Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Friend Louise: Plea to pet owners

My friend Louise is very sick. She has what is called Idiopathic Hepatic Lipidosis, which is a disease of the liver. It’s caused when cats stop eating, and their liver shuts down. Without the liver to remove the toxins from her body, they have invaded her brain and caused neurological damage. She can’t eat or drink on her own, she can’t walk without falling over, she’s all skin and bones, her skin is yellow, and her eyes have been harmed. The yellow tinge to her skin is caused by the high levels of billirubin in her system that her liver cannot clear from her body.

The reason I am writing this is to educate pet owners on the responsibility that we have to our extended family members. Hepatic Lipidosis can occur for unknown reasons, but it can be prevented through monitoring your cat’s food intake, and not placing overweight cats on a diet without consulting your veterinarian. Hepatic Lipidosis results from a cat choosing not to eat and/or rapid weight loss either because they are ill, or for unknown reasons. A cat should never go more than 2 days without eating. The only treatment is to attempt to restart the liver by forcing calories into the cat through syringe feeding or a feeding tube placed under anesthesia. Even with a feeding tube, the prognosis is guarded. Only 50-70% of cats who are treated will make a full recovery. Untreated, this disease is always fatal.

Most cats who are suffering from a serious disease often don’t show any signs of being sick until the disease has progressed enough to make itself known. This was the case with Louise. I didn’t know anything was wrong until this past week. One moment she was fine, and the next she was half the cat she used to be. I didn’t notice that she hadn’t been eating, nor that she was nothing but skin and bones. She had taken to hiding in the basement, but that isn’t unusual for her to do. She has always been a picky eater, so I never thought anything of it. Tuesday morning she seemed alright, and was curled up with the other cat. Tuesday afternoon, I picked her up and was shocked at how skinny she’d become in the space of a day or two, and even more heartbroken to see that her eyes and her skin were almost the color of a pumpkin. I put her down on the floor while I grabbed her carrier, and she was walking cross legged and tumbling over. We were at the vet 20 minutes later being told the situation didn’t look good. Her ultrasound showed no signs of cancer, but even that small sliver of good news really doesn’t help her situation.

Louise was the first cat that I have ever owned myself. She is only 7 ½ and has been my friend and snuggle buddy since day one. My husband and I were on vacation for our 1 year anniversary when news broke of the disaster in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. We were looking through the paper for news, and we came across an add for the local humane society. There were several pictures of animals in need, and Louise caught my attention. Her name was Grace at the time, and she looked so much like my childhood cat that we went to visit her, and immediately fell in love. We were worried that they wouldn’t let us adopt her since we were from out of state, but they did, and we named her Louise. She was named Louise in memory of those who died during the floods in Louisiana. She gained 2 nicknames shortly after because she had an upper respiratory infection at the time which caused her wheeze a lot. So Louise became Wheezy, and because she kicked that colds backside, it became The Wheezinator. She will answer to all three.

I feel responsible for what has happened to her because my husband seemed to know that she wasn’t feeling well, whereas I … the veterinary technician… thought he was overreacting. I don’t know why she stopped eating, but if I had paid more attention to her avoidance of the food, she might not be where she is at the moment. I know I shouldn’t blame myself, but the fact remains that this is a preventable illness in most cases. It just happened so quickly that I never knew she was sick till it was too late. We are giving her through the weekend before we make any decisions on where to go next. She is being syringe fed at the moment because putting in a feeding tube requires her to go under anesthesia and have it remain in her esophagus for upwards of 8 weeks with only a 50% chance of it working. My husband is concerned about funds of course, but she is worth every penny.

I love this cat to absolute pieces. She is my friend, my familiar, and my baby girl. Please don’t let this happen to your cat. Always make sure to keep a close on their dietary habits, especially if they are overweight or up there in their years. Certain diseases like Hyperthyroidism can cause rapid weight loss which can result in Hepatic Lipidosis. Take care of your pets, they depend on you for everything including their life.

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