Thursday, August 6, 2009

For Cat Lovers Only: Our Own Little Big Papi

I'm embarrassed to report that I've just discovered that we've been overdosing our cat, Bunny, with steroids to treat her lymphoma. Not intentionally, of course. But it's a good thing she's not playing Major League Baseball this season or she'd be getting a 50-game suspension.

We've been giving her four injections a day: two of a steroid and two of an anti-nausea drug. I thought this was the correct regimen, but we're also giving her so many other medications that I must have made a hash out of all the instructions. As I've said (and it's obvious anyway, if you read my blog), I'm not so bright.

Since the weekend, I've been noticing that Bunny doesn't sleep much. Older cats sleep more than half the time, and Bunny was a champion sleeper to begin with. She used to sleep really hard, like she's just run a marathon and caught six mice, when in fact all she'd done is walked a few yards from her food dish and jumped on the sofa. So it was disconcerting when I'd constantly find her lying around with her eyes open, looking mildly perturbed, but mostly bored.

I talk to our vet at the Boston Cat Hospital, or the assistants there, nearly every day. I had a lot of questions about her various meds, side effects, and questions about lymphoma, and I prefer their answers to any dubious info I might find on the Internet. The staff is uniformly understanding, well-informed, and helpful, but Bunny's sleeplessness puzzled everyone. Our vet re-checked the doses and side-effects of every drug, and decided it had to be the anti-nausea medicine. So we took her off that, but nothing changed. I'd be up until the wee hours every night, watching Bunny. Bunny would be lying nearby, watching me.

I knew that animals can't survive for days without sleep, so I figured she was sneaking in some cat naps somewhere. My vet, who clearly knows me well, wondered, gently, if perhaps I was actually keeping Bunny awake with my constant watchfulness and attentions. I knew this wasn't true, but I appreciated her honesty.

I called her again today and we discussed the problem one more time. I had decided it had to be the steroid injections. It just made sense: I know from personal experience with prednisone pills (for asthma) that they give me extra energy and make me hyper-alert. She said that the steroid dose she ordered couldn't possibly be too much. She also told me that a seriously sleep-deprived cat would be psychotic, so not to worry, we weren't there yet.

Fortunately, I then asked her to give me an estimate for boarding Bunny for a little while, if we decide to go on vacation. We are both very stressed out and need a break. I woke up at 6 this morning with vertigo, for example. For 3 hours, the bedroom would spin around crazily every time I moved my head. It was horrible. I kept thinking, "What if this never goes away?" I don't know what caused it, and I'm thrilled it went away. The doctor who's subbing for my regular doctor doesn't think it's serious. Unless it comes back. She says stuff like this just happens. Yuck! I think I need a vacation.

If the hospital were to charge for administering every single daily dose, it would cost a fortune, so I wanted an estimate beforehand. So I started reciting all the medications Bunny gets, which can be as many as ten doses a day. When I mentioned the steroids, the vet stopped me. "You're giving her how much?" I checked the faint printing on the prescription label and she checked her records, and together we determined that Bunny's been getting a double dose of steroids all week. She's supposed to get one injection a day, not two. The vet doesn't think it did any damage, and the extra may even have helped the chemo drug do its work. Bunny certainly has an incredible appetite, and her chronic eye trouble has cleared up beautifully, too. But if this kept up, I'm sure we'd start to see feline 'roid rage: Bunny slamming her paw into walls, leaving little holes at shin level.

I know it's not funny to O.D. your cat, but seeing the nutty side of it all helps me deal — if not with my stupidity, but with all the emotions that accompany having a very beloved, very sick cat. I can't wait to find her sound asleep, soon.

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