Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hyperthyroidism in Cats – My Experience So Far

Recently a sister blogger posted that one of the family cats was suffering from a saddle thrombosis, which is a blood clot.  I decided to learn more about this so I, of course, Googled it.  What I found was enlightening and frightening.  Here’s the site that I went to:

Several years ago I lost 3 cats to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).  First there was Cyd, a CARE cat that I had bailed out of animal services.  She succumbed within days of showing any symptoms of illness and died at the vet’s office because of a blood clot.  It was because of her that I decided to find out more about the saddle thrombosis, since I suspected that was what killed her.  Cyril, another bailed out CARE cat was next.  My regular vet was out of town for a holiday weekend and I feared Cyril would risk a painful death at home, so I chose to euthanize him.  Next was China, who again got sick suddenly.  I took her to the emergency clinic and the pain med injection ended up killing her.  She died in my arms as I was waiting for my vet to come into the office to see her.  I requested a necropsy and he determined that she, too, had HCM.  Losing so many to the same disease caused me great concern, but I wasn’t able to find any causation online. 

In the last year I have had two cats, Claudia and Colt, diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.  Again, I couldn’t find a cause – something I was doing wrong – to help me prevent this in my other cats.  When Claudia went blind, the vet who treated her insisted it was unrelated.  I found out online that blindness is a common side effect of hyperthyroidism as was the plaintive wailing she would make from time to time. 

Hyperthyroidism can only be diagnosed through a blood test.  Blood work generally costs between $70 and $120.00 per test per cat.  Testing all of my cats would run into thousands of dollars.  By comparison, medication is relatively inexpensive.  

The article referenced above says that hyperthyroidism can lead to cardiac problems, which can lead to HCM, which can lead to a saddle thrombosis.  By that time, it’s too late to help your cat.  Not a single one of my vets (and there have been 3 now) ever told me any of this.  Two of those vets are cat specialists.  Wouldn’t it be logical, especially since I now have (or had) two cats with hyperthyroidism, to provide me with pertinent information about spotting it, what to look for, what other conditions might develop?  This only reinforces my disregard for the veterinary profession in general.  From the same site, here is more information about hyperthyroidism:  And here's another link:  And one final link:

The Web has been of great use to me in helping me diagnose and treat my cats over the years.  I hope all my cat loving friends out there will, at the least, augment their knowledge through the internet.  The more we know, the better care we can take of our cats and dogs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Claudia's Story

On Monday, November 14th, I had to euthanize another cat this year.  Her name was Claudia.  I had bailed her out of Orange County Animal Services in 2005.  At that time I was still president of CARE Feline Rescue (now CARE Feline TNR - . 

CARE is a Trap/Neuter/Return nonprofit that partners with Orange County Animal Services (OCAS).  OCAS has a low cost spay/neuter clinic that opened in 1989, offering affordable surgeries and rabies vaccinations for the cats and dogs of Orange County residents.  In 1995 CARE was founded to fix the feral and community cats in Orange County – providing traps to caregivers and free surgeries for the cats.  To date CARE has facilitated the spaying and neutering of well over 15,000 cats and kittens.

As with most TNR groups, the ear of a fixed cat is snipped off, which makes it easy to identify who is fixed and who isn’t.  The one difference with the CARE program is that the right ear of females is tipped/snipped and the left ear of males is tipped/snipped. 

Part of the arrangement with OCAS involves notification whenever a cat with a tipped ear is trapped and/or turned into the shelter.  That’s how Claudia entered my life.  I got the call in 2005.  She had been trapped by an attorney who lived alongside the Dubsdread Country Club.  Apparently he wasn’t pleased that a “stray” cat was coming onto his property.  I guess she couldn’t read the No Trespassing sign.  Already having more than my share of cats in my home, I first tried to locate the caretaker who had trapped and fixed her.  That ended in failure.  Next, I tried to find someone in the rescue community to take her.  Again, failure.  There were only two options left for Claudia – let OCAS kill her or to bail her out myself.  Well, I bailed her out.

She came home with me with an upper respiratory infection she had picked up in the shelter.  She also came with Baytril to treat the infection.  Unfortunately, Claudia wasn’t exactly a docile, compliant patient.  So, my friend Barbara would come to my house twice a day to hold her while I pilled her (Claudia, not Barbara).  For the purpose of full disclosure, her original name was Clawdia because she had a tendency to swat anything that moved near her.  She managed to scratch me on numerous occasions, as well as bite me a couple of times.  She really wasn’t feral, just more than a bit grumpy.  And she didn’t like the other cats nor the dogs.  In fact, she spent most of the first year here in a large kitty condo cage – for everyone’s protection.  I handled her and petted her as little as possible for fear of getting a serious scratch or bite.  She had imbedded her claws in me a couple of times, which resulted in me getting bitten when trying to detach her from my hand or arm. 

I let her out about a year after her arrival.  She was fine as long as she wasn’t approached.  And it took nearly a year for her to make the transition from only dry food to actually enjoying canned food.  Due to her reaction to being approached, I felt she might have limited peripheral vision.  As time went on all of us adjusted to each other and she did fine until earlier this year.

I noticed she wasn’t grooming herself and, although she had short hair, she developed mats.  She also started vocalizing, with a disturbing, plaintive wail.  She also seemed to be losing weight although she cleaned up every cat dish at dinnertime.  In fact, she would drive the other cats away from their dishes so that she could finish off the food.  I took her to the vet in February.  Because of her poor condition, she wasn’t well enough to be anesthetized for a dental, so she got a scraping instead.  Her blood work revealed that she had hyperthyroidism and she was severely under weight as well.  Within a few weeks of diagnosis she went blind.  When that happened she stopped using the litter box.  I spent the next 9 months wiping up puddles and picking up poop.  She did learn to negotiate her way from the living room to the kitchen, hallway and bathroom.  She continued to eat well and would even take her thyroid meds in her food.  I had never had any luck getting a cat to take their pills in their food before.  Of course, it helped that she practically gulped down her food instead of lapping it up like most cats.  In fact, he ate more like a dog than a cat. 

In late September or early October she started passing blood in her urine.  We tried antibiotics – no change.  The vet thought she might have stones in her bladder.  She was in no condition for surgery, so I tried special food.  It didn’t help either.  Then I tried Kidni-Flow, a homeopathic treatment, and she only occasionally passed blood in her urine.  Although she never put weight back on, she seemed to be holding her own.  I kept the paper towel industry in business, but you do what you have to do, right?  My kitchen floor certainly got mopped a lot more frequently than in the past.  On Thursday, November 10th, she ate very little.  On Friday morning she threw up her breakfast.  She wouldn’t eat Friday night or all day Saturday.  She also started wailing again, which she had not been doing since before she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.  And, apparently, the wailing, plaintive crying is a common symptom of this disease.  She also was more restless and seemingly confused.  I felt certain that she was in pain.  It was obvious to me that it was time to let her go.  I didn’t see any reason to prolong her suffering or put her through a surgery she probably wouldn’t survive.  She did eat a bit of A/D on Sunday, but wouldn’t eat for me Monday morning.  I took her into the vet and put her to sleep that afternoon.  

 I have no idea just how old she was.  She was obviously an older cat when I bailed her out, possibly 6 – 8 years old, but that’s only a guess.  I have no idea what her life was like before she came into my life.  She lived on or around Dubsdread’s golf course but, without finding her caretaker, I have no idea how long she had been there.  The fact that she wasn’t feral indicates that she had been in a home at the beginning of her life.  No doubt she had either been dumped there or left behind when her owner moved.  Although for most of the time she lived with me and the other critters she was not very accepting of affection, she did develop some affinity for head scratches the last several months.  She seemed to enjoy having her head and cheeks rubbed and even being picked up.  Maybe not an idyllic life, but she was safe, well fed and comfortable for the six years she was here. 

I asked the staff at the clinic to take a picture of Claudia for me, since I didn’t have one.  This was Claudia on her last day – I do miss her.  

I’m glad that she had an extra 6 years off the streets and I know that I did the right thing by giving her that chance.  There are so many, many cats and kittens who never get a chance and are killed every day in shelters or on the streets.  They deserve so much better than that.  I am thankful that I was able to avoid that fate for Claudia, even for a short time. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

REALITY CHECK: Republican debate in South Carolina

Based on previous debates and the intervening press coverage, I’ve actually been looking forward to this particular debate.  From the outset, it was obvious that the candidates had been studying, practicing and getting educated on foreign policy and national security. 

Based upon the candidates’ resumes and past performances, I fully expected Herman Cain to exhibit how little he knows about the rest of the world and the United States’ place in the world.  He fielded the first question and, frankly, he surprised me.  It’s not that I think he’s not intelligent, it’s that he has continuously relied upon what he considers his sense of humor when answering questions or walked circles around those questions without providing a clear answer.  

While each candidate actually – much to my surprise – said some things with which I found myself agreeing, the only two candidates who made the most reasoned and responsible responses were Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.  Huntsman, for whom it amazes me that hardcore Republicans haven’t rallied to, lost me when he stated that his economic plan was simply three words – THE RYAN PLAN.  I was so stunned that it took me nearly five minutes to realize that he meant the Paul Ryan Plan.  OMG!  Huntsman has in the past said some things that seriously bothered me, but this – THIS was beyond the pale.  

Former Governor Romney answered a question about Iran and nuclear weapons by saying he would wage war against them to prevent a nuclear program in Iran.  My follow up question to him would have been – “would you send your four sons to Iran to fight?”  This man is pro-war now, as he was during the last presidential election, yet his four sons have not done military service.  As President he would be willing to send the sons and daughters of other Americans into battle.  Why not his own?

Newt Gingrich – well, he was/is Newt Gingrich.  His arrogance and condescension were, as always, front and center.  His demeanor is part teacher, part dictator, always self-promoter whenever he has the microphone.  He is well-educated and probably the smartest person in this field, but his ego is too enormous to measure.  And I rarely agree with his version/interpretation of history, recent or otherwise.  

What disturbs me about all political campaigns, regardless of political party, are the promises.  One person cannot change our laws, our policies or our government.  “If I am elected” or “when I am elected”  I will do (fill in the blank).  They can try, they don’t succeed nearly all of the time.  What the voters must do is change their focus from promises and demand that candidates provide us with their honest answers to questions about their positions on issues, their values and who they really are.  A few of them have – Bachmann, Santorum and Paul.  Others tell the voters what they want to hear – Romney, Gingrich and Perry.  Cain bobs and weaves and avoids.  Huntsman is treated as an afterthought in these debates and gets little or no press coverage. 

It is up to the voters to educate themselves, not only the issues that are the top priorities for them but, on all of the issues.  And it is important to look at both sides of an issue.  The side that you traditionally oppose might, possibly, have valid points that your side doesn’t discuss or take into account.  Don’t rely on sound bites.  Catch phrases rarely capture everything involved in an issue or in implementation. DIG DEEPER!

Voters also need to know on which issues the President can make a difference.  We have three branches of government so that power is not concentrated in the hands of one or only a few.  The President doesn’t MAKE laws, the Congress is charged with doing that.  The President can sign a bill into law or veto it.  So, what issues are important to you? 

Although I have serious problems with President Obama, I will be voting for him once again.  The environment is my number one priority.  Some of the positions he has taken have been of concern to me.  His appointment of Ken Salazar to head the Interior Department bothers me.  Approving deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and allowing a lease offshore in the Arctic are simply wrong.  However, I know that none of the Republican candidates, except possibly Huntsman, have any concerns about protecting the planet or the impact of environmental degradation on the health and well-being of Americans.  Yes, jobs and the economy are a priority, however, Republicans in general do not see the connection between working toward a sustainable, clean environment, which will provide jobs, national security and a healthier country.  

Many of the Republican candidates talk about American exceptionalism and our position as world leader.  Shouldn’t we be leading in clean energy?  Shouldn’t we be leading in preventing debilitating diseases and providing exceptional healthcare to our citizens?  Shouldn’t we be leading in helping people escape from poverty?  Shouldn’t we excel in educating our youth?  Should we continue to export our bad habits?  American exceptionalism will only return when we show we care about all Americans and giving all Americans the opportunity to be the best that each individual can be and are able to realize their full potential.  Which candidate cares more about YOU than about themselves and those who fund their race for the Presidency?  Who do you trust to look out for YOUR self-interest and success?

And, in closing, I’d like to add the following from my brilliant mentor and personal editor, Judith V:

“Because “this is America,” the majority of us think someday we will be rich, and it’s always been thus. For hundreds of years, settlers, then immigrants, came here because “getting rich was not just the right of kings.”  Well, don’t vote your aspirations – 99% of us working class people will never enter the top 1%, so why vote for people and policies that favor this very small minority and keep you working two jobs and in debt up to your eyeballs. We must always, always vote “our realities and NOT our aspirations,” otherwise we will remain indentured to that top 1%!”