Saturday, April 10, 2010

Paging Nurse Brown...

It began about three weeks ago when I noticed the persistent, frantic glug-glug-glug coming from the kitchen.  Miss Amelia would saunter in there once, twice, three times an hour...and then her little kitty litter tray of Feline Pine stuffed itself to capacity in mere days.  I would come home to a completely empty food dish and a water feeder knocked over and askew, a sure sign that it was empty and someone's negligent mother must come refill it immediately.

I knew something was not right.

The quart-sized water feeder used to last about a week.  Now it was sucked dry in two days.  The litter could go 5 days before it started getting packed.  It, too, was in a state of disaster within days.  I tried to explain it away to warmer weather at first, but I knew that I would end up at the vet eventually.  In the meantime, I got her a gallon sized water feeder and made an appointment.

Today I took Amelia into Dr. Schiebert who laid out the possibilities upon a quick examination: kidney trouble, feline diabetes, or perhaps hyperthyroidism.  Or hypo?  (I know one means overactive thyroid and the other the opposite, but I forget which might manifest in increased water consumption.)  I prayed that it was not the first option, which is progressively degenerative and irreversible.  Talk to my parents about our beloved cat Tammy's last several months on this earth when her kidney function went south and they had to give her subcutaneous water injections.  I was out of the house and living here in California by then, but I did witness an IV session during a home visit, the last time I saw her alive.  It's not fun, and it generally signals that the end is nigh.  Tammy was a creaky old lady cat by this point, the ripe old age of 19.  Miss Amelia is no spring chicken, but my hope is that at 12 or 13 years old, she's got a couple lives left to spare.

By the afternoon we had our diagnosis, however.  It's feline diabetes.  Normal blood glucose levels for cats is between 80 and 120, and Miss A was up past 400!  They gave her an insulin shot then and there and I was recruited once again to play cat nurse.  They called in a prescription of insulin to the local Walgreens and I showed up ready to learn how to stick my cat like a pincushion.  After last November's adventure in administering medicine to the feline patient, this wasn't so bad.  While I am not crazy about hypodermic needles as they are applied to my skin, I could handle her pretty well.  The biggest pain in the neck is just getting that air bubble out of the syringe with the smallest does of insulin you can imagine!  I won't even come close to using it all before it expires.

In addition to these injections (which I must administer every 12 hours for now), I must give her specially formulated food that has a low carbohydrate content and more protein.  She also has a bladder infection, which commonly accompanies diabetes, as the bacteria love to feed on the extra sugar spilling into her urinary system.  Yes, I learned a lot about my cat's bodily function today.  I gave her a practice shot with saline at the office, and then did the real thing shortly after getting home. Had she the words, I think she would have called me a clumsy oaf as she slunk away from my lap following her insulin injection.  And when I came at her a few minute later with the antibiotics, it would have gone something like, "F*#&! Really??? "  Hey, at least I'm somewhat good at that!  It's old hat by now. Ultimately, she seemed to take it in stride, all poking and prodding considered, because she's cool like that.  She is now resting peacefully on the back of the couch, dreaming of how she's going to walk in my hair and put her little kitty bum in my face later when I'm in bed.

In case you are wondering--and I know you are--today's little adventure set me back some dough.  Which is why I thank my lucky stars for having the foresight to get her pet insurance when I adopted her!  The premium costs me about $33/month with a $75 per incident/illness deductible, and I am reimbursed 80% for everything after that.  Monday I will scan the invoices and receipts at work and rattle off my claim to Pet's Best.  If you don't have pet insurance, I urge you to consider it!  I will also invest in a home glucometer eventually.  I'll be bringing her back in 10 days so they can monitor her for the day to see if the dosage is working out, but even the vet technician told me today that learning how to do it at home is even better.

All things considered, it could be a lot worse, and I am glad to know what's going on and how to treat it.  For one, according to the vet there is a reasonably good chance that her pancreas will eventually start to produce insulin on its own again and she will go into remission.  It may happen within a week, a month, several months, or, hey, perhaps not ever.  Here's hoping to many more happy years for Miss A, whether I'm shooting her up with the juice every day or not.