Sometimes miracles do truly happen. Or maybe they are simply second chances. My cat Pumpkin definitely got her second chance with giving her daily hospice care, which is keeping her alive and comfortable. Here’s her story.
When I last wrote about her in November 2012, she was literally on death’s doorstep. Although she is a 19-year-old cat, she had previously been very healthy up to last year. She rarely had anything but “annual” or “bi-annual” routine vet visits. But early last year, we noticed her mouth smelled and learned she had Stomatitis, which was followed by dental surgery to remove several teeth, and she was put on the steroid Prednisilone to treat the Stomatitis inflammation.
Months later, she suddenly had a protruding or bulging eyeball that came out of nowhere. Thankfully I was home to see it literally being pushed out of her eye—rushed her to the vet—and learned she had an abscess in her mouth causing her eyeball to become inflamed and protrude. She had surgery immediately that day to relieve the dangerous swelling in her eye and address the abscess.
Then a few months later in November, her blood panel tests started showing very high levels of calcium and protein in her blood, which can signify a variety of health problems, including chronic renal failure, but in Pumpkin’s case, she was diagnosed with pancreatitis and possible lymphoma (cancer). An ultrasound confirmed intestinal lymphoma. All of this, within the span of one year, but considering Pumpkin is the equivalent of 90+ or so in human years, that’s not bad. But her rather sudden physical decline took us by surprise and we felt ill prepared—but who is prepared for addressing an onset of health issues? Experience is a great teacher.
So in November 2012, when Pumpkin was given her death sentence by our vet who wanted to euthanize her that day, I was challenged to find out if there were any other solutions. I’m a researcher by nature and hit the “books” literally. I decided to contact Brighthaven Animal Sanctuary here in Santa Rosa, California. They are a unique elderly animal care home that specializes in treating senior animals in need of rehabilitation—primarily holistically–and they also specialize in giving hospice care for elderly animals. I immediately set up a paid consultation and gained a whole new insight into elderly cat care. Plus, I read their book “Peace, Hope, and Hospice,” by Gail Pope, and began my odyssey into researching cat hospice care, homeopathy for cats, and holistic healthcare for cats, and I didn’t emerge without a much deeper understanding about possible solutions for Pumpkin—as well as renewed hope.
So between Pumpkin’s death sentence and my research, I had armed myself with new resources, new contacts, and an education about what cat hospice care, homeopathy, and holistic care means for cats. I was determined to give her the second chance she so deserved, and to give her my “all” and not just give up and accept the easy or convenient solution. Thank God I didn’t quit on her—because she has lived the greatest six+ more months imaginable, full of many special days and moments, and much love and attention.
When I returned to our vet last November, several days after her “death sentence,” and requested treatment that would stabilize Pumpkin, they basically set up a regimen that essentially would provide hospice support for her. The goal was to keep her comfortable, out of pain and suffering, address her nausea, and focus on regaining her health as much as possible. It was pain management, reducing inflammation, and preventing further deterioration. She needed to be stabilized with antibiotics and steroids and needed to regain her appetite, or else there was little we could do. She was weak, had lost significant weight rapidly, was nauseated, vomiting, lost her appetite, had difficulty defecating, and was urinating often as she was also showing early signs of chronic renal failure. So this was going to be the best medical therapy plan they could give her to address and improve her physical symptoms. There was an outside chance that she could improve our vet said, “it could last a couple of weeks or a couple of months”—I was willing to do the work to find out and let her live the fullest extent of her natural life. It’s now been extended six months, and she’s still going strong!
To begin with, we gave her Cerenia injections followed by Cerenia pills to address her nausea, which would hopefully stimulate her appetite. Then we gave subcutaneous fluids (by us) every other day continuously—we have never stopped, to keep her hydrated and to prevent the progression of her renal failure. We stimulated her appetite with some Mirtazapine for the first week or two, and gave her the food she loved—tuna, salmon, and Science Diet AD, and high end premium brands, as often as she would eat, multiple times per day. She got a Convenia injection (antibiotic) to address her Stomatitis (just to be on the safe side), and began a regimen of giving the steroid Dex Sodium Phosphate by injection every other day to also treat inflammation. We also give her Sucralfate (1/4 tablet) to settle her stomach and prevent gas and nausea. I also armed ourselves with pain medication in case she went downhill and started to experience pain again, so that I could address that for her when and if she needed it. So that was our “stash!” I bought a big basket for all her meds, and we keep it on our bathroom counter.
I put together a schedule daily, weekly, and monthly—which I have done now for six months of what meds need to be given on what day, which keeps us on track. In addition to all this, we also give her Lactulose Liquid daily, which helps her colon and keeps her stool regular. Otherwise, she was very constipated and extremely uncomfortable trying to poop. She tried so hard that she would physically vomit afterwards, always in the middle of the night and wake me up! It took weeks, but suddenly I saw the connection between her trying to poop and vomiting, and got her Lactulose. It’s been a Godsend, and she’s been on it daily for four months—it works like a charm! There’s nothing apparently harmful in it, so no worries about giving it for prolonged periods of time.
Pumpkin’s weight has increased a pound to 10 pounds, and she’s maintained it now for five months. I feed her as much as possible every day—Gerber’s baby food (chicken) for a treat, tuna for a treat, and lots of premium cat food; she’s eliminating daily; and she’s happy, out of pain, not feeling much nausea—but I know when she starts to feel bad and I address it with Cerenia tablets and sometimes the Sucralfate, which helps her immediately. She loved having Christmas under the tree, is loving the sunshine and warm days of spring, and loves sleeping with us. So far life is good for her, and I hope to keep that way as long as I can, but will accept when we’ve done all we can—and it’s her time to go.