Friday, August 5, 2011

Midnight, My cat the hyperthyroid kitty

My first husband left me with a broken heart and a bitter taste in my mouth, but he did love cats. I always tell my clients that a man that likes a cat is a good guy. So I guess I have to stand by that one. Anyway, back to my point of this narrative, he came home one day to our little shabby apartment with a very small handful of black fur. She was pathetic in every sense of the word. She was barely big enough to be identifiable. You had to search for ears to put the label of feline on her. Otherwise she just looked like charred dryer fluff.
What could I possibly say to him? He had pulled into the gas station by our apartment and saw a little black mass hiding in the tires by the repair shop. He went over to her, started to play with her, picked her up and inquired with the attendant as to whether or not anyone claimed her as theirs. He told me that they knew she was there, but they had no idea how she had gotten there. Because she was playing so close to the busy road he knew he couldn’t leave her there to be run over by a car. So, I return to my original question. What could I possibly say to him? I just loved him for caring, and doing exactly the same thing I would have done. At the time it seemed so kismet.
So she stayed with us; and is with me still to this day. She is now 19 years old. She has seen me through a lot of challenges. 2 marriages, 1 divorce, college the second time around, vet school, 3 residences, and 10 other cats.
At the ripe old age of 19 she has certainly got her own little quirks. Her favorite toy still remains the hand knitted hand-made wool mice stuffed with catnip. You will occasionally hear a muffled but high pitched meow echoing from the third floor. If you don’t know it’s her you will think a cat is warning you of an impending fire. It is alarming and almost unrecognizable. It makes me so happy to think that at 19 she still loves her toys. She started out very small and she grew into still very small. She was delivered to me in the palm of a hand and is still transportable by one hand only. She never did weigh more than 6 pounds, even in her glory years.
At age 16 she developed hyperthyroidism. It is one of the 2 big old cat diseases. The other is kidney disease. And just for any of you out there reminding me that I am missing another big old pet disease I say whole heartedly YES! The third is cancer, but I was being species specific. Cancer has no species preference. We vets use the saying quite frequently, “cancer does whatever it wants.” It isn’t what an inquiring, probing, unsure client wants to hear from you when you are trying to read the tea leaves for their pet with cancer.
The classic hyperthyroid cat presents to us as; “Hey Doc I think my cat has worms”. Ok, I recognize the bait, and yes, I bite. “Why would you think that Mrs. Jones?” “Because Doc, she eats and eats and still she keeps losing weight.” “Oh, well maybe we should check into that” I reply. It is important to remember that the acceptance of any diagnosis is always easier if every member of the team is a willing and active participant. A client is always more likely to help treat if you can help them diagnose.
 It is a more difficult task to assess an individual’s behavior if you are also watching 7 others concurrently. (Yes I do have 8 cats. No giggling please.) This is the dilemma of inquiring about a patients’ behaviors, actions, etc., in a multiple pet household. So I had to ask myself the same questions I ask my clients. Was I sure that she was polyphagic (increased hunger/eating)? Umm.., no, not really. But was I sure her small body was shrinking? Yep! Definitely. A blood test later my suspicion was confirmed, and thus began our greatest challenge. The twice daily oral pill administration. OMG, did she fight me. And OMG was I determined to have my own patient treated. it took along time before she understood that i wasn't trying to suffocate her, and after months of practice she now willingly sits, and swallows her pill quickly and easily. this is often hard to convince owners of. Patience and practice are the cornerstones of pilling a cat effectively. Please don't give up after your first attempt doesn't go easily. Always ask your vet to help you. We will show you as many times as you need us to. And you can do it, I promise you can.
A lot of interesting things have happened to veterinary medicine over the last decade. Two of the greatest achievements we have made are; One, the advent of flea and tick prevention, (no I don’t know what we did before them). And two, almost all feline products are going topical. Easy to do? Hell Yes! As effective? Hell No! (usually). But I appreciate and applaud the efforts, and the marketing strategy. Offer a client a topical at twice the price of the original pill and guess what they will choose 9 times out of ten, Yep, they are great money makers. Many of my clients now use a topical hyperthyroid gel instead of pilling. i would say it works 60% of the time. 
So it has been a few years of medicating the disease that’s eats away at her. I send the sentinel down her throat twice a day and the weight is holding steady. She still can be heard prancing around the third floor with a stuffed catnip mouse in her mouth. And me, well, I have a wonderful sweet longtime friend. And I guess I still stand by my thoughts on the “good guys” qualities.
If you would like to learn more about a hyperthyroidism in cats please see the link below;

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