Shelly has been very, very sick. This is a huge entry.
We noticed it the weekend before the Fourth. She hadn’t been eating much and she was fighting her regular medications worse than ever. I thought she was just mad at me and being sulky because there was a kitten in the house. She was holding her pills in her mouth and refusing to swallow them, which made her drool big time when they dissolved. She was also licking her lips a lot, like her mouth was dry. I thought maybe her teeth were bothering her, so off to the emergency vet we went. We went all the way to Fairfax to the clinic recommended on her regular vet’s website. Since it was Sunday, we didn’t think we had many other options.
Let me just state here that we were not happy with this ER vet. There were not a ton of patients out front, nor was the parking lot full. But we waited forever to be called in. It took ages for a doctor to come in and examine Booger. And then we didn’t think he would ever come back to us with test results. I am not kidding here; Alex had time to leave the office, loop around in traffic, go all the way to Wendy’s for chicken nuggets for her, come back, and eat the sandwich he bought for himself. All we were told was that they were “short handed.” This was on top of the inadequate facilities – they did not have dental x-ray equipment. At an emergency vet. We called ahead and told them what the issue was; why they didn’t tell me this over the phone, I don’t know. They did mention that they couldn’t do routine extractions, which was odd in and of itself. But I wouldn’t have driven her all the way to Fairfax had I known they couldn’t even look for the problem!
They didn’t find anything in her mouth, but about all he could do was check her visually for decay or mouth ulcers (common with kidney disease). He did say that the lip licking was consistent with nausea. He prescribed her some Pepcid AC for that, and wanted to run her kidney levels. They were just done back on June 14th, but I thought “what the hell?” They came out “normal,” as in consistent with what her regular vet had found back in June. I would later be very, very glad this test was done. The ER vet also told us that her bladder was full. This was something else we didn’t think too much about at the time, because Shelly has a habit of holding her wee. We have never known why, exactly, but we think it has something to do with her anxiety issues. We didn’t pay any attention to it at the time, assuming she’d go when we got home. He said she didn’t seem dehydrated or anything. He said that he didn’t find any place on her body where she was reactive, but he still sent us home with pain medication for her. He suggested that we follow up with her regular vet that week, in regard to her teeth.
Monday morning, she still hadn’t eaten anything and she hadn’t gone to the box, either. That worried me. I knew she was in pain, that much was obvious. But what if she had a bladder infection rather than a bum tooth? Boo had one once, and he was in terrible pain from it! Unfortunately, her regular vet’s office couldn’t fit her in until the end of the week. So we took her to a new vet in Alexandria. This new clinic featured the bunnies’ old doctor, the one who had successfully treated Chewie’s cancer years ago. The doctor that saw Shelle-Belle that day happened to be a friend of hers.
This vet wanted to do an x-ray of the kidney/bladder area to see if she could see why she was holding the wee. She did agree that the lip licking thing was probably nausea but wasn’t sure if that was the pain she was feeling, or if it was because of the pain. She wanted to hang on to her and give her some fluids, and run a complete blood panel. She also wanted to take a urine sample to test for infection. She said that they’d be happy to do dental x-rays, too, but she was more concerned about the bladder and wanted to rule that out first. The x-rays didn’t show anything other than a small kidney stone; she said it wasn’t large enough to account for the pain. But they hooked my little booger up to some fluids and we snuggled her one last time before we left. Alex brought me to work, where I sat at my desk and tried really hard to focus on something other than my poor kitty.
At around one p.m., I started to get antsy because they hadn’t called. By one thirty, I was on the phone. My timing was good; the blood panel results were just coming off the printer. Dr. P. told me that she’d extracted some urine for the test, and that shortly thereafter Shelly had used the box. They were also going to do a culture. As for the blood test results, Her white blood cell count was a smidge high…everything else was normal…and then Dr. P. got to the kidney levels. They were really high. I told her that they’d been tested the previous day by the ER vet, and had been in line with her June tests. She found the letter from him and compared them. Then her demeanor changed – she was worried. We were instructed to come and get her ASAP. She needed to be taken to a 24-hour facility where she could get fluids and a feeding tube and be monitored around the clock. She also wanted a kidney ultrasound. Since we were so unhappy with South Paws, Dr. P. suggested Springfield Regional, where Shelly had gotten RadioCat. Husband came to get me and we were off.
When we picked her up, she was cold. They’d had her in a cage with a heating unit because her temperature was so low. She sat on my lap for the trip to Springfield; thankfully, traffic wasn’t bad. She was admitted rather quickly. They’d received instructions from Dr. P. already. One more time, we snuggled our girl from inside a cage and then got out of the way so that they could do their work.
At around eight, we went back to see her and speak with a vet. The ultrasound found nothing in her kidneys, but did find a spot on her intestines. They wanted to do an endoscopy to get a closer look, but that requires sedation. So they’d have to hope that her kidney levels returned to normal first. As for what it could be, it was either an infection, inflammatory bowel disease, or cancer. We wouldn’t know unless and until the endoscopy could be performed.
Then they let us see her. My poor baby girl had a feeding tube in her nose! And she was so dehydrated that they’d given her a temporary fluid feed in a syringe, so she wouldn’t have to stop them. She’d been getting pain meds and antibiotics continuously via the tubes since we had left. And because of that, we were only allowed twenty minutes with her. She was very sedate, and obviously uncomfortable. I cried a lot.
She’d spend Monday and Tuesday nights in the hospital, with us visiting in the evenings. Her kidney levels had dropped enough Tuesday that they scheduled the endoscopy for Wednesday morning. They said if that went well, and if she started eating on her own after, we could bring her home. Tuesday evening when we went to see her, she was up and moving around and she wanted to eat (though she still had her tube). She ate some baby food for us, and some of the buffalo food we’d brought for her. We were hopeful.
On Wednesday, I waited for the call with my stomach in knots. They called around 11:30 or so to let me know that she’d done just fine – they’d found some ulcers with the scope, and they’d taken some tissue for biopsy. They would send it out that afternoon, but with the holiday weekend there was no telling when I’d get my results back. As long as she came out of the sedation okay and wanted food, they’d let us come get her; sure enough, they called at about 4:30 that evening and gave us the green light to come for her. They were going to put her on an ulcer medication for seven days and continue the pain medication through the weekend. They also prescribed a medication for diarrhea that had to be specially compounded.
She rode on my lap all the way home.
Unfortunately, she was not doing as well as we had hoped once we got her there. She ate a little, but she mostly laid around. There was no purring. There was no wandering the house. She stayed curled up in Chewie’s old litterbox. The most activity we got was when we tried to give her meds. She fought that, and refused to swallow if we managed to get it in her mouth. The hospital said that was normal with older cats and anesthesia. They said the fighting was a good sign, because it was “normal” for her and to give her a few days.
And slowly, she did start to feel better. She ate more food (mostly tuna and Alice’s kitten food), started coming out into the living room for short periods, and even getting up onto my lap and purring! Which was wonderful. But I couldn’t relax until the biopsy results came back. Dr. P.’s office had already called to tell us that all of the urine tests and cultures had come back negative, which only made me more nervous that it was cancer. By Tuesday, I had called the hospital twice.
Finally, the vet called about seven thirty. We were in Springfield at the time, at our favorite chili spot. First, he assured me that they didn’t find any cancer. Then he explained that she had two kinds of inflammation – the first being fairly common, and an indicator of inflammatory bowel; and the second being much more rare and indicative of injury, infection, toxin/poison ingestion, or a virus. He said in Shelly’s case, since they found no evidence of a bacterial infection and since she hadn’t been near any poisons, it was probably viral and would have to run it’s course. For the IBS, we’d treat her with steroids and B-12 shots. The prednazone can be compounded into a trans dermal gel and massaged into her ear (which I’d only recently heard about from a professor at my old university, oddly enough). I can be taught how to give the weekly shots at home. He also said that the “ulcers” were actually just small “erosions.” The gooey pink medicine we gave her for seven days probably cleared them right up.
It’s good news. It’s not cancer. It’s not fatal. It’s definitely treatable. She’s already starting to feel better and return to her normal habits (plus kitten swatting). I’m relieved, truly I am. But I can’t relax. Maybe it’s the vet bills; they’re not as large as Chewie’s by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re still pretty scary for me. Maybe it’s that this happened so close to Chewie’s passing, after dealing with his undiagnosed “mystery illness” for so long, and then dealing with his ulcers and meds and feeding schedule. Maybe it’s that Shelly was so crazy, scary healthy until the last year or so, and then BAM, everything started happening at once – hypothyroid, dental issues, kidney disease, and then this. She is getting older, and I have to face losing her, my last living link to Leia, Misty, and especially Boo. Or maybe it’s a combination of all of those things.
I am selling a few items on eBay to help with the vet bills. So far, I’ve managed to sell three MOTU figures. I have a Coach handbag up now. And this weekend, I’m going to put some of my jewelry up. My eBay name is ladyknightsong, if you’d like to check and see what’s up for sale over the next couple of days. I believe Husband has a few more games/animes he wants to get rid of, too, so I’ll see if he’ll let me put those up as well.