Our Pearl Is Gone, Part 2

Part One of Pearl’s final story may be accessed by clicking here.

I feared that a day at work with me on Monday would be too much for her, so I cared for her needs before leaving, then made the one-hour round trip home to check on her at lunchtime. Lulu continued to drink well, though she ate only avian-sized meals.

Pearl's empty bed breaks our hearts every time we pass it.
Pearl's empty bed breaks our hearts every time we pass it.

“Mommy’s” plane arrived late Monday night and Pearl really perked up when Brenda got home. After some reacquaintance time, dining was in order. Pearl ate eagerly for Brenda, but still only a small volume.

We continued to believe that she would be gone any day.

Some days she ate. Some days she didn’t.

Some days she was active. Some days she would lie around all day and we would again think, “This is it.”

Then, somehow, in 24-36 hours, she would perk up again. We didn’t understand, but we didn’t question.

Pearl’s feeding was lunacy. Eventually she gave up on turkey altogether, even though Brenda bought a beautiful turkey breast and baked it just like Andy’s.

We began to experiment. “Dog” food was out, altogether. Because our Martha also has kidney problems, she is on the feline version of Hill’s k/d. While it’s much too high in protein to be healthy for a dog in kidney failure, we knew that Pearl had to eat something. Our first try of Martha’s food was a rousing success, as long as I hand-fed it. Pearl ate so much that we feared she would throw it all  up, yet we feared even more letting her stop eating. That night began a pattern that lasted until Lulu Bird’s last Friday. All day she would mope around. I would call Brenda to check on Pearl during the day and consistently she painted a bleak picture. Then, when I came home and Pearl heard me (she was nearly deaf and mostly blind, so I had to go where she was before she knew I’d arrived), she would perk up. My usual supper is oatmeal, followed by bran cereal. We noticed right away that Pearl was intently watching me eat. At first I tried giving her something healthy, like canned k/d or baked turkey. When she rejected those items we tried some roast beef Brenda had made. She ate it, along with the potatoes and carrots!

Eventually, she gave up on that, and we searched for something else she might eat. She continued to stare at my oatmeal! So, I began to feed her, a bite for me, a bite for Pearl. Who would have thought a dog would like oatmeal? That became a nightly routine. We began to make Pearl her own “batch” each night. Not surprisingly, the more milk there was in it, the more she liked it.

We also noticed she would stare longingly at my bran cereal. So, some of that went in her bowl. She even ate it dry on occasion. Go figure.

I will occasionally give in to a non-oatmeal supper. Brenda made chili one night and Pearl stared intently as I ate. I put a bean in my mouth, sucked all the spices from its surface, then offered it to her. Boom! Another big hit! Surprisingly, other beans she routinely rejected. We tried them all. It was beans from chili, or no beans at all.

After 30 years of practice I’ve heard just about everything. I often heard owners of sick pets say that they thought their dogs’ or cats’ teeth hurt. “Dr. Randolph, he looks at the food like he’s hungry, and he even picks it up, but he won’t eat it. Did you see any evidence of bad teeth when you looked in his mouth?” I knew it was rarely, if ever, the teeth, but I still didn’t know what it was.

I decided to call an expert in eating: the Hill’s Pet Food veterinary consultants. I spoke to a doctor who had a theory. She said that there was good evidence these patients suffered from “food aversion.” Most dog and cat renal patients experience a certain amount of gastric irritation. The chemical processes that occur in kidney failure affect the entire body. We prescribe all kinds of gastric protectants for them, but there is probably still a certain amount of lingering inflammation anyway. Therefore, when a sick pet looks at food, he may think, “The last time I ate that I felt horrible and threw up. I’m really hungry, but I don’t want to have to go through that again, so I just won’t eat.” Still, that doesn’t keep him from continuing to stare at the food.

Kidney disease patients also often suffer from sores in the mouth. Even if the teeth are alright, ulcers in the gums may interfere with the ability to eat. Medications and treatments exist that can help with this problem. Fortunately, Pearl didn’t suffer from oral lesions.

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