Monday, November 12, 2007

Tired and Worried

I've been out of the blogsphere for a while. My association has an annual conference every year, usually the first week of November. Before the conference our governing board has a two day meeting. Just preparing for the meeting alone is stressful. Add preparations for the conference, preparations for someone taking care of my herd of cats while I'm out of town for a week, etc. makes for a very grumpy and stressed out possumlady. Our conference (this year in Chicago)draws a crowd of anywhere from 20-25,000 people. For an introvert such as myself the week borders on torture.

Something had to give and a week ago last Sunday night while I was having dinner with our governing board I felt a familiar twinge in my jaw while I was eating. I, along with Mary, suffer from TMJ problems. Once I feel a twinge I need to give myself megadoses of naproxen in the hopes that a full blown attack will not occur. If that happened at conference I would have been useless. TMJ pain manifests itself differently in different people. For me, a full blown attack means the swelling of the muscles in my jaw press against the nerves in my face. It basically feels like every tooth in my mouth is badly infected and throbs with pain. My teeth are even painful to the touch. I decided I had to be anti-social and at the end of every day, instead of going out with colleagues, I headed back to my room to ice my jaw and decompress from the day. It worked! No full blown attack.

I flew back home late Saturday night. Oh, my fur-babies were so happy to see me. I awoke hot and sweating on Sunday around 5:00 a.m. to find 7, yes 7 cats basically plastered to my body, with Butterball making sure he got the prime real estate around my face.

That reminded me to make sure to call my vet. I had taken Butterball in the week before the conference as it seems like he has lost weight and occasionally he will mouth breath when he exerts himself by jumping on the bed. Well, he has lost 2 pounds since March but the vet did not seemed too concerned. He said his lungs sounded good and, of course, he did not mouth breath at all when he was at the vet. My vet thought he looked great for an over 14 year old cat. He took some blood to do a good blood workup on him. I never heard back so I called today and there does seem to be a problem. Butterball's glucose levels, kidney and liver functions all tested normal. But, he did have a very high white blood cell count that my vet said is indicative of two things. One could be a parasitic problem and the other is allergies. The parasitic problem could be very serious---heartworm. Sometimes there are no symptoms, but some of the symptoms can be--weight loss and trouble breathing. And, to make matters worse, there are no standards in treatment of heartworm in cats. Vets just kind of modify the dog treatment, and in looking it up on the internet find out that 70% of cats that are treated for heartworm die because of the treatment. I just don't know what I'll do if that is the case. I'm bringing Butterball back to the vet's tomorrow so they can take more blood to test specifically for heartworm. If it is allergies, I can breath a sigh a relief and the vet said we would just do a round of steriod shots.

So, say a little prayer for Butterball tonight.

The vet's assistant once asked me with all the cats that I had if I had a favorite. I told her "I always tell my cats that I have no favorites and love them all equally. Then I whisper to Butterball 'but if I DID have a favorite, it would be you!'


cat59 said...

I hope Butterball is okay! What did you find out?

possumlady said...

Well, they called and left a message at home yesterday. The heartworm test has two parts and one part tested negative and one part tested positive. The positive part means he either has had heartworm in the past or currently has it. Heartworm is very different in cats. The heartworm was designed for dogs so when it gets into a cat it can migrate to the lungs because it keeps looking for a dog heart. Also, it does not reproduce in cats, so unlike the horrible photo you may have seen at the vets of a heart filled with worms, in cats it is usually just one worm. It is serious but it doesn't seem as fatal as it is with dogs. The figure I found on the internet said that 25% of cats with heartworm will die. Those are pretty good odds to me. Butterball's only issue is his age.

So the next step is to take Butterball to this large Vet Cardiology center in Rockville to get an ultrasound. I have a call into my vet to get some more information. I mean if he does have heartworm and there is no treatment (I certainly wouldn't subject him to the modified dog treatment at 14 years old) I don't know what the purpose of the ultrasound is.

I've read on the internet and my vet mentioned steriod shots that can help. I don't know how they help but do know that they do help with his allergies so I don't know why we just don't start him on steriods?

All this while Butterball is acting more energetic than he has in years! I put them on new food in July and instead of cleaning up cat vomit 2-3 times a week, it has now dropped to about 2 times a month and I've noticed such a change in Butterball's demeanor. More happy and attentive with the occasional crazy cat running spurts throughout the house. He had stopped doing those years ago. So this heartworm stuff is so confusing to me. It just doesn't mesh with how he has been acting.

cat59 said...

Hmmm. . .lots of good questions. No good answers. Keep us posted.

possumlady said...

11-16-07 update

Okay, I've heard from my vet and I questioned whether Butterball should have the ultrasound. He said the cardiologists can get a lot of good information and will be able to say he's not got a lot of time left, or he's good for a lot more years. And, they can help with a supportive treatment if Butterball does indeed have heartworm. A part of me really doesn't want to know.

The vet also said something about the supportive care can help with his labored breathing. But I pointed out to him that it is VERY sporadic mouth breathing and the occasional sneeze, hardly labored. Now I guess the symptoms could worsen---or not. I also reminded the vet that Butterball has been more active now then he has in years. The vet said, "well, it could be just a quirk with his system and he's fine" Great, I made the appointment with the cardiologists and asked what the cost would be---"Oh around $450.00"

All this is exhausting me.

cat59 said...

I think you made the right decision. It is a lot of money, but it is Butterball and it sounds like it could provide useful information. Just go forward with it and stop worrying and second-guessing yourself. When is the appointment?

KGMom said...

Aww--poor Butterball. Hope he rallies.

Mary said...

Keep us posted about Butterball and what the ultrasound shows. I wish him the best.