What is it like when a veterinarian’s pet is ill?
It is not easy, I can tell you from plenty of experience.
As you might imagine my family and I have had many pets over the years. Most veterinarians’ families have. And as time passes, so do our pets.
If you have read my bio on MyPetsDoctor.com’s Home Page, you know that our cat, Martha, has been described as “grouchy.” Sometimes she has been described in worse terms, even by family members. She often deserves those names.
To the man whose “baby” she is, she can do no wrong. She can be grumpy if she wants to be, she can give “love bites” as long as she doesn’t draw blood. At the end of the day, she’s still the kitty who “Lassies” me at bedtime every night.
Performing medical procedures for a kitty with a bad attitude can be a challenge, and Martha fits the definition. To obtain blood and urine samples today we had to administer a general anesthetic. If she were a medium-good kitty and we could have administered the anesthesia intravenously (IV), she would have been awake in fifteen minutes or so. Alas, Martha doesn’t tolerate any restraint. We were lucky to hold her long enough to give her an intramuscular (IM) injection. The anesthetic we used requires a much higher dose when given IM and causes her to metabolize it much more slowly, so she will be sleeping all day today.
Martha is 15½ years old. Some people might want to give up on a kitty that age, but cats routinely live into their 20s now, and we’re not even close to being ready to lose her. We will do whatever it takes.
Sadly, a number of our elderly patients are not getting the diagnostics that we recommend. Those diagnostics might identify problems that can be treated. Some of those problems might at least be ameliorated, if not completely resolved. Reducing or eliminating problems can lead to more and happier years.
Martha is being tested to find the cause of a rapid-onset weight loss and excessive water intake and output.
The weight-loss part will bring a chuckle to our out-of-town family reading this. It has always been a bit of a family joke that “she’s a really big kitty.” Efforts to get her to lose weight over the last ten years have met with only the limited success of keeping her from getting any bigger.
On a long list of differential diagnoses the top three items are kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus.
The good news is that hyperthyroidism in cats is fairly easy to treat, even with this grumpy kitty because she doesn’t mind taking pills. The pills have to be given twice daily for a lifetime, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she one day had enough.
Diabetes mellitus in cats is generally treated with insulin injections and diet changes. Martha would probably tolerate the minute needle of an insulin syringe, but proper management of diabetes requires frequent laboratory testing of the blood, and she has always shown a low tolerance for being still long enough to take a laboratory sample of any kind.
Kidney disease would carry the worst prognosis because, short of a kidney replacement, when the kidneys are gone, they’re gone. Dietary changes can help for the short term, but longevity is unlikely.
We promise to give you an update in Monday’s post and let you know the laboratory test results and, hopefully, a final diagnosis and prognosis.