Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Murphy Came A-Knockin'- Part I

Why does it seem that Murphy's law comes into play when things are the most completely chaotic and crazy? As you know, my sister visited me during Thanksgiving and didn't leave until last Tuesday. I went back to work on Wednesday, and I was set to travel overnight on business on Thursday. I also had plans to go on a girls' getaway with my BFF that weekend.

As I was packing my overnight bag last Thursday morning, I noticed brown spots on my bed cover. As I was wondering to myself, "What could this possibly be?", I discovered my cat, MJ, straining to defecate outside of his litter box. I yelled, "Holy cr&p!" (no pun intended), and tried to catch any droppings with a newspaper. But MJ fruitlessly kept straining and left a trail of "leakage" spots instead. (Eeeewwwwww.)

What concerned me, though, was how MJ cried in distress as he strained. Since I was going away on business and it was already too late to cancel the hotel reservation for the weekend, I rushed him the to the vet.

To my relief, MJ emptied his bowels on the examining table while the vet tech took his temperature. (Eeeewwwww.) Fortunately, MJ didn't have a fever. The vet took a blood sample and some x-rays. The vet felt that MJ was dehydrated so she gave him a bag of IV fluids. MJ was released after I paid $275 for the visit.

When I brought him home, MJ was his normal, lazy self. He ate some of the boiled chicken breast I previously cooked for him as a treat, and he drank some water from his bowl. I felt comfortable that whatever was distressing MJ had passed after he had his bowel movement. I then departed for my business travel. (Actually, there was one more visit from Murphy before I left. That'll be discussed in tomorrow's post.)

The following day, while I was away on business, the vet called to tell me that the blood tests showed MJ's kidneys may be failing. She recommended that they re-test his blood sample after giving him IV fluids 3 times a day for 3 days. She stated that if his kidneys are failing, there's nothing that can be done to reverse his condition. I would need to feed him a special diet and give him weekly IV fluids. The cost to give him fluids for 3 days, 3 times a day and to run another test would cost $400. The weekly IV fluid bags would cost $20/week.

I currently only have $150 earmarked in my "pet fund". I'm confident that I can come up with the $125 difference between my "pet fund" and the recent vet bill. But I know I can't afford the $400 re-test without tapping my EF or putting it on my credit card.

I previously wrote about how I ended up charging $3,000 worth of vet bills for my other cat, CC, before putting her to sleep. I vowed I would never make the same mistake with MJ. What I didn't anticipate, though, was the possibility that MJ would suffer from a deteriorating condition rather than an acute illness like CC.

MJ is approximately 15-17 years old (i.e., 70 to 76 years old in cat years). (He was a stray I took in so I don't know his exact age.) Is it worth paying $400 to prove he has an irreversible condition? If he is suffering from an irreversible condition, how much should I pay to make MJ's last days as comfortable as possible? Should affordability come into consideration in these types of decisions? Also, would it be more humane for me to put him down now, rather than after he is suffering from chronic kidney failure?

At this point, I haven't taken MJ back to the vet since he's eating and drinking normally. He's defecated and urinated in his litter box since the vet visit. To this day, I still don't know what the right course of action is. All I know is that I can't afford to pay significant vet bills only to put him down. My friends and family are split 50-50 with respect to what I should do.

What would you do?


Anonymous said...

I don't have an answer as I have no idea what I would do. Just wanted to wish you and MJ the best.

Miss M said...

Oh honey I'm so sorry, this must be hard on you. My pets have had all kinds of medical catastrophes, they're my family though so I never hesitate to take them to the vet. Will your vet treat him for kidney failure without the expensive re-test? It sounds like the care wouldn't be cost prohibitive. We had to do the IV fluids after D was hospitalized, I've got some funny pictures of him with man-boobs after the fluid ran to his chest! It's not fun but it is doable, while researching it for D I came across a lot of people dealing with kidney failure in cats. It sounds like you can get another good year or two with fluids and diet. Have you looked in to Care Credit, it is a credit account but can be used for vet expenses and is interest free for awhile. I have a post about it on my site, I'm using it for C's palate surgery later this month.

Only you can decide on his quality of life, if he is suffering it is kinder to let him go. My first dog died of kidney failure. I'm sure you can find more info online, there are lots of people facing these tough decisions. Hugs.

Anonymous said...

It's hard for me to say, given that I've never owned a dog or cat, but maybe you should pay the $400 to get MJ tested if he starts acting ill again, and if it turns out that his kidneys ARE failing you can evaluate what you want to do. At that point, it may be best to put him down to avoid the additional costs on an already elderly animal and the increasingly poor health he'll have to deal with.

Good luck with your decision-making. :(

Sallie's Niece said...

Oh man that's so hard, I'm sorry to hear it. I love my cat and worry about a problem like this one day because I know how heart-breaking the decision may be. I don't really have any advice but I hope he feels better.

Anonymous said...

My kitty is 13 and I was told her kidneys might be failing too. She gets blood in her stool sometimes. I have put her on a special diet and she has improved. I buy the expensive cat food from the vet.
My vets have suggested me spending $200 for blood tests to find out if her kidneys are failing. I haven't done it yet. If she's just getting older, I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars to find out somethings wrong and I can't do anything about it. My biggest concern is that she is comfortable and happy. Let me know what you do. I'm curious. Good luck!

Sharon Rose said...

Hi there-I do wish you all the best in making the right decision for you, its a tough call and please go with what makes you feel better.

Money Beagle said...

Have you talked to the vet about his diet and making sure that it is nothing to do with the level of fiber that he's taking in? One of my cats has had problems with constipation almost all of his life. For awhile, he was very obese and the problems were really intense when he was at his fattest. He would get very 'compacted' and only enemas would take care of the problem. Eventually, after it happened several times the vet recommended that he switch to high fiber food that I now get by prescription. He also gets drops of a product called lactulose that basically coats his insides to keep things running smoothly. I also now limit his dry food consumption to a little bit a day because that can exacerbate the problem. Even with all this, he still occasionally gets backed up. However, I've become somewhat adept at noticing some of the signs earlier in the process. He would get to the 'leaking' and 'crying' areas but I found that this usually happened after at least 2-3 days. I can now usually spot signs earlier, by monitoring the litter boxes and even just by general behavior. Addressing the problem earlier helps, plus I've learned the fine art of giving a cat an enema (ew) which saves the stress for both me and the cat of a visit to the vet. Maybe this doesn't apply, but a discussion of diet could at least help things for awhile.

MoneyMateKate said...

This is how I see it (bearing in mind, I've never had a pet). Don't do the tests because either:

A) There will be another round of constipation/diarrhea or something else to indicate failing health, and you'll know he's on his way out, but without the $400 investment. At this point, you'll have to decide if it's worth it on so many levels to keep him around.


B) He had a case of catfood poisoning and is totally fine now.

Either way, the worst (financially speaking) that will happen if you don't do the tests is another round of heavy-duty housecleaning. Hell, hire someone if it's that gross (I would!) - it's not going to be anywhere near $400.

Lucy Grey said...

This dilemma is difficult. Personally, I've been through this with three of my cats in the past. The vet has always given us the option to give them fluids through the IV, but what we've seen is that when it gets to that point the kitties' health deteriorates really fast and they suffer. It's a heartbreaking decision when it gets to that point.

As for advice on the test: I don't know what I'd do. I might wait a few more days or week to see if he has another down day and then have another test done. I wouldn't wait on it too long, though. I'd rather catch the condition early.

I wish you the best.

Ms. MoneyChat said...

oh boy, what a tough decision. i'm not a pet owner so i can't say what i would do. i kind of agree with Moving on Up! see if changing the diet will change. it would be a bummer to spend $400 to find out MJ has a condition that you can't do anything about. this one is definitely tough. i don't think either decision would be "wrong."

HS said...

OH NOO! I'm soo sorry to hear that! also wish you the best since I am a dog person and not too familiar with cats.