MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cinnamon Rocks: Perhaps Cats Really Do Have 9 Lives

2nd Opinions Can Save Your Animal’s Life

As many of you know, Cinnamon, our 17 year old cat, was doing so poorly a couple of weeks ago we feared we’d have to euthanize her. We are travelling in our camper with her, so we weren’t able to see her regular veterinarian. After a blood test, the Montrose vet diagnosed her with early kidney failure, a very significant anemia, and probable leukemia or lymphoma. It took me a couple of days to get out of my shock and emotions enough to consult with our vet in Boulder. With his voice of calm, Craig said  Cinnamon’s kidney disease was not that bad, and the he sure wouldn’t be able to say from looking at her white cells that she had a blood cancer without confirmation from a pathologist. 

“We need to know if her anemia is regenerative or not,” he said. “That will tell us if her kidneys are causing it (this is a non-regenerative anemia) or if there is another cause such as bleeding somewhere, a blood-borne infection that is destroying her red blood cells, her own immune system destroying red cells, or possibly a cancer.” 

He said he often gave older anemic kitties B12 injections each week. He and another vet in his office both suggested trying a course of antibiotics in case there was an infection from a tick or other blood borne pathogen causing her anemia, increased white count, and poor health. Soon after our conversation, Cinnamon’s appetite took a turn for the worse. I spoke with the Montrose vet re: Craig’s suggestions and one of my own.

“What about steroids?” I asked. “Wouldn’t that help if it were cancer?” I knew of a dog with a stomach cancer that lived another quality year on steroids after he initially stopped eating and was diagnosed with cancer. When I took Cinnamon on Tuesday, July 20 for a second blood test (this one to go to pathology), the Montrose vet suggested we give her a steroid injection that would last 8 weeks rather than giving her pills each day.

“It will help with any inflammation her body is dealing with, whether from an infection or cancer,” she said. I was desperate at this point, as Cinnamon had lost most interest in eating and was rapidly losing weight. I knew the steroid could help her appetite and her sense of well being. At 17 years old, I wasn’t very concerned about the long term affects of steroids – just giving Cinnamon quality now.

The blood and pathology report came back the next day. There was NO report of increased or suspiciously shaped lymphocytes (one part of the white cell count). Her neutrophils, part of the white cells that fight infection, were “slightly toxic looking.” Cinnamon’s anemia IS regenerative, which means it is not being caused by her kidneys. The Montrose vet still stuck to her cancer suspicion, though. Why, I’m not sure – perhaps her own instincts, perhaps not being able to admit she was wrong about what she saw on the first slide a week earlier. The truth is we still don’t know what is causing Cinnamon’s anemia. But the vet did prescribe the antibiotic, and a vet tech very kindly came out to our truck at my request to give Cinnamon the steroid injection so she didn’t have to go inside the vet’s office.

The steroid injection was a Godsend. Cinnamon’s appetite began to improve within the first 24 hours. Her mood improved and she began to seem like the cat we knew again. The wonderful thing is that cats don’t have the adverse affects from steroids that humans and dogs do. I planned to wait a few days before beginning her antibiotic. I wanted Cinnamon to have a chance to gain some of her lost weight back and enjoy eating again. Plus, I was afraid to rock the boat – I had my cat back. What if the antibiotic made her sick? The Montrose vet told me esophageal stricture in cats was a possible side effect of Doxycycline if it got stuck in her esophagus and that I needed to follow the pill with 6 cc of water. I knew I wasn’t going to get into a forceful match with Cinnamon at this stage in her life, which is another reason I waited to give the antibiotic. We’ve always had such a rapport and understanding –I wanted this to be the same. I knew what we were enjoying was the masked symptom effect of the steroid injection, and that Cinnamon’s anemia was still raging. The antibiotic may be a shot in the dark, but it may also be her only hope at cure. 

Finally, we started the antibiotic last Monday. I give it in 2 small pieces in pill pockets which she takes like treats, followed by several of her favorite treats, and then I place her water dish in front of her and she drinks of her own accord (one blessing of her increased drinking).  We’re 6 days into it and 8 to go – no side effect thus far.

I won’t know until we repeat Cinnamon’s blood test after we get home in August if this course makes a difference in her anemia. We don’t have a firm diagnosis. Perhaps she does have cancer, I don’t know. I will not be doing invasive tests to find out. For now, we have our purring cat back, and her purr lulls me to sleep at night while her soft fur caresses my arm. I will savor every quality moment with my Cinnamon until the journey’s end, grateful for this extra time.

Photos: All taken on 7-28-10 in our camper except bottom photo of Cinnamon relaxing on back taken this morning.

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns  

Twitter: themaggiebook


Ingrid King said...

I'm so happy to hear Cinnamon is doing better! That is such great news that whatever is going on with her is not renal failure. She looks wonderful in the photos.

It sounds like the pill pockets are working. Another option to give Doxy is in a gel cap, that way, it can't come in contact with the esophagus on the way down (and also tends to go down easily).

Continuing to send you and Cinnamon lots of good thoughts and energy!

Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE the dog who changed my life said...

Thanks for your suggestions, Ingrid. I didn't know Doxy came in a gel cap. I have felt so blessed that she is taking it easily in the pill pockets.

Please keep your good thoughts and energy coming -- it's working!

I will say Cinnamon has slowed down and is beginning to seem her age of 17, whereas I always used to say, "she just doesn't look or act like she's 17..."

Thank you so much for your support. I hope you are doing better. I know it is a matter of time before I'll be walking in your shoes...

Ingrid King said...

Just try to focus on each and every moment you have with Cinnamon, Dawn, and try not to think about what's around the corner.

As a clarification on my gel caps suggestion, Doxy doesn't come in gel caps but you can get emtpy ones and either put the entire pill in an empty gel cap or crush it up and put it in the gel cap. Most vets, as well as some human pharmacies, carry empty gel caps, or they can order them for you.

Heather said...

Yeah! She looks great and I'm so glad that she is doing better. I hope to make a little visit to your camper this week to see her for myself!

Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE the dog who changed my life said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE said...

Thanks, 'H'-- I was hoping you'd make a trip to come see Cinnamon here. I know she'd love to see you!

Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE said...

Thanks for your clarification, Ingrid -- the vet here never mentioned the gel caps. And yes, I do try to focus on the moment with Cinnamon, but sometimes the "around the corner" does come up. Part of our lessons from animals, right, to live in the moment?

I loved your newsletter today re: cat dry food, by the way -- excellent!