Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sponsored post - Um.. Momma.. where are our treats from Chewy?

Momma, we called you here today to remind you have forgotten something VERY important, and we are not happy about this. We are hoping you will rectify this immediately. It has something to do with something in that cupboard right up there..

Yes, good job Momma.. that cupboard.. Yes, that box that came from that they sent us MONTHS  DAYS ago and you hid away from us for some reason.. not cool mom.. not cool at all..

I mean was kind enough to send us this nice pretty box of Nature's Variety Instinct Raw Boost Minis chicken flavor in exchange for an honest review, and then you don't let us review it. So what if we have gotten these before, and you  know full well that we like them very much, well most of us, we have a JOB to do woman.. now open up that bag and let us get to it!!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, they come in nice little cat mouth sized pellets, and yes they are freeze dried.. don't look at the ingredients (Chicken (Including Ground Chicken Bone), Turkey, Turkey Liver, Turkey Heart, Pumpkinseeds, Apples, Carrots, Butternut Squash, Ground Flaxseed, Montmorillonite Clay, Broccoli, Lettuce, Spinach, Dried Kelp, Apple Cider Vinegar, Parsley, Honey, Salmon Oil, Mixed Tocopherols, Olive Oil, Rosemary Extract, Blueberries, Alfalfa Sprouts, Persimmons, Inulin, Rosemary, Sage, Clove).. you know full well that you don't let us have very many of them at one time so we get very little of these plant ingredient things that for some weird reason you don't let us have.. Come on!! We need to get to the eatin!

nom nom nom nom nom nom - MOOM!!!
Yup, for some reason Muffin doesn't like these treats. I'm not sure why since that cat eats pop tart crusts.. I mean seriously that cat eats everything but these.. well and a couple of other 'good for you' cat treats. No one else seems to mind because it means more for them. Sadly with seven cats - and half of them being HIGHLY food motivated - it is hard to have treat time so years ago I started just throwing the treats on the floor which allows for the less aggressive cats to be able to enjoy treats.  Personally I prefer to feed treats to my cats that have a shorter ingredient list, but sometimes foods don't always have to perfect, and less so when your cats don't have medical issues.  Thank you Chewy for the opportunity and while Chewy sent me the treats in exchange for an honest review, all content of this post is my own (or Jack's if you believe he talks to me).

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Life with Jack

As most of you know, for the past couple of years we have had to deal with inappropriate elimination with Jack. I still firmly believe that some treats that were made in China had something to do with it, as the correlation was way too strong.

Last summer we took yet another trip to yet another vet for inappropriate elimination (peeing on the heater in the bathroom and on the front of the washing machine) in hopes to ward off his blocking again.  This time the vet recommended a full blood panel. Jack was 12 at the time so it was well worth doing a senior panel and it had been a while since he had a regular vet, so I agreed.

That blood work came back that Jack had a higher than normal thyroid level. It was not obnoxiously high, 5.2 or 5.4 when the high reference was 4.7 (0.8-4.7 being the normal range). It was recommended we put him on thyroid medication and see what happened.

Well except for a few more incidents right at the beginning he has been pretty much (but not completely) inappropriate pee free since.

Pilling him was easy, but I could tell that he was bothered by it.  I tried offering it to him in treats but the pills were bitter and it was hard to hide it in food. I decided to crunch the numbers and see if I could afford I131 - the radioactive iodine treatment which is the 'gold standard' for treating hyperthyroid issues. The radioactive iodine when done right kills off the high functioning cells of the tumor that is pumping out excessive thyroid hormones while leaving the healthy tissue alone. I realized that buying pills from my vet I would be ahead of the financial game if Jack lived three to four years longer. I could find cheaper sources of the pills which would bring that number out longer, but I would still have to force pills down Jack's throat twice a day. To me, there was a price I was willing to pay to not have to do that to him.

Deciding to inject your cat with radioactive substances is not an easy one. This is one of those things that you are told to avoid at all costs. Then you are bombarded with how you need to keep your cat isolated and his waste is so radioactive that you need to keep it isolated for 90 days. I'll admit, I was more than a little freaked out; but then I pilled Jack and he looked at me like I had just betrayed him and I started looking for a place to perform the procedure.

I had three semi local options.  One about half an hour away one about an hour and a half away, and one in town Boston. I researched what would be the best option for Jack. Getting the thyroid scanned would give the most accurate dosing level. Some clinics dose on the weight of the cat, some dose on the level of thyroid dysfunction, and some do the scan and know exactly how much should be given. Only one clinic scanned and was willing to take a higher risk cat - which Jack is with his history of blocking; we went to Angell in Boston.

We did the treatment while I was out of town at Barkworld. We picked him up as I was coming home. I had done some research on the levels of radiation that Jack would be emitting post treatment and I realized that it was pretty minimal. They want you to be extra cautious because it is hard to know what a person's radiation exposure will be in a lifetime and it is better to keep it as low as possible. I decided I have very little exposure in my life. I don't travel by plane all that much, I broke my leg in the 8th grade and that was the last time I had an xray save for some dental xrays. So other than discouraging Jack from licking me (which was oh so hard since he just recently started licking my nose to tell me he loves me) I decided I was not going to exclude him from my life. He slept on my bed, we snuggled, I kissed him regularly.

It was recommended that I test him one month post treatment and three months post treatment. One month post his thyroid level was 1.9 (ref 0.8-4.7).  I was a little concerned this was a little low but I knew we had just really started on this journey.  For the most part Jack has been acting like a 12/13 yr old cat. Sometimes he seems 'poopy' to me, but all I need to do is talk to him and he perks right up and chats with me and he is interactive (aka asking for cookies).  His fur has also been less than perfect with a smattering of small matts showing up where they never did before. About a month ago I was afraid that he might have something else wrong because he seemed to be in pain due to the way he was standing with his feet slightly closer together and his back slightly arched (no, my husband didn't see it). A trip to the vet didn't show anything and over the next few weeks he seems to be getting over it. I still constantly worry about his urinary PH. I do not know why but a lot of my cats have urinary PH of 7.0. Considering how much raw meat they are eating and how few plants, their urine should be closer to 6.0. To help him deal with this I still occasionally give him a pill created for optimal urinary health that helps acidify his urine.

I just took him to the vet for his post three months (yes, a bit late) and this time his thyroid level was 1.4 (ref: 0.8-4.7) which concerns me a bit. Because of his age, I would feel more comfortable if his level was closer to if not slightly above 2.0.  I would also be more comfortable if his level wasn't going down.  I emailed Angell last night to see what they make of his levels and see if they make any recommendations.  I am not unhappy with these numbers, just slightly concerned so I thought I would ask.

Jack is still "frickin amazing" and he makes me smile every single day. Yesterday he stole one of the hairball relief tablets I bought for Fleurp (in case her anemia has ANYTHING to do with the major shed she goes through each spring) when it fell out of the container when I took the cotton out of the jar. He liked it so much that a few minutes later he nosed the container right off the counter hoping it would pop open when it fell and he could steal some more. When it didn't work, he threw a few other things off the counter hoping to hit the bottle and have it pop open.. since this method has worked for him in the past.

I seriously love that boy of mine.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Why you would want to learn to home test your cat

One of the major reasons diabetic cats lose their lives is because people find treating diabetes so incredibly intimidating. I would like to take a few minutes to try to explain to you why it isn't, and why it is such a great live skill to have.  If you can home test a cat's blood sugar levels you will have one incredibly useful skill. One that could and easily can save a life. A life like Abby.

A lot of people when faced with the idea of home testing, they are introduced to it by a vet who wants to sell their client a pet glucometer. These glucometers are generally very expensive and you have to go back to the vet to buy even more expensive strips for the meter.  Since you normally want to test your cat twice a day when giving insulin (once before each shot) and occasionally you will want to do 'curves' - where you test ever two hours between the two shots - so you can see how quickly you will go through strips.

There are many inexpensive glucometers at your local megamart. I tend towards the Relion brand sold at Walmart, because that is what is sold near me. The last time I talked about this meter a very kind reader, Jamie Kowatch, offered to send me an Accucheck meter to see if the issues I was having with Abby's numbers was the meter or not. Each meter has it's own quirks and personality, so if you are going to use more than one meter it is helpful if you get a few 'duplicate tests' (a test on each meter) to see where it falls. Meters in the US are regulated by the FDA to an accuracy of has set accuracy criteria to ±20 mg/dl for levels less than 100 mg/dl or ±20% for glucose levels greater than 100mg/dl for at least 95% of results.  If this is good enough for people, it is good enough for cats.

Three different human glucometers
lancets - for poking the ear and making it bleed
Now I will fully admit that the learning curve for treating feline diabetes is pretty steep - but it is very short. We are all taught that blood needs to remain on the inside, and if it isn't it is a problem, so going about with the intention of making your beloved kitty bleed is a hard one to get over. Remember two things, that by doing this you will be contributing to the long term good health of your cat and two, your cat will most likely only be bothered if YOU are bothered.

The general recommendation for giving insulin is to start low and go slow.  A lot of vets will prescribe multiple units of insulin to start your cat off, but it is always best to start off giving one unit. Your cat is far better off with too high blood sugars for long periods of time then going too low even for a moment. Doing a curve will help you understand how that unit of insulin is working in your cat and what the lowest point in your cat's blood sugar is  - usually six hours after giving insulin if you are using a 12 hour insulin. Now you can do 'spot checks' to see where your cat falls throughout the day. This will help you catch any problems such as going too low or not going low enough.

I'm sure all of this seems incredibly time consuming and not something you can do, but trust me it isn't and you can.  I recorded a video of my testing Abby twice. The first time I didn't angle the camera down enough so you don't get a full view of what I'm doing, but I am sharing it here to show you how little time testing takes.

I have found, after testing almost a dozen cats, that the cats do not mind being pricked in the ear with the lancet nearly as much as they dislike having their ears held. I have found using a tissue behind the ear makes it easier for me because I am less fearful that I am about to poke myself through the cat's ear. Cats generally are not a fan of the feel of the blood pooling up on their ear and will want to shake their head to get rid of it. This is another reason why I like using a tissue, because as soon as I have done the test I can use the tissue to staunch the flow of the blood. Some people like to warm the cat's ear prior to testing with a baby sock filled with rice microwaved until warm to help increase blood flow to the ear.

I have used my knowledge on how test the blood sugar to not only treat diabetics, but I used this on my own non-diabetic cats when I wondered if they weren't feeling well or if I was over reacting. High blood glucose levels often accompany illness because of stress. I was very glad to know how to do it.

No one ever wants their cat to have diabetes, but most people who have ended up with one report that it really strengthens the bond they have with their sugar kitties. It is a rare person who is willing to take on a cat with diabetes, mostly because they do not understand how little it takes to save their lives.