Sunday, August 27, 2006

On the joys of pets

Meet Pernicious:


He is 17 years old, diabetic, has a hyperactive thyroid, is missing a little over half of his teeth, and is an evil little cuss.

He's also in the cat equivalent of intensive care right now.

Friday night, he gave out this panicky sounding meow and jumped up on the bed with us; after that, he was very disoriented, unsteady, and unresponsive. Our first thought was that his blood sugar had crashed (it's happened before), so we mixed a solution of Karo sryup and water, and we thought that it might be helping, but he didn't respond like he had in the past. The next morning, however, he wasn't any better, and we began to suspect he'd had a stroke. In addition to the disorientation and unsteadiness, it turned out he was blind as well. His pupils were fixed and dilated, and he didn't respond to us waving our hands in front of his eyes. Strokes in cats are rare, but not unheard of, and he's had enough problems that it was a likely candidate. We took him to the clinic (not our normal one, as that one is closed on the last Saturday of each month), prepared for the worst. It has been about 20 years since I've had to put a cat down, and it's one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced.

After running some tests, however, it turned out that his blood sugar was insanely high; they had to calculate it manually because it exceeded the scale on the machine. The tentative diagnosis is non-ketotic hyperosmolar diabetes; basically, the concentration of the sugar in his cells is so high that it's interfering with normal brain function, as well as causing a host of other problems, including dehydration so bad that his blood is almost too viscous for his heart to handle. The good news is that this is treatable; basically the plan is to slowly build up fluids via IV over the next few days. The prognosis is still very poor, but there's a chance that he can return to his previous quality of life, which wasn't too bad all things considered.

What's scary is that he had a checkup about 3 weeks ago, and his blood sugar was a little on the high side, but not enough to warrant concern. Something has changed radically in the last few weeks; either his insulin has gone off, or his dosage has become woefully inadequate, or something.

This is going to wind up being expensive. I know some people out there wonder about those of us who spend more than a couple of hundred dollars on a sick animal, but we don't have any children; our cats are our family. We've already prepared ourselves for the worst, so we're not going to any more extreme measures than what's being done now, and it's more than likely that once this problem is resolved, something else just as dire will come up and it will all be for naught. But this evil little bastard is special to us, and if he can return to his previous state, it will be worth it to us.


A weekend of IV fluids has worked wonders. We transferred him from the emergency clinic to the regular vet clinic this morning (Monday), and he's in far, far better shape than he was Saturday. He's still pretty lethargic, but his sight appears to be back, and he's holding himself a lot steadier. He's looking more and more like his old self. We're trying not to be too optimistic; no doubt this episode has put his liver and kidneys through the wringer, and they aren't that healthy to begin with.

But, it looks like we may get the old Snick back. He's even started growling at the staff, although one gets the sense it's more out of protocol than actual pique.



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