly, but that she liked better and could be sucked up into a syringe and squirted directly into her mouth if she didn’t want to eat it naturally.
After another week and another check, I was told that her numbers had improved to the level that we could reduce subcutaneous fluid frequency down to every other day instead of every day. And we were told to bring her back in a month—the antibiotics for the infection were a six-week course, and the vet wanted to see her when they were gone. So she’d gone from “dying any day now” to “come back in a month.”
During that month she slowly gained back some weight. And at the end of the antibiotic course we brought her in for more testing and were told the infection was completely gone. A lot of her kidney numbers had dropped significantly, some of them down to just outside the normal range. One of them, though, wasn’t doing so well, so we were switched back to the special kidney diet, which Fantastico now loved because she was no longer nauseated from the antibiotics.
When I asked when I should bring her back in again to get tested, the vet said, “Oh, in three or four months.” So Fantastico had gone from dying in a few days, to lets see if she’ll survive the full six-week treatment, to bring her back in three or four months unless she shows signs of worsening, which she probably won’t.
Her weight shot back up to almost ten full pounds, and as her weird shaved bits (under her chin, one forepaw, and her belly) grew back you would never even know she was sick. She was acting basically like she always had. Here are some videos I took over the past three months:
She’s not better, though, of course. Kidneys don’t get better once they go bad. She’s still on a special kidney diet, I have to shove two pills in her throat every morning and one every evening, and we still poke her neck and fill her with fluids every other day. But she’s happy and playful and all that stuff, so it’s all good considering we were basically told she was a goner three months ago. There’s no telling how long she’ll be able to maintain, of course, but she’s nine years old now so that’s nothing out of the ordinary for a kitty who is going on elderly. She could very well live a relatively normal lifespan as long as she’s able to keep this up. We’ll see how she’s doing when I bring her in for more testing next month.
The only real behavioral side effect from all of this is that Fantastico is now way more talky than she used to be. She serenades us with lovely, angry, extended rowrs when we give her subcutaneous fluids (though less than five minutes afterwards she’ll be crawling all over us and purring like crazy), and she’s much quicker to growl or hiss than she ever was. But somehow it’s in a way that’s funny and cute rather than scary. Like an adorable grumpy old lady. But any such displays of displeasure are always very fleeting and she often purrs immediately after hissing. In fact, as I sit here on the couch typing this entry, Fantastico is sitting on my lap. She apparently thinks my hands are dirty because she’s licking the backs of them. And periodically growling at me when I jiggle her too much. Pretty darned cute.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL, FOLKS!
Around the same time as all this was happening, Suki Puppy developed a disturbing growth in the corner of her right eye. At first it was just a tiny white lump. Then it started periodically spewing pus across her eyeball. And then it started growing actual tissue.
We took her to the vet at that point and they recommended removing it (the growth, NOT her eye). The vet was a little concerned due to its coloration, and he wanted to send it to a lab for analysis. So one day we took her to the vet before work, then picked her up after work with a cone of shame around her neck and a bandage on a paw where they stuck in her I.V. needle.
Then we had to wait a week for the lab results to come back to see whether or not our puppy had the cancer. That was not a fun week.
Results came back good: it was completely benign. It was not cancer, it was just a “weird growth.” There was a chance that it might grow back, but it could always get cut out again if necessary.
WHEW! After all the bad news with Fantastico, this was a welcome relief. Suki is perfectly fine, and her blood tests came back being just about as healthy as physically possible, so she’s all sorts of good. Here’s a funny video starring her (with a cameo by Fantastico) that I took just a couple of weeks ago:
My parents, meanwhile, were not so lucky as their cat Ace had problems with fluids putting pressure on his lungs, then he died of a heart attack shortly before Easter.
In short: 2010 = not a good year to be a Harris pet.
In conclusion: I wrote this post to update everyone on the status of my pets, so that if you heard Fantastico was sick but didn’t know how she was doing, you wouldn’t have to pussyfoot around and be all, “I don’t know if we should mention Fantastico around Chris & Carrie because I don’t want to upset them.” She’s doing fine. We are doing fine.
I DID NOT write this post to elicit sympathy for us or our animals. I don’t want anybody to be all, “Oh, I’m so sorry for you!” or, “I feel so bad for what you’ve been through!” or any crap like that. The pets don’t feel sorry or bad; we don’t feel sorry or bad; there’s no reason for you to feel sorry or bad for us. That’d just be weird and uncomfortable for everyone involved.
Here at the end of the post let me go on a little tangent: All of this pet health stuff was not cheap, and continues to be not cheap. The special food and medicines and bags of subcutaneous fluids all tend to add up. But there was no way in Hell that I was going to be that guy who let a loved one die because he couldn’t afford to keep her alive. I know several people who are rabidly against credit cards, but let me just say this: If Carrie & I did not have a credit card, Fantastico would be dead right now. We in no way had the money to hospitalize her immediately after a holiday season in the middle of a recession, nor to pay for the myriads of tests and specialized medical stuff that were (and are) required for her continued survival. I highly recommend everyone have at least one good, reputable credit card in their name in case of an immediate emergency when you don’t happen to have an extra few thousand dollars just rotting away in your bank accounts. Plus if you’re not stupid with credit cards they’ll actually help you get good credit.