Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skunk's Sweet Tale

I have to admit it. I am a cat person. I mean I love dogs, A LOT! I have three, and they go everywhere with me, but my true love is a kitty, (you know, if I am forced to pick). I think it is the fact that a cat makes you earn their love, a dog is just an opportunist. Cats, they are a challenge that repays you with purring.
I understand that most people are dog fans. I sometimes blame it on experience, rather their lack of it, with cats. I think that if you get to know the love of a cat, especially on those cold snowy winter days bundled up on the couch with a cup of tea and a curled up ball of purring sumptuous fur on your lap, then you know what true joy and peace is. On the flip side, if you have ever watched a kitten tail all puffed up dancing on tip-toes playing with a scrap of paper jumping like a pogo stick Chinese fire cracker all sideways hopping, then you are witnessing pure bliss.
I met Skunk’s mom many years ago for the routine examination and vaccines. Skunk was a very important part of his mom’s life. She had had Skunk since she was a kitten, and they were very attached to one another. For the last few years of Skunk’s life she had intermittent bouts of gastro-intestinal upset. We had a difficult time trying to figure out what exactly would cause the episodes. I have a personal (I am a self-proclaimed cat-xpert, because I do have 6, and I dote on them like an over bearing mom) opinion that many cats have GI issues due to a few basic reasons. Here is my medical opinion for diarrhea in both dogs and cats. First check for intestinal worms, really we should ALL be doing this yearly, don’t skimp on this, your dog eats poop, your cat grooms profusely and catches and eats everything it kills. Check a fecal, save yourself those terrible pictures of what worms look like in YOU. Next, is a reminder that your pets eat things they shouldn’t.  If you drink water from the toilet, or a puddle, or lick your hands clean after you climb out of your litter-sand-poop-box then you shouldn’t be so shocked to have diarrhea every so often. In hind sight I do think that Skunk had a chronic GI issue probably related to diet (almost ALL cats get an inferior commercial cat food, “you get what you pay for, and you are what you eat”, and it is IMPOSSIBLE to get a good cat food from your grocery store). Please don’t underestimate how important a good diet is to your (yes, YOU and YOUR cat included) overall health. Try a bland diet (chicken and rice, or Hill’s Science Diet I/D) and a good probiotic (get it at your Vet’s office). Some pet’s, (and some people (see Crohns disease)) need a special diet lifelong.
With Skunk, she also had chronic persistent dental disease. I find that almost every cat over 5 years old needs a dental every 4 to 5 years. I also think it is almost impossible for the average human being to brush their cats teeth. I beg my Vets to check the molars of every cat at every visit, and I also break the Vet Laws by manually removing those huge hunks of tartar glued on the molars at every visit. Then I beg and plead with the owners to have their cats teeth cleaned. I wholeheartedly, fully admit, that 1 in 5 owners will actually pay for, and schedule, a dental for their cat. So for those other 4 of you I at least take some small solace in knowing that I at least removed some of the insulting tartar. (Ok, that’s a BIG can of worms, and I know many a Vet is now shaking their head, and pointer finger at me.) Skunk’s mom did have Skunk’s teeth cleaned, she did come in for every exam, and she did pay very close attention to her cat. She is a great example of how to do everything right, despite having a cat that seems to have everything wrong.
In the summer of this year Skunk came in with a mammary mass. Mammary masses in cats are notorious for being very invasive, fast growing, and have a terrible prognosis. We don’t see them very often but when we do it is a hard and sad discussion to have with an owner. There are surgical options, and there are Veterinary Oncologists who offer treatment plans, but I admit, based on personal experience most cats die within 6 months.
Skunk was euthanized 2 months after she came in and was given her poor prognosis. I know her mom was very concerned about her comfort level at the end. I spoke to her many times about the possible treatments available to try to alleviate her kitties discomfort. I always tell owners to keep me posted on every aspect of their pets life. I want to know if you think they are hurting or struggling, and I want you to know that there are many options available. Some are expensive, some are cheap, and some patients respond differently than others. So keep your healthcare team posted on how you are doing, and we are here to help you every step of the way.

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