More GI Woes

Shortly after our last vet visit with Orion, Prometheus began having really bad poop.  It began mushy and slowly progressed to liquid and mucus throughout the week.  By mid last week, Prometheus started vomiting each time after he ate.  It began Thursday morning and got worse by the afternoon.  Like, it smelled like something crawled up Prometheus’ butt and died.  I made an appointment at the vet for the following morning and kept a close eye on Prometheus.

Like any pet parent, I worried.  A lot.  I racked my mind with different possibilities.  The symptoms looked a lot like Castiel’s earlier in June, when it was discovered he had a food allergy.  However, the food that we were feeding Prometheus hadn’t changed and he never had a reaction to it before.  I thought it was highly unlikely he had a food allergy and something more serious was going on.

What pushed my worry over the edge into uncontrollable anxiety was by 3pm Prometheus red flakes of blood in his vomit and a little blood in his diarrhea.  Every time I see any cat have that, my mind automatically thinks back to Morpheus when he showed those symptoms and it turned out to be stomach/intestinal cancer.  So, monsters in my head screamed tumor or obstruction.  Needless to say, I couldn’t focus on anything but Prometheus.  I lifted his food for a few hours to give his GI tract a rest.  When Pro Pro and the other kitties demanded their food by 6pm, I watched Prometheus carefully.  He didn’t vomit after his last feeding for the evening.  While I took this as a good sign, I was still worried about our special cookie.

Friday morning, Prometheus took a trip to Edgewater to visit his friends at Animal General.  Everyone loves him there.  After a thorough examination, Dr. O thought it was an inflammation of his colon and small intestines.  She couldn’t feel any constipation or foreign bodies or tumors, which put my mind slightly at ease.  She gave us the option of taking an x-ray to be overly cautious.  With Ron leaving with family for the weekend, we didn’t want to take any chances that maybe there was something hiding in his intestines.  So, we had a few x-rays taken.  Dr. O confirmed that the x-rays were negative for foreign bodies, tumors, and anything else out of the ordinary.  Such a sign of relief.

She suggested putting Prometheus on a bland diet for a few days and prescribed him flagyl.  This way, his GI tract could have a few days of resting on the bland diet while the flagyl worked its magic.

Less than a week later, Prometheus has some poop that has shape.  A lot of it is still mushy, but it’s solidifying slowly.  If he doesn’t have completely solid waste by next week, I’ll bring in another fecal sample to check for parasites.  When we first adopted him, he had a difficult time getting rid of a nasty case of giardia.  Best to check just to make sure.

Because Prometheus has CH, I have to wait for him to use the litter box and clean his paws after he’s done.  Sometimes he has a hard time maintaining balance when he’s going and gets a little on his legs.  But that’s just one of the challenges I signed up for when adopting a CH cat.  No complaints here!  Just want his GI tract to function properly!

Wobbles [aka April]

A couple of weeks before Superstorm Sandy ripped through the Northeast, a new cat found her way to one of our feral colonies.  She’s a pudgy little white and tabby kitty, quite friendly and loves people.  It is obvious someone dumped her.  She doesn’t act feral at all.

I was watching her one afternoon.  I try to gauge the personalities of the frequent visitors at the colony so I can anticipate their behavior and adjust mine according to each cat.  The feral kitty cried a few times in the distance.  When I spoke to her, she arched her back and rubbed against a tree.  A meow back.  The charade lasted for some time, until she was close enough to sniff my hand.  As she slowly approached my vicinity, I noticed that her hindquarters didn’t quite communicate with her front.  I was pretty certain she had cerebellar hypoplasia.  The shelter manager confirmed after a few sessions of watching our wobbly friend.

I started to call her Wobbles.  While the volunteer staff names the cats to be adopted by somewhat “normal” names, fun names that describe physical traits are reserved for the feral colony.  This way, everyone is on the same page as far as who’s who.  Wobbles was very people friendly.  Even if it wasn’t feeding time, she would let us pet her and rub up against our legs.  She wouldn’t let us hold her, though.

The weeks the shelter was closed because of Sandy, Ron and I broke through police barricades, tangles of electrical/cable wiring, and flood waters to feed the feral colony.  Wobbles was stuck on a concrete wall that separated the feral barn from a golf course.  She was surrounded by water.  Ron trudged through stagnant muck to rescue Wobbles from her solitary perch.  He showed her the way back to the barn so she wouldn’t get stuck in mud or high water.

Since then, she has been extremely sociable with volunteers.  The more time I spent with her, the more I became angry that someone could dump a special needs cat.  Wobbles was on her way of becoming a candidate for adoption.  She even let us give her flea medication.

In the beginning of April, something happened to Wobbles.  The shelter manager and I opened the barn one morning to find her sitting on one of the perches with her eyes glazed over.  Her neck looked like the size of a grapefruit, while it was evident by the loose skin at her sides that she lost weight.  As we carefully approached her, we saw coagulated blood around her neck with missing tufts of fur.  I was horrified.  The shelter manager tried to trap her, but Wobbles ran off, backside swinging after her.  It looked like she got bit by a raccoon or fox.

Another volunteer who monitors the feral colony managed to trap Wobbles and take her to the vet.  According to Doctor P, it appeared that Wobbles suffered from a severe laceration across her neck.  As far as cause, the vet postulated that it could have been from getting caught on sharp fencing or the claws of another animal.  Wobbles was giving s.q. fluids, a rabies vaccination, and antibiotic.  She had to have drains put in her neck as well as many stitches.  The volunteer named her April for her medical records.  I still call her Wobbles.

Wobbles was kept in a small cage for about a week after visiting the vet.  There was no way in hell any of us were going to let her back outside in her condition.  She was frightened.  After two days living in a cage, Wobbles managed to rip both drains out of her neck.  She spent the remainder of the week under close supervision at the vet.

I saw Wobbles on Wednesday.  She’s back at the shelter, sans drain and stitches.  And she looks amazing.  Her old, spunky personality returned.  The best part is she allows volunteers to give her hugs and kisses now.  I think she’s relishing in the extra attention and love.  We all agreed that we would not allow her to go back outside.  We made it our mission to find her a forever home.

Dearly Departed

The past couple of days have felt surreal, where time seems melt in lumpy globs, like burning wax.  Apollo is gone.  While I may not have been as close to her as Ron, the loss is still painful.

The steroid didn’t work.  We tried feeding her num nums (wet food) on Friday and Saturday.  Apollo sniffed at it and started dry-heave.  This happened during all accounts when food was presented to her.  There was a complete 180-degree change in her behavior from when I had her to the vet on Thursday to the weekend.  Ron made an appointment for 8am Monday morning to have her put to sleep.

Sunday I was volunteering at START II all morning.  Ron was working.  When I got home, I found Apollo on the couch.  She was cold and barely moving.  Bloody bile stains surrounded her on the towels I put down on the couch for protection.  Morpheus vomited like this once the morning we put him to sleep.  It was scary to see it then.  By the pattern of the stains, it looked like Apollo vomited bloody bile at least four times.  A chill came over me.  I knew she wouldn’t last until her appointment in the morning.  I also knew that if she wasn’t put to sleep that evening, her death would be excruciating.  I’ve seen cats suffer from liver failure and starvation.  No matter what way you look at it, death is never glamorous or beautiful.   It’s a messy business, a gaping maw of abysmal suffering.

I spoke to Ron and we agreed we would bring her back to the emergency vet when he was finished with work.  I spent about 8 hours tending to Apollo.  At some point she tried to jump off the couch to go for a drink of water.  Her legs gave out from beneath her.  Fatigue incapacitated her movements.   I filled a shallow bowl and brought it to the couch.  Apollo rested her cheek on the side of the bowl, but did not drink.  When she moved her head back to the couch, the white porcelain was stained reddish-brown.  I picked her up and let her lay on my chest.  I almost fell asleep petting her, but she threw up more bloody bile.  I changed the towels twice so either of us wouldn’t be sitting in the stuff and used a damp washcloth to wipe vomit off her paws, chin, and chest.  She was throwing up all over herself.

By the time we brought her to the emergency vet, she was hardly moving.  I held it together pretty well up until this point.  I had a couple of short crying outbursts in private over the weekend.  However, the gravity of the situation weighed on me differently at the vet, knowing we were minutes away from putting our 15-year-old friend to sleep.  I lost it.

Ron and I had as much time as we needed to say our goodbyes.  I had only experienced the “process” of putting a loved one to sleep through our primary vet.  I wasn’t sure what to expect in the ER.  Luckily, everyone operated with the level of compassion and understanding that I was used to from Animal General.  Ron held her and I pet her head while she was administered the medicines.  We received clay paw prints from the ER that evening.  Her ashes should arrive in two weeks.  All of our cats have had private cremation.

Last night I was plugging in my cell phone in the bedroom.  I had just responded to a text and I saw a small black cat walk toward me.  When I bent down to pet him, there wasn’t a cat there.  I looked under the bed, and nothing.  I could have sworn that Orlox was just there.  I looked in the living room to find him a deep sleep on the perch of the cat condo.  It was obvious he was there the entire time.  We don’t have any other black cats.

Ron got home from work.  I was still standing in the bedroom with my hand covering my open mouth, near hysterics.  When I reiterated the experience to him, he said it was probably Apollo and I should feel honored she paid me a visit.  I can neither confirm nor deny that shadowy feline figure was Apollo.  To entertain the possibility it was, well, that makes me feel a smidge better about our dearly departed.

Diagnosis Unknown, Rapid Deterioration

Ron and I were trying to plan our schedules to take Apollo in for a senior health checkup this week.  Recently, she’s lost a lot of weight.  Both of us know that rapid weight loss in a cat is not good and there’s usually a serious underlying cause.  Even though we haven’t been home 24/7 to monitor her eating habits, we thought it may have been possible that Apollo had hyperthyroidism.

Wednesday afternoon, Apollo wasn’t herself.  She spent most of the afternoon curled on the couch with Ishtar.  Although this may not seem out of the ordinary, she just didn’t look right.  It’s hard to explain.  But every pet guardian knows in their gut when something is wrong with one of their furry friends.  I got that gut feeling.  Apollo perked up a little bit when I talked to her, but not much.  Ron also concurred that something was wrong.  We were going to make an appointment for the following morning, instead of Friday.

Just before Ron and I were getting ready for bed, we noticed Apollo lying on her side in the dining room.  It looked like she was on her way to the food dish, but ran out of steam before getting there.  Ron gently picked her up and placed her in front of the bowl.  Apollo sniffed at the food, then started to dry heave.  She sorta staggered back a bit, tilted her head to the side, and flopped over.  Apollo was responsive and we rushed her to the emergency vet.

At the emergency vet, Apollo was giving sub Q fluids, a vitamin injection, and anti-nausea medication.  The attending vet thought that maybe she had an electrolyte imbalance.  It would explain Apollo’s weird head tilt.  Results from her basic blood work panel didn’t show any abnormalities, so the vet told us she would fax over all her notes to our primary veterinarian.  We were still taking Apollo in the morning.

I brought Apollo to Animal General at 11:30am.  She was relatively quiet in the car and waiting room.  Normally, she is pretty vocal.  Doctor Z noticed her weight loss immediately, as well as the head tilt.  A series of physical tests were administered – to check her eyesight, hearing, and brain.  Doctor Z said that it looked like she had a stroke, but nothing would be able to be confirmed until we took her to a neurologist for an MRI.  She also told us that it could be possible that there’s a problem with the liver causing neurological problems.  Doctor Z took more blood for a comprehensive in-house panel, then a liver test, and finally urinalysis.

We got the test results back today.  The liver test confirmed that there was something wrong with her liver.  However, there wasn’t enough information to determine the cause or exactly what it was.  The problem with the liver could be primary or secondary, and there was no way to tell for sure until Apollo had an ultrasound of her liver and an MRI.  Overnight, Apollo refused to eat.  She didn’t eat this morning either.  Ron called the vet back to discuss other options.  Something needed to be done within the next 24 hours.

Ron just called me from the vet’s office.  Doctor M was with her.  When Doctor M tried to feed her she refused.  Apollo spit out all of the food when Doctor M tried to syringe feed her.  Ron said that we were gonna try steroids to spark her appetite.  We would see a difference within 12-24 hours (we saw this when Morpheus stopped eating).  It wouldn’t be a cure, but it would buy more time to discover the underlying cause.  He also said that Doctor May was distressed about Apollo’s behavior; it was like she stopped caring and gave up on life.  She is rapidly deteriorating

If the steroids don’t work, we will need to put her to sleep Monday morning.