Lessons learned…

When you have a lot of animals you are continually learning.  This Fall has been full of new ‘lessons’, which translates to lots of money spent and lots of anxiety.  I’ll start with the most recent ‘lesson’.

Dorie Jo had a litter of four female kittens.  At around nine weeks old, the little blue colorpoint girl, Noelle, started being very lethargic.  She still ate well, but slept all the time.  The vet found no temperature, but she had little muscle tone and her white blood cell count was high.  She was tested for about eight different illnesses but came back negative on all.  Her fecal was fine.  Dr. Rachael suspected toxoplasmosis, even though the test had been negative, so prescribed clindamycin, a broad-based antibiotic that treats a number of things, including toxo.  It was a tiny half a pill that was to be given with food.

Now I know that antibiotics can be hard on the stomach sometimes and often cause diarrhea.  So when it said ‘give twice a day with food’, I thought giving it after she ate would work, as she would have a full stomach.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  After a day or two on the pills, Noelle was feeling better and was playing and eating well.  But after about a week, she started having trouble swallowing.  She got so she couldn’t eat the crunchy food and even had trouble with the bits of food in the canned with gravy varieties.  She choked on them and sometimes threw them up. The vet suspected some type of ulceration in her esophagus caused by the clindamycin.  Ulcerations  like this can lead to ‘strictures’.  I’d never heard of such a thing.  I looked ‘strictures’ up on Google, of course, and found that people get them, as well as dogs and cats.  In some of the literature, I found that cat strictures are rare, but the cause is often clindamycin.  (Now ya tell me!)  Strictures are scar tissue that narrows the esophagus and can cause the cat to be unable to swallow food at all, to regurgitate food into the lungs and cause pneumonia.  They can lead to death if untreated.  As this kitten was getting worse, the solution was to go to a board-certified specialist to have an endoscopy, which would see if there was a stricture and if so, destroy it.  Of course the destruction of this scar tissue can result in more scar tissue which has to be removed.  Holy crap, that means two procedures or more???  (These procedures ain’t cheap, as you can imagine.)  The hope is that the second stricture is smaller than the first and can be more easily removed and when it heals, it doesn’t narrow the esophagus much.  Hope, hope, hope and crossed fingers.

Noelle_favorite toy

Noelle went down to Scarborough, Maine and had the endoscopy.  Luckily her stricture was small and easily removed.  We will cross our fingers that in a week she is still eating well and has no sign of another one forming.  If so, back to the specialist she goes.  As of right now, she is lively and eating her soft canned food well.

The hard lesson learned is this.  If you have a cat who is given clindamycin as an antibiotic, you MUST give food immediately after you pill her to make sure the pill clears the esophagus.  In fact, it would be a good idea to do this with any pill you give a cat.  Studies showed that dry pilling sometimes delays the pill from getting to the stomach for over thirty minutes.  It just sits in the esophagus.  A little tuna juice, a favorite treat, a bit of favorite canned food, given right after the pilling, will make it go down.

I learned a very expensive lesson here.  And it may get even more expensive.  Noelle, thank goodness, is doing well and enjoys her canned food.  She came through her procedures well and being a Ragdoll, did not stress much over being in the hospital overnight.  But we won’t know for awhile if the throat will heal now, without another stricture.

But that wasn’t my only lesson this Fall.

Before the kitten issue, came a problem with my sweet collie Luna.  She seemed to be very itchy and her coat was getting cruddy.  She sheds in late summer and early Fall and usually I find it easy to groom out her gray undercoat.  But this year was different.  I blamed the itching on her food.  After she’d gained too much weight over the winter, I’d switched her to a weight management kibble and weight management canned food, using the same brand as she’d been on.  She also had diet biscuits.  I figured she was on such a low fat diet that she was getting dry skin.  So I added in some fish oil and started to alternate the diet canned food with the regular food.  Still itchy and with poor coat.  She had lost a little weight though. (yay)

Luna by flowers

Luna by flowers with normal coat

Her itching eventually caused her ears to become red and hot looking, plus I’d found a scab behind her elbow where she itched a lot too.  I thought it was from an old tick bite.  So off to the vet’s we went.

After an exam, Dr Lindsey did a skin scraping of the edge of Luna’s ear, which was pretty raw.  By then the hair was coming off the ear too.  I was still thinking it was the food…

They called me out back to look into the microscope.  Damned if there wasn’t a freaking MITE in the viewfinder!  I know what mites look like because alpacas get a type of them and I’d seen pictures.  Luna had sarcoptic mites.  Vets see the mites in only 20% of the slides done on infected dogs, so we got lucky.  How did Luna get them?  She isn’t around other dogs, she doesn’t go to a kennel.  The alpacas get a different kind of mite.  The vets’ best guess was that she had gotten them from the foxes who live around our farm.  We have both red and gray foxes.  Somehow Luna had gotten into their poop or their sleeping spots or something, while out on a walk through the woods.  She is always sticking her long collie nose into holes in the woods, so maybe one of them was a foxhole.  The treatment was antibiotics for her poor scratched ears, Revolution spot-on to kill the mites, and after one ear developed a haematoma, prednisone for that.  Ka-ching, ka-ching, goes the cash register at the vet’s office.

Luna is getting better.  It will take a couple of months for her hair to return to normal, but her ears have already cleared up, though the edges still look dry and scaly.  She gets Revolution every two weeks and then goes to monthly treatment.  Revolution is also a heartworm preventative, safe for collies.

I never thought that a pet dog could get mites, also called ‘scabies’.  I never knew that Revolution kills sarcoptic mites.  We always used Frontline Spray on the alpacas.  Sigh.  It has been an expensive Fall.