Last week I told you that THIS week I would be taking Angel to the vet. She had a scheduled appointment for this Wednesday. But I ended up having to take her last Thursday.
When I saw Angel early Thursday morning, her breathing sounded worse. But the real concern was when I prepared her soupy meal and she wouldn’t eat – AT ALL. I thought about having an entire week ahead before the appointment. Also, we were headed into a weekend. What if she spiraled downward just in time for the clinic to be closed. I knew they had no open appointments; that was why I was on the schedule for so far down the road to begin with. I reached out to Dr. O and Dr. A to see if I could be worked in on an emergency basis. When I heard back from Dr. O, he said I could head that way with Angel and they would work me in. Then I heard back almost immediately that there had been a cancellation. Perfect.
I’ve been discussing Angel’s problems with Dr. O for some time. This is not a cat you just load up and take to the vet. A year ago she was 100% untouchable. Then slowly I became able to barely touch her. Then she and I became friends, but she would not tolerate anyone else. I wanted to get her to Dr. O so he could listen to her breathing, but I knew I probably wouldn’t get her into a carrier. If I did, then there was probably no way Dr. O could examine her once I got her to the clinic. I’d been worrying about thinking she looked pale. So I felt bloodwork might give us some answers. But I knew the chances of me being able to hold her steady while Dr. O drew blood were slim to none. Still, I knew we needed to know more. And we needed a new plan.
As I said last week, she’s been on three different antibiotics and had several injections of steroid. Those injections were helping last Fall. But when they stopped producing results, we stopped giving them. Older Daughter came by to examine Angel at one point for me. She checked at that time for paleness and said her color was fine. She said her teeth weren’t great but they weren’t so bad that her problem could be due to massive infection of the teeth. (Of course, it was a pretty quick peek. Angel wasn’t having much of Older Daughter prying her mouth open while I held tight.)
Now I had to get Angel in a carrier. And that would be the LEAST of our problems. I grabbed my carrier and shot down to the kennel. Because of the cancellation they’d had, Dr. O was waiting. I set the carrier down in front of Angel’s run. I opened the gate and started sweet-talking. Angel came walking out and walked directly into the carrier. I closed it and stood up. Then I just stared. Needed a minute to pull out of my shock.
Off we went. When we arrived at the clinic, Dr. O was waiting. Dr. O remembered Angel. He had done her spay. He still tells me she was the craziest cat he’d ever experienced. Whether that is the truth or just his way of making a joke about a truly (at that time) crazy cat, I’m not sure. We discussed the history and I filled him in on the most recent stuff. He said we’d try to talk this out as much as possible and make our plan for what he needed to see in the moments I would have Angel out of the carrier. Dr. O could clearly hear her breathing. He wanted a weight if possible. He wanted to check the gums for color and the teeth for possible infection. He also wanted to see as far back in her throat as possible. He wanted to check hydration. Then we would put her back and discuss whether or not to draw blood.
So there we were. There was nothing left to do but to try.
I had a hard time pulling Angel out but she wasn’t clawing me. She was just trying (hard) to stay IN the carrier. Once I dragged her out, Dr. O had me place her directly on the scale. That got difficult quickly, but he did get a weight. Then I scruffed and he pried her mouth open. He looked as well as was possible. Pinched skin up in a few spots. And it was over. I turned her towards the entrance to the carrier, and she shot in. Whew!
The first thing Dr. O said was that there was no reason at this time to try to draw blood. He said she did not look anemic. Older had checked that once and said she wasn’t, but that was a month ago. She was also not dehydrated. Good. There was no apparent tooth infection, but he couldn’t be completely sure. He wasn’t able to see everything in such a brief look. He said there was quite a bit of tartar.
Dr. O went over to his stool, sat down, and leaned back against the wall. Here came that look. He said - We’re going to give a BIG injection of steroid. I want to see if a whopping dose will make any difference, tell us if this is inflammation. But my guess is that this is nasal polyps. It could be a tumor. I feel like it’s more likely to be a polyp. Here’s the thing. There’s no way to get in there and find out with 100% success. I think I know the answer to this, but let me ask anyway. Do you want to do everything possible? Do you want to try to find out with a little more confidence WHAT is going on in there? Because it’s going to run several hundred dollars, Chrystal. And when we’re done, we might not know any more than we do now. Also – there’s a good chance that anything we DO won’t make a huge difference. We can get her under general anesthesia, and while she’s out, pry that mouth open and take a good look. We can clean teeth, look for infection, pull infected teeth if there are any. We can probe around for a polyp and even try to tease some of it out. Of course, even if we get that lucky, the polyp will more than likely come back. What I’m saying is – you’re going to spend a lot of money on an exploration and possible minor treatments that may not make any difference at all. Then again, it might bring some temporary relief. But I need to tell you this, too. There’s always a risk with general anesthesia. That goes way up in an animal with breathing problems. It’s up to you.
If it had been just the money, I’d have given my answer immediately. But I thought about doing all of this to Angel with no guarantee that it would bring her any comfort. And that last thing he said. What if she didn’t make it through the general anesthesia? As if he was reading my mind, Dr. O said – As far as the possibility of her dying on the table, there are so many worse ways to go. She’s having so much trouble breathing. And now it’s keeping her from eating.
I nodded my understanding. She HAD to eat. I’d been watching her decline for weeks and weeks. My stomach tied into a knot and I said – My goal is always to give every animal in my care the best shot at wellness and comfort. She’s not getting better. She’s getting worse. I think we should try.
He said OK and we walked up front to set it up. February 20. She will go to the other clinic (the one that is farther away from us). Dr. O will not be the vet for this. But Dr. A will be. I love them both. He said he would get with her and fill her in on everything with Angel.
Now we wait. The “big” steroid shot hasn’t helped her breathing at all. The good thing that came of it is that she is eating. Steroids increase appetite. She’s powering through the inability to breathe in order to feed her appetite. That’s good. I feel that it's probably unlikely there will be major improvement after February 20th. But I'll look to that day with hope.
Angel is accepting any prayers and positive loving thoughts anyone wants to send her way. I’ll keep you posted.
See you tomorrow.