Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cats Are Weird

Warning: if you're squeamish about medical issues, especially having to do with the eyes, you might not want to read this post.

I used to think horses had the strangest physiology, with their propensity to get laminitis just by having the wrong diet, or to colic at the drop of a hat and to be at risk for twisting their intestines from just rolling around in their stalls. But I think cats have them beat when it comes to weird health issues. They get respiratory infections and won't eat if they can't smell their food. If they're stressed they can get all kinds of bizarre problems.

Take Chloe's eye problem. A couple of weeks ago we found that she had an ulcer on her cornea. How did she get it? No one knows for sure, but it may have been caused by an outbreak of a herpes virus. Something I didn't know before: about 80% of cats have this herpes virus, and sometimes it harbors itself in their brains. Then, when under stress, it manifests itself as a corneal ulcer.

I mean, it's bad enough to think of having an ulcer on your eye, but I think that if I had to deal with knowing I had a herpes virus simmering in my brain, I don't think I could handle that.

This corneal ulcer doesn't really look all that bad. She has what looks like a crater in her cornea and a lot of the times you can't even see it. I don't think I would have ever noticed it if my vet hadn't spotted it in one of her checkups.

Chloe's ulcer was so deep that she was at risk of having her eye rupture. Something else I was ignorant about. And a rupture woud be as gross as it sounds, where the eye loses massive amounts of fluid. We're talking Bugsy Siegel on the couch with his eye shot out, but with fluid instead of blood. My vet ordered me to go to a veterinary opthamologist immediately. Yes, there are veterinary opthamologists, something I was ignorant about as well. And guess what? This opthamologist is one of five offices. A chain - with five offices in Southern California.

My first visit with them was last week. They looked at Chloe's eye - she was such a good girl and only meowed a little - and said yep, it's bad. They said I could do Option A, which is surgery, where they would put a graft on the eye. I asked for an estimate of what the surgery would cost.

This was where it got really, really difficult and very overwhelming. I was thinking Ok, we're talking at least a thousand, a thousand and a half. The vet was talking about something having to do with how this all happens. I took a peek at the estimate the assistant brought in while the vet was still talking. At that point, the vet's voice became nothing but blah, blah, blah, blah, because the estimate for the surgery was $2,700.

How do people handle it when they can't afford to have their animals treated anymore? It's an extremely difficult and painful situation and I know a lot of people have had to undergo these types of situations over the past few years when the economy has tanked, and so many of these people are hurting financially already. I'm just lucky that I have good credit and a job, because those two things are the only thing that are getting me over this financial disaster right now. I also purchased health insurance for both pets, but I'm waiting to see how much of this they'll cover.

I asked the assistant about the other option the vet had mentioned - something to do with putting a temporary shield on her eye. He said Option B is where they put a collagen shield and a contact lens to protect the eye, and then I would have to put drops in her eyes - 5 different drops, 4 times a day. It was a much, much cheaper option, but there was still a 50-50 chance that the eye would rupture.

Now let me be clear here. I am not one to ever believe that money should never be an object when it comes to taking care of who or what we love. My pets are my children, and even though I've only had Chloe for a month, I've already fallen in love with her. This is a cat who is so affectionate that I've already learned that any time I sit on the couch, whether I have a laptop computer, or am eating, or reading, or trying to do needlework, it doesn't matter - Chloe runs over to take over my lap. At night, she'll come in the middle of the night and crawl onto me and lay down, with her face literally one inch from mine, or she'll drape herself over my neck. This is a cat that has no conception of respecting someone's space. She is a total slob - she doesn't care a whit that she tracks kitty litter all over the house. And I love all this about her. I especially love that she is totally patient with Annie's over exuberance.

But I have already spent - get ready - $2,500 on this cat since I adopted her five weeks ago, between her respiratory infection and her bladder surgery. I kid you not. And I'm about tapped out.

Reluctantly I chose Option B. I know myself: if I put my mind to anything I can be successful. Chloe and I would get through this. Besides, at that point, there really was no other option, other than doing absolutely nothing, which I think would be inhumane.

So for the past week, I've been administering 5 drops, 4 times a day. And it's not as easy as putting in the drops, one after the other, with the cat in your lap. You have to wait 5 minutes between each drop to make sure that they get into the system. And of course, you have to deal with a cat who may not really appreciate having 20 eye drops put in their eyes every single day.

But Chloe is getting used to it. We're in a groove now. And I took her back to the vet yesterday for a check up and guess what - she's getting better. It's still a risk, but it's stabilized and there are signs that it's healing.

So we're plugging along. And I have to stop now - I've got a series of eye drops to administer.

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Cap'n Bob said...

I think you should be nominated for sainthood.

Charles Gramlich said...

I grew up on a farm and the only animals we had the vet see were the cattle, which were our livelihood. We couldn't afford anything else, so we treated it ourselves or let it heal on its own.

Deka Black said...

You made me remember when my dog become blind. in a way was ironic. usually are dogs who help blind people. And here i was: A person helping a blind dog!

sainthood i don't know. But if there is something who rewards you for take care of thosewho could'nt for themselves... You must have it in humongous lots.

Laurie Powers said...

I'm not a saint and don't wanna be one. I'm just wondering what other people do in this day and age. I think Charles touched on it - before we have veterinarians on every corner and lots of disposable income, we treated things ourselves. And a lot of times those homemade treatments worked just fine.

Chris said...

Our cat has the same Herpes virus. I definitely sympathize with the having to make tough decisions thing. Best of luck with the eye drop regimen!

Anonymous said...

We had a cat with this same problem. Over a period of years, the cat endured several "microsurgeries" on its eyeball. Fortunately, vet prices are a little lower here, and we had access to a university teaching hospital; but, still, the expense was considerable. Finally, the ulcer flared up again, and we failed to detect it quickly enough, and the eyeball had to be removed. The one-eyed cat lived happily for several more years. He was a great cat, and well worth the expense.

Bill Crider said...

You might not be a saint, but you're patient, kind, and loving. That ain't bad.

Laurie Powers said...

Thanks Bill!

Chris and Anon, thanks for posting. I'm glad (well not glad, but it's comforting that other people have had this problem and that sometimes what we think is the worst case scenario can be overcome.)

BTW, both my vets recommended I put Chloe on L-Lysine to suppress the herpes virus so hopefully prevent this from happening again. Something worth taking to your vets about. I started her on it a few days ago.

Ron Scheer said...

Have been there with pets suddenly requiring immediate and expensive surgery or some (cross-your-fingers) fallback. In the case of our dog, fortunately, the fallback worked and she recovered from almost complete paralysis. Yet the vet visits, the special diet, and the medication bills have added up.

Growing up on the farm sixty years ago, these options were only for the wealthy; you had to steel yourself to eventual loss; and you didn't let yourself get too fond of animals. It's way different now.

Barry Traylor said...

My wife and I have been where you are with Chloe and I know how difficult these things are. Two of our cats had problems one with lazy bowl and we had to have a bowl resection done on her. Then another of our cats got caught in a trap and we had to have his front leg amputated. Both of these crises occured within six months. I refused to give up on them and I have never regretted my decision.

Richard R. said...

It's amazing to me that this poor cat is having such a hard time of it. I hope you can get everything taken care of.

Over the last 50 years I've probably had 15 or more cats, none had any of the problems yours have had. Most have been rescues though a very few have come from breeders when I really, really wanted a particular breed of cat (Chartreux, Abyssinian, Bengal). I have had two with chronic respiratory problems but it was taken care of with antibiotics, one with cancer but we got it cut out, the rest strong and active their whole lives until old age and failing kidney's spelled the end. So I think the problems you're having are unusual and not endemic to the species. It's just this one, not all of them. Keep up the fight.