Thursday, January 12, 2017
Possum Went to Angell
Vets always ask me about changes in "activity level" when I bring them a sick cat. When it's Possum, I never know what to say. He is so lazy that I'm not sure he has an "activity level." He trots for a few seconds about once a week. Aside from that he sits or lies around, often showing off his belly, as you've seen. He is only energetic when agitating for meals, when he stands upright with his paw up on the counter for support, smacking me with the other one and urging me to make it snappy. He probably burns a calorie or less daily as he tries to steal food from the other cats' bowls. His idea of playing is to swat at a pole toy if it comes within inches of his paw. His idea of hunting is to wait for prey to accidentally land in his mouth. I'm exaggerating slightly, maybe, but not much. Lethargy is his normal energy level.
So I have to go by his facial expression and appetite to guess how he's feeling. The day after he came home from Angell he seemed a little quiet and sleepy but that was not unusual. He looked fine, happy to be home. On Tuesday morning, he ate his breakfast of boiled chicken and probiotics with gusto.
Later in the morning I called Angell for Possum's blood test results. I hate getting test results more than just about anything, but I'd had a brief surge of feeling like a mature adult and decided not to just sit by the phone and wring my hands. The Angell liaison said the vet was at morning rounds, discussing Possum with the other vets. "WHY?" I heard myself say, "IS IT THAT BAD?" So much for being an adult.
I was assured that the vets discuss ALL the cases every morning. I recovered some dignity. The vet called a little later to report that Possum's blood work was normal. Her diagnosis was that Possum is developing a food sensitivity. She said we should feed him only one brand and flavor of food for a few days. I If he did well, we could do the same with every other kind of food to see if one made him sick. I was doubtful. While we don't feed homemade raw food, about the best diet for cats, we do feed canned varieties that I've chosen because they contain mostly lamb, chicken, or duck, and are low in unnecessary ingredients.
From what I've read, food sensitivities tend to be reactions to crappy dry or canned food, often containing corn and other grains, potatoes or other veggies, artificial colors and flavors, and sketchy ingredients like meat "by-products" that come from a rendering plant and are too sickening to even think about, let alone feed to a cat.
I pointed this out, but she was unfamiliar with the brands of foods we buy and wasn't persuaded. So I agreed to keep him on boiled chicken for a while until his digestive problems resolved, and then try an elimination diet of one food at a time. (Privately, I decided I'd switch to raw food in a day or two if he didn't get better. And make that permanent if need be.)
I called our own vet, since she works on Tuesdays, and she quickly arrived at a different diagnosis that makes much more sense: "paradoxical diarrhea." She said that when cats get constipated they sometimes vomit and leak small amounts of diarrhea, and that these episodes can happen many days apart. Which is exactly what happened to poor Possy. She agreed that, given what we feed our cats, a sensitivity made no sense, but that a diet high in protein can make some cats constipated. She suggested adding psyllium to Possum's diet. I asked about slippery-elm bark instead; she was fine with that.
So, we spent $600 on treating constipation. Am I kicking myself? I am not. When a cat of mine is miserable, I have to do the best I can, and I did. This was a valuable learning experience: I know about paradoxical diarrhea now. It was cheaper than going to vet school. In fact, I should tell that vet at Angell about paradoxical diarrhea since she and her colleagues never thought of it.
So we could relax and stopped worrying. Except that Possum hasn't pooped, as far as we know, since our vet visit. He might have sneaked one in when we weren't paying attention. I hope so. The slippery elm arrives tomorrow and I might try some myself, since it's soothing for IBS.
I asked Possum to please, going forward, try to only get sick on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, when our vet is working. He had no interest in talking about it; cats hate discussing illness or other perceived weaknesses or imperfections.
All he said was, "I'm paradoxical. Mysterious, enigmatic, fascinating, unfathomable, and ready for cheese."