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I’ll admit I’ve been putting off this post. I was hoping that when I typed this particular post that I could report that Penny was still doing really well. Tomorrow will be two years since she was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney disease.
Instead, I lost her on November 15, 2017.
I’d like to share what I posted on Facebook a year ago today..
“Penny in all her scruffy splendor after trying to mooch lunch off of me this afternoon. And just about a year ago today she was diagnosed with Stage 4 chronic kidney disease and we didn’t think she’d be here another week or month much less a year!
Her kidney values still suck, it’s progressive and incurable, but clinically she’s been doing very well and even gaining weight she doesn’t need to gain. Her diabetes is still in remission, playing with The Kits and just living her happy, spoiled life. She takes her sub-q fluids and meds really well because she likes the reward she gets afterwards! Bribery will get you everywhere with this cat!! 😂😂
I don’t know what tomorrow or next week or next month will bring with Penny, but if you had told me a year ago when she was very sick and dying that she would live an A+ quality of life for another year, I would have told you that you were nuts!
She has taught me so much about life and being resilient. About having a positive attitude. About doing things you never thought you could. Because a year ago I thought that I could “never” give a cat a pill or subcutaneous fluids and I thought that her life would be sheer misery with all the meds etc. Yet all of her treatments take less than 10 mins per day and she gets to enjoy the other 23 hours and 50 minutes each day like there’s nothing wrong.
She lives in the moment. And I’ve learned to do that WITH her. With Weeny, I spent her last days mourning her. I won’t do that with Penny. I will mourn her when it’s “time”. Today I just enjoy her living her happy life!
She has shown me what strength and resilience look like. And, most importantly, she has shown me what’s possible when there is LOVE.
She is the strongest, toughest, most hard-headed daughter I’ve ever had and I love her for it!! ❤”
This still stands true. I would do it ALL over again for her. I would have done it for another ten years if I could have sustained the quality of life she enjoyed while she was “sick”.
I always said that if I had a cat diagnosed with kidney disease (Penny was my first), I would just put them to sleep rather than torturing them with fluids and pills and vet visits, etc.
It’s funny how quickly what you think you “would have” done changes when you’re actually faced with the situation.
Back to 2016
Penny was only 7 years old when she was diagnosed. And if I had gotten better control of her diabetes when she came out of that first remission, she may not have been faced with her death sentence at such a YOUNG age. (Read about Penny’s Feline Diabetes)
When I got the news that she was “end stage”, I was DEVASTATED. Penny was overdue for a dental when I had taken her to the vet. She had stopped eating, was very depressed and lethargic, started hiding and being anti social, and was drinking what seemed like GALLONS of water, even though her diabetes was under good control at that point.
The whole time she was dealing with insulin resistance, I knew it was only a matter of time before her kidneys would show some damage. She had blood work done just seven or eight months before and her kidneys were fine. I could not believe she had gone from “fine” to Stage 4 kidney disease that quickly, but she did.
I took her to her old vet for a second opinion. One of the issues on the table was that dental. She really NEEDED it because she had an infected tooth and significant inflammation.
I Had to Trust my Instincts
Everybody was telling me to admit her to the hospital for IV fluids to try to flush out her kidneys. The problem was that Penny was on insulin at the time. Since she wasn’t eating much, I was not able to give her the full dose of insulin. I had to test her blood glucose like crazy to make sure she stayed safe. A lot of dosing decisions I made at that time were based on my knowledge on how Penny responded to insulin and my gut instincts.
There was NO WAY I was going to admit her to a hospital and have a vet who was not familiar with PENNY’S diabetes and who didn’t live, eat, and breathe this disease day in and day out for 2 1/2 years administer Penny insulin. The only way I could guarantee her safety was to keep her home. If she died at home because she was not getting her kidneys flushed, so be it. I was NOT going to take a chance of Penny dying alone in a cage from insulin shock!
Not with Penny’s history at the rescue. Not with her separation anxiety.
My vets agreed with me on this issue. They knew that nobody could handle Penny’s diabetes better than I could. However, on the Facebook support group, I had people telling me that my cat was going to die if I didn’t admit her.
This is one of those instances where you have to trust your gut instincts and PRAY.
FIND A WAY!
Penny was prescribed sub q fluids, phosphorus binder, Cerenia for nausea, an antibiotic to get the tooth infection in check, and was given an appointment for her dental a few days after her diagnosis.
And I was wondering if this would be it. Was I going to lose her so suddenly?
Especially because I didn’t “think” I could pill a cat or give subcutaneous fluids. I was never successful in pilling a cat before and had never given sub q’s before. It was very scary. I thought I’d be spending hours per day chasing her around for her treatments while she hid in terror from me. And I almost gave up.
Until I looked into her big, round, emerald green trusting eyes. And I remembered that promise I made to her the day I saw her at Pet Smart and knew that we belonged together.
One of the biggest lessons Penny ever taught me is the old, “When it’s important enough, you find a way!”
And that we did.
I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on how to give sub q fluids to a cat. Those well behaved kitties on YouTube were NOT my feisty, bossy Penny! I watched videos on how to pill a cat and give liquid meds. Here I was…a PRO at giving her injections and testing her blood sugar, yet I couldn’t medicate her! Even then I had to laugh at myself.
Here are some REAL LIFE videos for ya!
WHEN IT’S IMPORTANT, YOU FIND A WAY.
And our “way” was BRIBERY. Just like with everything else I’ve done with Penny. As long as there’s something in it for her to enjoy when it’s over, she will cooperate. She was a VERY smart girl. But I will never forget the first time we did Penny’s sub q fluids. I was shaking the entire time. I knew SO, SO much rode on us being able to give her fluids daily. Fluids are the single most important treatment you can do for a cat in late-stage kidney disease. I was so excited when we were finished successfully giving her fluids the first time that I totally annoyed Penny praising her!
I will get into detail in another post about Penny’s specific treatments. I learned everything I know from Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Kidney Disease and the sister Facebook page, Feline Chronic Kidney Disease. Of course, I never started ANY new treatment without discussing with my vet first and getting their FULL blessing. Luckily, my vets were well versed with Tanya’s site, so that made them going along with my ideas much easier.
I wanted to get Penny more “stable” before we attempted that much-needed dental. I was so afraid of losing her at the vet that I almost risked her life. I cancelled the dental that she had scheduled five days after her diagnosis.
Many of you who follow the blog, know me personally, or follow our Facebook page know that I don’t always trust vets. I don’t always trust lay people, either.
That Life-Saving Phone Call
But when Dr. Jared called me from his home at 10pm the night before she was originally scheduled for her dental, I had to at least listen. He felt very strongly that if Penny had ANY chance of pulling through for a while that she had to have this dental. He even offered to go in on his day off to oversee her surgery if I would just agree to do it. She would have TWO vets making sure she pulled through.
Knowing that an out of control infection can just damage the kidneys further, and putting some really blind faith into Dr. Jared because he was just so convincing, I agreed to bring her in for that dental the next morning.
Boy, did I CRY. I sat on eggshells and was a nervous, shaking wreck ALL DAY. The vet said they would call me when she was done and by 4pm I hadn’t heard anything. I was literally SICK with worry.
They FINALLY called me back around 5pm and told me she pulled through just fine. Two years later, and I’m actually crying as I type this. I REMEMBER the feeling of RELIEF I experienced when I heard she was fine. She had a much tougher time recovering from this dental. She had five extractions and significant infection. It would be a few weeks before she would eat anything besides Weruva Cats in the Kitchen gravy pouches. I had them on auto-ship from Chewy.com and we were blowing through up to six pouches per day just to keep her nourished. I must say, the gravy from those pouches alone was enough to keep her out of fatty liver disease until she started eating normally again.
She also took much longer to clear the anesthesia from this dental than her first one in 2013. Likely because her kidneys were so compromised.
Living Our “New Normal”
She did bounce back, though. By mid-March, her kidney values had decreased significantly from “off the charts on on death’s door” to a high-Stage 3. In one way that was good news…the treatments were working! But I remember my heart broke all over again when we got her results. I had been hoping against hope that it was acute kidney failure and that this would “go away”, but the test results just confirmed her death sentence.
“Treat the cat, not the numbers.” I read that on Tanya’s site. I heard it repeatedly on the Facebook support group.
And it’s very true.
She lived her best life yet between her diagnosis and her passing. We had our hiccups. Like when she appeared to be having seizures or mini strokes and we learned that she had developed hypertension secondary to the kidney disease. We had to change and/or add some treatments as the blood values showed progression after a year of being stable at a low-Stage 4.
Treat the cat, not the numbers.
Rescuing The Kits had been very good for Penny. For two years prior to their rescue, we had experienced death in our family. First my dad. Then Checkers. Then Weeny. The Kits brought LIFE back into the house. They helped with Mom’s depression after losing Dad. Penny was running, playing, taking jumps I never thought she could take, being spoiled, helping me raise The Kits, and eating enough to choke a horse. She was still gaining weight in the Fall to prepare for Winter. If you didn’t look in her litter box or see her blood work results, you would NEVER know that she was “sick”.
She had earned the nickname of “The Comeback Kid” by her vet.
She amazed me EVERY SINGLE DAY with her will to win.
Her Final Decline
Which made it that much harder when she started her final decline in the Fall of 2017. Was she just crashing or was this IT? Would she bounce back this time? When was it time? Was she suffering? I had made her final appointment two other times before we actually followed through with it. And each time, her vet was so happy to hear she had rallied yet again. After all, she was The Comeback Kid!
I ANGUISHED over “The Decision”. When you’re hurting and you see the love of your life hurting, it makes it extremely difficult to know when to make that VERY final decision.
I had to recall what I decided back when she was living her quality life. I always said that when the treatments stopped working, it would be “time”.
It was a very difficult decision to stick to when faced with the fact that I would no longer see her face everyday…when she would no longer trip me or nag me for food.
When my little Soul Mate would no longer be by my side 24/7.
When her quality of life was no longer there, it was “time”. Whether I liked it or not. I kept putting off the final appointment when she would show me she was still interested in living after spending hours or days hiding and hunched in pain.
Even when the vet was en route, even when he was here, I was doubting myself.
She panicked when the vet got here. She calmed down when she figured out it was her favorite vet, but she still didn’t like it very much. Mentally, she was NOT ready to go and I don’t think she ever would have been. She spent her last conscious moments watching squirrels and listening to my awful rendition of “Earth Angel”. HER song.
It wasn’t until after she passed that I was sure I made the right decision. I scooped the litter boxes. Throughout her entire illness, she was always good for 6-8 ginormous “pee balls” a day. In the 24 hours prior to her passing, she had only produced two.
Her kidneys were just days or hours away from shutting down completely.
It Was ALL Worth It!
I still feel like we won. Because up until that last month, she spent 20 months living her life and didn’t care that she was “sick”.
It was worth all of the treatments, vet visits, heartbreak and triumphs to have that time with her. Like I said earlier, I would do it all over again for Penny.
I miss her more than I ever thought I could miss anybody…even my dad, who I was close with as an adult. This has been a very painful week for me, reliving what happened.
But if our story saves another cat’s life…If our story gives someone else the hope and strength to fight…reliving this pain is ALL worth it.
When she was hiding and sick in that final decline, I recall feeling like Penny was holding on because she didn’t want to leave the home that she had waited SO long for in her 3 1/2 years at the rescue.
I told her she didn’t have to. I told her that even though she had to leave her body, she never had to leave her home. This is her FOREVER home. Which means FOREVER.
If you follow us on Facebook, you know that she understood and listened. Shadows and orbs show me that Penny didn’t go anywhere. She is still VERY MUCH here! And that has made all of this just a little more bearable.
Rest In Paradise, my Precious Pup.
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All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.