Mama Kitty is 18 years old. She is the apple of her momma’s eye. Eleven months ago we diagnosed kidney disease (technically kidney failure), and neither will accept the diagnosis. They will not quit.
What is it about this weird wonderful species that makes us crazy? They do not run when we return home nor slobber and jump on us in greeting. They do not play games or learn silly tricks (a cat responding to “Down! Sit! Roll over” would truly be a celebrity on TV and YouTube). Yet, when they reward us with a purr or curl on our laps, we melt. We have been rewarded with a great gift, love and are being recognized as “theirs.”
In April of last year, all was well with Mama. In December, she wasn’t eating well and had lost weight. Cats die from sick kidneys (one out of every three) or cancer, and there are two red flags: anorexia and weight loss.
Kidneys play a huge role in almost all body processes. They help to control blood pressure. They produce a variety of vitally needed hormones and enzymes. They contribute to the production of red blood cells. They remove metabolic wastes. Sick kidneys mean a very sick patient.
Acute kidney failure can result from blockages that interfere with the flow of blood to the kidney or the flow of urine from it. The ingestion of toxic substances (antifreeze, pesticides, even one tablet of Ibuprofen) can precipitate a severe, possibly fatal episode of acute failure. If treated early, this failure is potentially reversible.
The same cannot be said for chronic kidney failure that affects middle-aged and older cats. This occurs when 75 percent of kidney tissue is destroyed and replaced by scar tissue. The causes are myriad, but dental disease, infections and obstructions are certainly involved.
With Mama, it didn’t matter what the cause was. She simply had to be saved.
We have seen Mama twice weekly for 11 months. We give her fluids, underneath the skin, to increase hydration. We want her to urinate and rid herself of the noxious body waste products. Injections of B12 and an anti-arthritic medication are also given to keep her strong and active. Sometimes steroids and appetite stimulants are sent home to keep her eating.
Her momma hasn’t slept through an entire night for at least six months. She feeds Mama frequent small amounts of warmed human and canned cat foods – always enticing, always patient. She watches her like a hawk so she can report to us any changes with her. She has had only one vacation, a long weekend, to visit her parents, and she took Mama with her.
Extreme? Perhaps, but we understand. Anyone who has experienced the extraordinary love from a pet also understands. We are part of Team Mama, and we will keep on!
Dr. Holly Woltz (Doc Holly), Chief of Staff at Veterinary Services, has practiced veterinary medicine for 28 years and specializes in senior care. A former teacher and writer, she enjoys talking and writing about the human-companion animal bond and its importance. Visit her at www.aikenpetvet.com.