Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cats, kidney disease, and making a difference.

Last week was kind of a rough week at the clinic.  We had several patients die or get diagnosed with advanced cancer or other equally horrible diseases.  These kind of weeks happen in the medical profession.   And not to say that one individual loss of life doesn't have any effect on us, but when multiples occur in a very short period of time, the stress level certainly rises above the norm.  During times like this, a person needs to have a coping mechanism in place or they won't last very long in this very emotional environment.  When I am faced with great sadness at work, I grab on to the successes for the successes are why we do what we do.  Last week I said goodbye to a patient of mine named Sabrina when she was brought into the clinic for euthanasia.  It was time to say goodbye, but Sabrina's life has special meaning because of her story and Sabrina's owners graciously said "yes" when I asked if I could tell her story in my blog.

When I decided to do this blog, I asked Sabrina's people if they could send me a few pictures to add to the blog which they very kindly did along with a note about how and when she first made her way into their lives.  I am going to include that note word for word because I was touched by a feeling of love that came across to me in those 2 short paragraphs about Sabrina's life.

Sabrina was just a tiny kitten when found at the McDonald's dumpster in Conneaut in the winter of 1992. Efforts were made to find the owner to no avail, so the people that found her kept her at their home in Conneaut. When it was not possible to care for Sabrina anymore, they asked a mutual friend of ours if we would mind taking care of "Ashley" (Sabrina's name at that time). Since we already had one cat--a seven-year-old male "Bailey", we took in "Ashley" on a trial basis in October 1993. Everything worked out well--we renamed "Ashley" to Sabrina.

Sabrina adapted well and became the "Queen Bee". She adapted well to travel to and from Florida (sometimes twice a year) and various trips to Connecticut. In 2002, "Bailey" died, but she was not alone for long. "Buster", a male cat about two years old, was adopted from a shelter in West Virginia in November 2002, so she had another male cat to boss around. In 2007 she was diagnosed with a kidney disease that would be fatal. She was on medication for that until she died in February 2011. She was at least 19 years old.
I first met Sabrina in 2002 when she was 10 years old.  Over the next few years all her visits and bloodwork were for routine check ups or to get her teeth cleaned.  In the summer of 2006, Sabrina came in for her regular check up.  She had been doing well, but had lost a little weight.  This year her bloodwork showed that she was in the beginning stages of chronic kidney disease.  We changed her diet to a commercial feline kidney management diet and started her on Calcitriol, a drug that helps with some of the changes in parathyroid hormone that occurs in kidney disease.  Over the course of the following years, there were a few minor bumps in the road and Sabrina needed a treatment for a urinary tract infection once and was treated with an antacid stomach medication a few times.  Through out all of this, Sabrina's owners were very diligent about giving her medicine and bringing her in for regular appointments and bloodwork.  This is what made all the difference.

The point of Sabrina's story is that this is what early diagnosis and treatment can accomplish.  Chronic kidney disease is one of the most if not the most common disease veterinarians see in our senior cat population.  There have been several studies that have shown on average, a cat that has been diagnosed with early stage chronic kidney disease will live about 1 year with no treatment.  With treatment, cats will live an average of 2 years.  Sorry this is not a scientific paper so there are no footnotes.  If you want me to dig out my notes about these studies feel free to shoot me an email and I will find them.  In Sabrina's case, she lived 5 years.  Not every cat will do as well as Sabrina did, but many will.  BUT the kidney disease needs to diagnosed early.  Not when the cat has shriveled down to a skeleton, quit eating and is vomiting bile all over the place.  Sabrina's 5 extra years of life is why we veterinarians harp about bringing your cat in every year for a check up.  It's why we tell you that your senior cat needs routine bloodwork every year.  We are the ones who see what can be possible.  We can't work miracles, but with a little help and perhaps a touch of good luck, we can make a difference.  The successes.  It is why we do what we do.

Along with some pictures of Sabrina all by herself (and one with her "brother" Buster), I was also sent one picture that made me cry and smile all at the same time.  You understand I am sure.  It is the sadness that comes at the time a pet's life ends and we have to say goodbye.  It is the smile that comes from knowing how blessed we were to have met and how much that pet's life meant to our own.  Dear Sabrina, I hope you have a good job supervising computer work on someone's lap over the rainbow bridge.  It was a blessing to have known you.

1 comment:

  1. What a sweet story - I'm glad that Sabrina's family let you share it. I have an old boy, Oscar, who likes to supervise my computer work too!