So, lately my wife and I have been poking holes in one of our cats.
Our brown tabby, Ripley, is getting on in years, and we’ve noticed he’s been resting more, eating less, and generally just slowing down. We figured it was just old age, but in January he suddenly got much worse, so we took him to his vet, who figured out that he was suffering from something called immune mediated hemolytic anemia, which meant his immune system was attacking his red blood cells. IMHA has a very high mortality rate, and our vet figured there was less than 50% chance he would survive, even with treatment.
They gave him a blood transfusion to restore some of the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, which immediately restored some of his vitality. Then they kept him for a week for additional treatment, which included a bunch of drugs and a second transfusion.
When he was released from the veterinarian hospital a few weeks ago, Ripley was OK, but he hasn’t been bouncing back as well as our vet would like him to. There have also been a couple of days in which he started to crash during the day — stopped eating and drinking, and stayed in one location all day — so we had to take him back to the vet so they could give him more drugs and rehydrate him.
Since his release, we’ve been giving him several drugs, including high doses of the steroid prednisone, which suppresses his immune response. It also has side effects, which could include the problems with appetite and sluggishness, and our vet decided it was time to taper it off, which we’re doing now.
Also, to make sure he’s hydrated, every day we put Ripley on a high work table, hang a bag of veterinary-grade lactated ringers solution off our bookshelves, pull Ripley’s skin so it forms a tent-shape away from his body, poke the needle in, and open up the valve until he’s received 150 milliliters of fluid under the skin.
Ripley’s holding on and doing okay this past week, so it’s probably helping.
Still, it seems like a very weird thing to do.
Update: As it turns out, when I wrote this, Ripley was nearer the end than we knew. He will be missed.