Friday, January 12, 2007

Poor Little Saffron!


I recently noticed that Saffron, our little 7-pound orange kitty, looked thinner and was less playful than usual. Over the holidays she was much more aggressive about wanting human food. She was still eating a lot but looked thinner, so today we went to the vet for a check-up.

She's OK but has lost 1.5 lbs. (20% of her tiny body weight!) due to gingivitis. She's now on antibiotics and I'm feeding her whatever she will eat, which is pretty much anything humans or cats eat. My poor girl, her mouth must hurt so much! I feel horrible for not figuring it out sooner, or getting her to the vet sooner. Knowing it's the most common dental problem among cats and often overlooked does not make me feel any better. At least her teeth are still OK. Some cats go undiagnosed until they start losing their teeth or need to have them removed. The vet is also doing an extensive blood test to make sure the infection hasn't caused other problems and to make sure her organs are all OK. We'll get the results Monday.

Sophie was also traumatized by Saffron's visit to the vet. She looked very worried when Saffron and I left. When we got home, Sophie got one whiff of the hospital smell on Saffron, hissed, ran away at top speed, and hid under the sofa. This should give you an idea of how terrified poor Sophie is of the vet. I fear she will literally die of terror/shock if I ever need to take her there again so I am looking for a vet who makes house calls and/or specializes in panicky Siamese cats.

To make Sophie feel better I wiped Saffron down with dry shampoo. Fortunately, dry shampoo now comes in the form of a moist baby-wipe type wipes with “calming lavender scent.” LOL. Saffron sure smells good — and Sophie is much calmer now and no longer hissing and running away from Saffron.

I'm just glad Saffron's overall health is good and we seem to have caught the Gingivitis at a fairly early stage. I just hope the meds work quickly so she feel playful again soon!

UPDATE: Mon., Jan. 15. The Results.

We got the results of the blood test and Saffron's liver enzymes are abnormal. The vet can not tell if it is due to her weight loss, genetics, or a disease. He can give her medicine and a diet to preserve liver function but he can not predict how fast it might progress, or whether it will improve, so I have no idea if my little purry girl is going to get better or not. He said the only way to know for sure is a liver biopsy. Since she's almost 11, I don't want to put her through surgery that is only diagnostic, so that's not an option.

We have decided to get a second blood test from another vet; we have an appointment for Fri. In the meantime, I think the antibiotics are helping with the gingivitis but am terrified she will die suddenly of liver failure. I pray it's just the result of her weight loss and that things will be better on the next test (now that she's eating well).

UPDATE: Fri., Jan. 19. The Second Opinion

Saffron and I went to another vet today for a second opinion. We saw Dr. Amy at Briarwood in Grand Blanc. She used to work for our vet in Davison (before he retired) and we love her because she tried so hard to save our Sable-kitty when Sable was dying from kidney failure. Briarwood has a lab on site so we were able to get the test results immediately.

The bad news is that the results are almost the same as the first test. Saffron's live enzymes are still abnormal.

The good news is:
1. The abnormal levels are not far from normal
2. If it is a liver problem, we have caught it early and it's worth treating aggressively. She now has two meds for maintaining liver function.
2. Her gums look much better and she may have gained half a pound!
3. Diagnostic options (other than biopsy surgery) are available: a special blood test and ultrasound

The next step is the special blood test. It will tell us if her liver is malfunctioning. If it's not, then the abnormal enzyme levels are due to her weight loss. If it is, then we get an ultra sound. We have an appointment to do this test next Fri. (Jan. 26).

In the meantime, I'm focusing on getting the antibiotics in her every day (so she will feel better) and encouraging her to eat (so she will gain weight).

UPDATE: Mon., Jan. 22. You Can Lead a Cat to Tuna...

Saffron is acting much more chipper. She's more talkative and playful but I think she has figured out there's medicine in the yummy canned food she's getting every day. I was starting to panic because I have three medicines for her (one antibiotic and two liver-maintaining medicines) but it's all I can do to get the antibiotic into her! I talked to Dr. Amy this morning and assured me Saffron will be OK if I don't get a whole dose of antibiotic into her every day. She's had it for ten days; more is better though, so I will keep trying. I feel horrible that I haven't been able to get any of the liver-maintaining medicine into her, but Dr. Amy said not to panic, that we can worry about that after her liver test on Fri.

Sophie isn't making this any easier. To get Saffron to eat the medicated canned food, I have to take away both cats' crunchy food. Then I have to make sure Saffron eats the food with the medication. She wants Sophie's unmedicated food, of course, and Sophie will eat any canned food in her vicinity even if it contains medicine or is a flavor she doesn't like. Making sure the right cat gets the right food is becoming a full-time job!

UPDATE: Jan. 29, 2007. Mixed News

Our vet's lab equipment was acting up so we didn't get Saffron's test results until today. There is definitely something going on with her liver, so the next step is an ultrasound to find out exactly what the problem is so we can figure out how to treat it. We have an appointment for Wed. afternoon in Oakland county.

I'm trying not to worry too much. The fact that she has perked up is good so there is still hope that she will be happy and healthy for a long time. On the other hand if she has liver cancer, she probably has only months left. I'm trying to focus on the positive, but not knowing is such an awful feeling. Knowing we'll have a definite answer Wed. helps a little.

UPDATE: Jan. 31, 2007. Uncertain News

Saffron had an ultrasound today and we got uncertain news. Right now I am just numb and can't really think straight but this is what I think the specialist told us today. Saffron doesn't have any masses or tumors and overall her health is good, but she is probably older than we think (maybe 13 instead of 10 or 11). Her liver does show a "general diffusion" or inflammation. The most likely causes of this in an older kitty are feline inflammatory liver disease and cancer.

To clearly determine the cause, a biopsy is required. The minimally invasive kind is only 50% likely to give an answer. The more invasive kind involves surgery but would give us a definitive answer.

Treatment for liver disease includes vitamin B12 and prednisone (a steroid). B12 can be given as injections; prednisone is in pill form.

Treatment for cancer includes vitamin B12, prednisone, and chemo. Chemo is palliative, not aggressive (like it is for humans), and some cats respond well with fewer side effects than humans. They can't estimate how long it might give her, maybe a few months or a year, depending on the kind of cancer.

We aren't making any decisions until we talk it over with our vets but Roger and I agree that we don't want to put her through surgery or chemo. Why torture her?

I'm not sure if the current liver medication we have will help; I need to ask our vet. I'm concerned about even more pills (like prednisone) because Saffron is a world-class pill-spitter. We have been so focused on getting the antibiotics for gingivitis in her that we haven't been able to get any of the liver medication in her. The antibiotics have clearly helped. Saffron is perky and acting normal. If it weren't for all these tests, we wouldn't have a clue anything was wrong.

Tonight Saffron is glad to be home, eating everything in sight after her 12-hour fast, and grooming a lot. They shaved her tummy and smeared it with gel for the ultrasound. She only let me wipe part of it off so she had a lot of grooming to do. The vet suggested a baby t-shirt to keep her tummy warm until her fur starts to grow back. I've never tried to put clothes on her, but we'll try tomorrow after she settles back into her normal routine.

I am exhausted and numb, but numb is good. After losing both my parents to cancer, I can't yet handle the possibility of losing Saffron to it, too (if it is cancer).

Thank you again to everyone who has been asking about my sweet little kitty. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

UPDATE: Feb. 1, 2007. Still Hoping for the Best

I just got off the phone with Dr. Joe at Briarwood. He has the report from the ultrasound and he says:

1. The report says everything we remembered from yesterday, but that doc thinks it's most likely cancer.

2. Joe says if it is cancer, she has less than year to live (a lot less). Chemo in cats with lymphoma doesn't work and he does not recommend it.

3. He thinks the best treatment is B12 shots and prednisone pills. The other liver medications would be nice but pred would give her the best quality of life. He said the prescription food (high quality protein) can also help.

He says cancer would be bad, but if it's inflammatory liver disease there is still hope. Liver disease is very unpredictable; some cats heal completely and others die quickly.

I'm going to take Saffron to Briarwood Sat. morning. We'll see both Dr. Joe and Dr. Amy, they'll give her a B12 shot, show us how to pill her, and we can talk about her condition, ask any questions, etc.

I haven't give up hope yet. I want to give her the pred and keep her happy and comfortable for as long as possible. Maybe we'll be lucky and she will be one of the cats with liver disease who recover.

UPDATE: Feb. 3, 2007. Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst

Today we went to the vet. Dr. Joe was swamped so we saw Dr. Amy. She talked about Saffron’s condition and answered all the questions we had.

For now, Saffron is OK. She definitely has either liver disease or cancer, but in a way we are fortunate: we learned about it early. The only way to know for certain which disease is to do a biopsy and we don't want to put her through surgery. Chemo doesn't work for lymphoma in cats so the treatment is the same for both conditions: Vitamin B12 and prednisone.

For now her treatment will be weekly B12 shots. The shots will make her feel better and the vet can help us keep an eye on her. When she starts to show symptoms of her disease (lack of appetite, frequent vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) then we’ll start the prednisone pills to keep her comfortable.

They can’t predict how fast her disease will progress, when she might start to show symptoms, or how long she will live. That's the hard part: not knowing, so we are learning to hope for the best and enjoy every day that she is well. (This part is really hard for me! I feel so unprepared emotionally, even after going through this with both my parents. At least they could talk about it. Unfortunately, kitties can't offer their humans that sort of therapy.) There is still a chance she'll be one of the lucky kitties who recovers from liver disease. That's what I'm praying for.

So, for now, she’s all right. She’s still a little thin from her gingivitis-induced weight loss, but she acts like she feels good and that is a good sign. We have finished the antibiotics for gingivitis so all we have to do now is give her lots of love and food. Love and food: I can do that!

I won't post any more updates until there is a change for the worse. I hope that won't be for a very long time.

Thank you all for the moral support! Roger, Saffron, and I really appreciate it. Sophie is just confused. :)

1 comment:

Horror Movie Whore said...

Hello, Kitty

Like many things, it seems if you ask ten people the same question, you'll get ten different answers. My (ancient, it seems) cat has lost all but one of his front teeth (the molars are still there, and I have the scratches to prove it), and he's still as frisky as ever. He's been unusually hungry (begging, etc), and one vet said he had a heart murmur, and another said he's got a hyperactive thyroid. It would require more money than I have to treat either condition. The bottom line is, he doesn't seem to be suffering; he still purrs and sleeps excessively between bursts of frenetic activity. He's the same cat he was when I got custody of him in my divorce. He eats when I do and inhales all sorts of toxins around me. I guess my point is, I'm glad for his company while he's here, and I'll be sorry when he's gone. Be it cats or people, you can't prolong life. You can only be thankful for the time you have with that personality. I hope Saffron pulls through. I'm sure she's as mad about you as you are about her.