Friday, May 30, 2008
I’m missing Charlie this morning because he’s not here. He’s at the Deerfield Animal Hospital, recovering from a urethral obstruction. It’s been a stressful couple of days…
On Tuesday, early in the day, I noticed that Charlie seemed to be using the litter box an awful lot that day, considering that since I had gotten up, he had already been in it twice–for him, that’s a lot. Then later that day, we started noticing these small puddles all around the apartment, about the size of an egg. We’d wipe them up, thought maybe it was cat urine, smelled the paper towels (yeah, I know, gross–but they didn’t smell), so was unsure of what it was. Even later that night, I noticed Charlie walking kind of strangely, almost like he was constipated, and then stopping every once in a while to strain, like he had to take a poop–but nothing came out. Until even later in the night, when I finally noticed, during one of these straining sessions, that some urine was left on the floor. Wiped this up again, smelled it again, still no smell, but this time I KNEW that it was urine. He also vomiting up a large amount of food with a hairball. Oh yeah, he was also licking himself in the nether regions quite a bit more than normal. So I did what any person in the 20th century (are we still in the 20th century, or the 21st??–), I’ll rephrase, what anyone in the computer crazy age would do–I googled his symptoms and lo and behold, they seemed to indicate a urinary tract infection, which seems to be quite common in male cats. Turns out this can be a serious problem because cats can become blocked, essentially not being able to get rid of urine, which is a medical emergency. Since Charlie was still leaking, and because it was 10 pm when I triumphantly “diagnosed” him, we decided to watch him during the night and call in the morning to take him to the vet.
After a restless night (I couldn’t sleep well after reading about a potential blockage), I got up and immediately called the vet (which is another story in itself since Madeline and Charlie’s vet office closed a while back so I called the closest one in Holyoke). Of course they did not have an opening that day. So I described the symptoms and they suggested that I call one of two Animal Hospitals since Charlie could be blocked. So I looked up the two places and choose the Deerfield Animal Hospital since it was not the Boston Road Animal Hospital (which is located in Springfield, a place I try to avoid at all costs)–fortunately they were both about the same distance for driving. So I called, and again described the symptoms and they said, “Bring him in.”
So we loaded him up in the carrier, and he is such a good boy, walked right in–unlike Madeline whom we have to bribe with food and then still end up pushing her in! After a 25 minute drive we arrived and they took a urine sample and turns out that yes, he did have a urinary tract infection. The vet informed us that Charlie had quite a few struvite crystals in his urine (in their words, large +++ amounts) and we even got to take a look under the microscope. Struvite crystals are formed when urine is more alkaline (meaning more basic, not acidic). The normal urine pH for cats is 6-6.5, and Charlie’s urine was 7.5 (much more alkaline than normal). Ways to keep the urine more acidic include changing the diet (which the vet recommended–by a different brand of food, Walthum SO), including wet food in the diet (again, the Walthum brand–which may be difficult for Charlie, since he doesn’t really like canned food–he has difficult eating it–Madeline could eat a can in a few minutes, and Charlie would still be pushing it around with his mouth, he just gets confused), feeding several small meals a day (which we already do), and increasing water consumption (how the heck do you get a cat to drink more water?). So, after paying $158.01 for the visit, we were sent home with antibiotics for 10 days, some free samples of the prescribed cat food, and instructions to keep an eye on his urinary output because he still had a chance to obstruct (because of all the crystals, which can irritate and inflame the urinary tract, and combine with mucus which works to try to reduce the irritation, but really just works to create a plug–this is dangerous because if a cat can’t urinate, he can’t get rid of potassium so the potassium goes back into the bloodstream, and the high levels of potassium can cause cardiac arrythmias and even death). So yeah, we were scared.
So we head back home. And of course, what does Charlie do on the way home? He urinates. A LARGE amount. Oh yeah. There’s nothing quite as unpleasant to the human nose as cat piss. When we take him out of the crate he is soaked! So we have to give him a bath. And we don’t have any cat shampoo, so we use Kimm’s body wash. Charlie sure didn’t like that bath, but at least he smelled much better. But of course we forgot about how all this would affect Madeline. She, in the brief time we were gone, forgot that she shared the house with Charlie. In reality, she didn’t recognize the smell of Charlie after the bath and started to hiss (VERY loudly and VERY menacingly) at Charlie. Poor Charlie was simply trying to lick himself dry after his bath and thus ignored her. But Madeline persisted. So we had to separate them. Turns out this is quite common in cats. Lucky us. Good thing we have lots of doors between all rooms in our apartment.
Now, ironically this all happened on Wednesday, a day I was originally not supposed to work, because I switched with a co-worker who needed the day off to take her dog to the vet. So I go into work that night, after not getting much of an afternoon nap, tired and worried. When I got home the next morning, I look in Charlie’s litter box and see that he had gone 3 tiny amounts of urine. And then I see him try to go again, with no result except for a tiny little drop or two. He was in the box for about 3 minutes before he gave up. I go to bed and let Kimm know the litter box total so she can keep track during the day. When I get up later that day, still no additional urine production. So we pack up Charlie again and take him back (we could bring him back to have them palpate the bladder for no additional charge).
The vet takes a look and a feel and says, “Yep, he’s blocked.” So now Charlie has to have a catheter placed and in place for 48 hours, to flush the crystals out and then the catheter will be removed and they’ll observe that he’s able to pee again. So we left him last night about 6 pm. It was a strange night without him.
The vet called this morning and informed us that they had no trouble unblocking him, that his bloodwork was normal and that they’ll take out the catheter as planned. Oh yeah, that stay and all the care involved with it cost $995.58!! There you go with unplanned expenses.
While Charlie has been gone, we’ve been trying to get Madeline to adjust to the new smell of Charlie. We’ve laid out the towel we used to dry him after his bath and she’s been lying on it (after a few minutes of sniffing it suspiciously!). She’s acting a bit strange, but okay so far. The real test will be when Charlie comes back home. We’re thinking of buying these things called bath wipes at Pet-Co. Supposedly you wipe down both cats with them and then they have the same smell, therefore eliminating a lot of the aggression. We’ll have to wait and see.
So at this point, we should have Charlie back on Sunday if all goes well. Thankfully I’ll be working this weekend so less time to be at home, missing him even more.