Yep, this is a non-running post. It's about my kitty. If you're a cat owner, you may find it interesting.
I'm a cat lover. I love my kitties, although at 4am when they are tearing across the bed, I'm not feeling the love. Nugget is my17 year old male that over the last few months has been losing weight. He still has a great appetite and is rambunxious and is considered quite obnoxious at 4am. Because its been 2 years since he’s been to the vet and the weight loss, I made an appointment at the vet by my new house. I’ve never understood how cats can be psychic and even BEFORE the cat carrier comes down off the shelf, they hide under the bed. How do they know that today is vet day? If they weren’t psychic, it would be probably make the entire experience scratch free.
Nugget is not a biter and scratcher UNTIL you bring him to the vet. He is NOT a good patient. When he was getting weighed he was agitated. When he got his temperature taken he hissed and fought the vet tech some more. When the tech put a smiley face on his chart I looked at him and said how did you get a smiley face with that behavior?! The tech explained that when they show their teeth, a smiley face is drawn to warn any unsuspecting victim he deals with. To make matters worse I tried to have his claws clipped. Yeah, not such a good idea. At this time he was throughly angry and when it came time to drawing blood and urine for the tests, he needed to receive anesthesia in order to get the samples. Since I wasn’t planning on anesthesia he was fed in the morning, which he promptly threw up after coming out of his stupor. And then because they drew urine, there was also some blood and urine in the carrier with his face squished against the bars.
I was now in full tears, questioning why I had the anesthesia and the test and felt like a horrible mom. The technician, when she came back to say they were cleaning Nugget up, took one look at my tear stricken face and exclaimed she’ll go get the doctor. Hmmm, I guess I started to become the patient. The sad thing is when I had to come back to the vet the next week for chest x-rays, I ended up balling again at the office. (Someone had to put down their pet and I cried and cried for him and the pet). They probably marked something in the chart...next to the smiley face, a frowning face with a note about the owner. Cry baby...supply box of tissues.
Anyways, the results are that Nugget has hyperthyroidism. This is very common disorder in cats and is fatal if not treated. Hyperthyroidism causes the metabolic rate to increase, causing increased appetite, weight loss, increased thirst and also hyperactivity. This explained the weight loss, the constant request for water (the spoiled cat drinks out of the bathroom faucet) and the spastic activity.
The vet explained three treatments in order of what he recommended.
- Radioactive iodine treatment – an injection of a radioactive iodine that kills the tumor and has a very good success rate and low side affects. The cost is about $1000
- Medication - Twice a day for the rest of the pets life. It could be more expensive than the radioactive treatment over the life of the cat.
- Surgery removing the affect thyroid glands - Surgery isn’t guaranteed to remove the tumor or affected tissues. Plus there are the side effects and risks of surgery.
Surgery wasn’t something I wanted to do and medication is not a pleasant option. Remember, Nugget is not a good patient and any pill giving in the past has been met with resistance and claws. Even the “easy” liquid, you know the pink antibiotics, ends up on the walls and all over my clothing. Being ingenious, smashing up pills and putting it into wet cat food doesn’t fool him either. Not only does he not finish all the food with the pill in it, he won’t eat anymore of the food in the can at a later time. I’ve tried heating it up in the microwave and he still turns up his nose. The other issue with medication is they can be over medicated or under medicated and requires frequent blood tests to determine the medication levels. Vet = claws = pain.
So that leaves the radioactive iodine therapy. There is a company called Radiocat that treats the cats. They administer the injection, take care of the cat during their stay and monitor radiation levels. There are no side effects (or so they claim) and the treatment is very effective. According to Radiocat, when the cat returns home 4 days later, the cat admits less radiation that you would have on a sunny day or on a plane ride. And yet the cat can’t sleep with you, snuggling should be minimized, hands need to be washed after handling the cat and the litter needs to be flushed as compared to just thrown away. I suppose all of that is a precaution.
The question that I have to answer and will continue to have to answer is at what age do I say my cat has lived a happy life? A 17 year old cat isn’t necessarily old considering I’ve had a 22 year old cat before but 17 is on the senior side. I believe Nugget is still overall healthy and has another 5 years in him and this is something I need to do for him. I'm not ready to face the other options.
On April 20th I'll drop him off to get his glow in the dark treatment. I wish I would have brought him to the vet sooner to get it diagnosed earlier but at least I know now. In the meantime he is being babied more than he was before and he'll soon be a radiocat.
Have you had an experience with hyperthyroidism for cats? Do you have any humorous stories about pill giving or trips to the vet?