I’ve often found that most of the creatures of my menagerie name themselves, and they make good on those names. Sometimes a little more than they need to. (cut for tl;dr veterinary angst)
Case in point:
That’s Billy (yes, I named him after my character in the Stranger Things series, because reasons), Lord of Chaos. And, as said above, he’s living up to his name.
Tuesday night, the Lord of Chaos ate only a few bites of his food. Odd, but given that he’s our little pica child and eats everything, an upset stomach wouldn’t be surprising. Everyone is entitled to feel poopy now and again, so while I raise an eyebrow at a missed meal for any of my furbrats, I don’t get all that upset. I note it, but that’s all.
The next morning at breakfast, he did the same thing – just ate a little bit then walked off. NOW I’m getting nervous. Billy, like his namesake, eats everything all the time. He cleans his bowl at every meal then tries to clean everyone else’s for them. For him to turn up his nose at food is just not like him. Still. He’s eating something, drinking, playing a little less than normal but still okay, using the litter box…everything he’s supposed to be doing. While concerned, I don’t think his behavior merits a vet trip just yet. He’s only been acting strange for about 10 hours. I’ll give it a full day before I call the doctor. It could be something he ate that just needs time to move along.
That evening, he repeats the same, only this time, he’s not very enthused. After his three bites he finds a spot next to the pantry to curl up and doesn’t even bother with his favorite toy. I reach for the phone and arrange an appointment with the doctor the very next morning.
That night he again comes for his snack (they get two meals and a snack before bed to keep from waking me at 4AM for food), but barely eats. Instead he goes to the water fountain (yes, we have one, because of our Little Ill Cat that passed last year) and drinks for a long time. Husband and I look at each other. We know what this looks like. We’ve been through it before. Please, oh please, no. He’s just little (only 17 months – not even two years yet). I exchange his bowl for a few tablespoons of the canned food they get a little bit of with their meals. He’s been eating that. I dish up a good portion and he eats every bite. It makes me feel a little better that he’s actually getting something nutritious down, but still. This does not bode well.
For me, the vet visit can’t come fast enough. I didn’t sleep much that night, and for the first time in all the time he’s been with us, he didn’t come to sleep on the bed. He slept beside it all night.
It’s now Thursday morning and his appointment is just before noon. He repeats his “no crunchy food, just the wet food, thanks” thing and I’m happy to let him eat what he wants as long as he’s eating. Just before the appointment we get him into his carrier (much to his great offense) and load him in the car. To the vet we go!
Once there, the tech takes his temperature and frowns. It’s low. She takes it again. Same result. We all think there’s something wrong with the thermometer – it’s reading hypothermia even for a human (95F). She goes into another exam room and gets a different one. The new thermometer doesn’t read much better at 97F. Hypothermia is bad. It indicates something is going terribly wrong inside. He wasn’t showing any symptoms at all. This is also bad. My stomach does a little clench and my mouth goes dry.
My cat – my little boy baby – is dying. Less than 36 hours ago he was bouncing off the walls, wreaking his usual chaos. Now he’s dying in my husband’s arms.
Oh FUCK no.
The vet comes in and looks him over. Asks us questions about anything he could have gotten into (nothing – he’s strictly indoors, we have no plants, and use no chemicals in the house that aren’t pet safe). He’s dehydrated despite all his drinking (which I was keeping an eye on). There’s no reason for his lethargy, hypothermia, and appetite loss…on the outside, anyway. I know this means something bad is going on internally. The only way to find that out is to take a look. The vet examines him and wants to run tests. He’ll have to stay a few hours. Okay. We kiss our boy and go home to wait until his tests are done. We’re to come back at 3:30 to pick him up.
An hour later, the phone rings. It’s the vet. His lab tests showed astronomical kidney values.
“Kidney failure,” I say, my heart sinking.
“Not failure,” said the vet. “But something’s definitely compromising them. I want to keep him overnight, hydrate and flush him with IV fluids and recheck his levels in the morning.” We agree to all that (we’ll agree to anything for our furbabies – they know they don’t even have to call me to authorize tests; just fix my baby! I have a Visa card and I know how to use it!), plus an x-ray and an ultrasound.
That night, the house feels so empty. It feels strange and wrong to only fill four bowls instead of five at dinner and bedtime (I have four cats and Pup, and all get the same mealtimes). Another sleepless night passes (we both stayed up reading all night), though we finally managed to get to sleep about 5AM. At breakfast (about 8:30AM – not a minute before despite all Morning Cat does to convince me otherwise), we call and ask about our boy. He did well through the night and is eating dry food like there’s no tomorrow. THAT’S the Billy we know. It’s a good sign. We ask if we can come in and be present for the ultrasound. The tech said she would ask, but stuff and things happened and we ended up being called about 10:30AM to come in at noon and discuss the results.
Yeah, my stomach did that clenching thing again. When the doctor calls you in to discuss the results of a test instead of just telling you on the phone what they are, that generally doesn’t bode well. But! She knows that Hubby and I are both medical people and understand what we’re looking at when we see ultrasounds, so may just want to show us pics. No probs. But…yeah. It was a hard wait for us.
Finally we go to the veterinary hospital and are ushered into an exam room. The doctor comes in smiling (good sign!) and we talk a little about Billy causing chaos in his hospital room (yay! chaos = normal!), and she shows us the x-ray she took.
Immediately I see it, and am confused.
“Where is his other kidney?” I ask.
She points to a little round object tucked almost under his spine. “There.”
I study it and raise my eyebrow at her. I’m not remotely close to familiar with veterinary medicine, but I know what I’m looking at. She knows what I’m about to say.
“It’s about half the size it should be, and not exactly where it’s supposed to be,” she says for me. “Here are the ultrasound pictures. I took some measurements.”
We look at the ultrasound photos and the three of us discuss options. He’s young. He’s got a normal-sized kidney. How well that one works is anyone’s guess. The smaller one may just be small but functioning, or it may be totally non-functional. The only thing known is that something set off this crisis and shut his kidneys down. What that was, no one can say, and no one is sure if it’s a one-time/short-term (“acute” in the fancy medical speak) thing, or if this is going to be a lifelong issue (“chronic”).
Right now, we play it by ear. He’s staying one more night tonight for fluids and another recheck of his kidney function in the morning. We’ll bring him home tomorrow afternoon, give him new food (a special diet for his kidneys) and make sure he drinks well. If he does well, he doesn’t have to go back until Wednesday for another check on his kidneys. If he doesn’t do well, he has to go back Monday. Wednesday for certain, though.
What does the future hold for our dear little Lord of Chaos? I don’t know. A lot will depend on the next few days. It could be something as simple as new food he can process better with his (we hope) one working kidney. He may need lifelong medication (and hopefully that medication will work and he’ll take it well and so on and so forth). He may need regular fluids, given here at home under the skin like we did for our Little Ill Cat. (Good thing I know how to do it. Hopefully he’ll let me.) We just don’t know yet.
What we do know is that he’s got some kind of kidney issue. How bad it is remains to be seen. We got treatment fast and early, so he has the best chance at making a full recovery, but that’s still undecided.
We also know that his lab values dropped by half overnight with just one night of treatment. This is an exceedingly good thing. Dehydration masks a lot of things, and until we get him stable, we won’t know how bad it really is. With time and a few more tests, we’ll have a better idea as to what’s going on, and what to do about it.
It’s been a rough few days here for the James household, but things are looking brighter now. Lord of Chaos is (in theory at least) no longer in immediate danger of death, nor is some big bad thing (like cancer or a tumor needing surgery) about to take him from us. We can do this kidney thing. We’ve done it before, with a cat in much worse shape than he.
Thank you to all who have been keeping the little Lord of Chaos in your thoughts and prayers. They really are helping. If you could spare them through the weekend, I’d be very appreciative. With any luck, he’ll be terrorizing the household with his bad little self again in the next couple weeks, just like normal.
Right now, though, I’m going to catch up on some missed sleep.