Since her accident, I’ve decided to post a page on my blog just for Karma; it will include details about her journey. We hope as this unfolds, her story will serve as a warning to other cat owners, but also provide inspiration to those considering to do what we have to keep up her care, regardless if she’ll walk again on all fours. We knew immediately that if there wasn’t severe organ damage, we’d take care of her and love her just the same. Research helped us know we were on the right track, and this terrific video showed us the possibilities, as well as important things to consider when caring for a cat with special needs.
This is Karma’s story and how she became injured. We were not sure if we are dealing with a spinal cord injury or just something severe we can’t see. Want I will do is post things that we have learned in this process, including types of care that have worked, ways to save some money caring for your injured pet at home, and things to be on the lookout for as you move forward. I’ll also include pics every once in awhile, just to have a running diary of her progress. I hope this helps some family out there that is struggling with their injured kitty.
You can follow Karma on Twitter : @kitty_ Karma where we’ll put up periodic updates.
Day Two (4/24/09)
She is heavily medicated and the team has had to draw blood from several places, mainly because her blood pressure was so low after the trauma. Once we arrived this morning, it was clear she knew who we were, but there was little she could do about it.
Day Three (4/25/09)
A sweet moment while Stephen and Karma snuggle. She continues on an IV drip of nutrition and another line for pain management. Karma had a treatment of acupuncture today, and right after and ever since, her tail has been active, very encouraging when considering this is a spinal cord injury. She’s responsive, but too heavily sedated to do much.
We brought her home much later this date and began acclimating her and our family to her full time care.
Basic Shopping List For Caring for Your Paralyzed Cat at Home
This is a short list and of course, YMMV. I have found that while we do a lot of laundry to keep up with cleaning her and making her feel better, it’s easier and more economical to use cloth than the wipes, but I’ve included them in this list. We feed her by hand right now, but expect in the coming days she’ll have her appetite back and begin eating and drinking water on her own. It’s critical to keep your cat as clean as possible, as their urine can basically “scald” their skin. Keeping them clean also encourages them to begin grooming and self-care.
- Baby Wipes
- Underpads (pet pads are expensive- get the adult version at Walmart or Pharmacy)
- Drop Cloth- Goes under the areas we set up for her to hang out, covered with blanket.
- Used blankets – we purchased several from a thrift store, so we wouldn’t worry if it were ruined.
- Droppers – for feeding and giving water.
- Raw Food Diet – local pet supply should have it. It’s the suggested diet for paralyzed cats because so little remains after digestion, the body uses pretty much all of it.
- Towels, wash clothes – you’ll go through many, so I keep a basket near her two areas at all times.
- Barrier- Stephen made one with hindges and a hollow-core door, cut in three sections.
- Yesterday’s News Cat Litter – easier to remove from the tail, feet, bottom if they wet themselves.
- Baby BathWash- I use Mom to Mom or Burt’s Bees.
- Bathing Tub – I use an inverted plastic tub with a towel – it holds her way up so she’s not slipping.
Day Five (4/28/09)
Today she got acupuncture and responded excellently. The DVM, Marilyn Woods-Brown says that in acute injuries like this one, cats have a greater likelihood of recovery and regaining some locomotion. The sooner, the better. Dr. Brown is a wonderful practitioner and if you’re looking for acupuncture healing for your pet, I highly recommend her. (303)587-0374
Karma was quite stopped up and pretty low on fluids, so she got an enema and we’ll push IV fluids of sodium chloride (at home) to get her back up to snuff. During acupuncture, she twitched her entire back, her tail was flittering and she responded to deep and superficial pain. All good signs.
Day 8 (5/1/09)
A pretty big set back today: Karma started bleeding out this morning after a few days of pushing to go to the bathroom. It seemed like she was having contractions. Calling the vet, they wanted me to bring her in right away. They ran her bloodwork and she seemed to have some elevated things, but most of the readings were normal. Xrays revealed, though, that she was still really obstructed in her bowels, but the most startling discovery was a herniated abdomen. Apparently, all the pushing she was doing forced the wall to split. Surgery was necessary and needed to be performed quickly. The issue to think about: surgery would not guarantee she would survive, but without it, she would certainly die. She was in her operation a half hour later.
Karma’s surgery took about an hour and one half. Dr. Dodge at Jasper Animal Hospital performed her surgery and the little trooper came through better than expected. This cat is willful! Her internal injuries didn’t show up in xrays (soft tissue is this way), but were readily obvious when Dr. Dodge began his work. The intestine was completely compressed in one section and necrotic, likely causing her high temperature and the infection they read in her bloodwork. Dr. Dodge could see the impression the garage door left here, so this area was resectioned, basically tying one end to the other, after removing the damaged segment. Karma’s “pushing” during the week had actually pushed her intestine out through the abdominal wall! He got her intestine tucked back in place, then stitched her wall back together, then stitched her stomach closed. She came out of surgery in pain, but aware, but another night in the hospital was necessary to keep her infection under control and to watch for any extreme post op bleeding.
A heartening sidenote: Karma’s Twitter page has resulted in an enormous amount of support messages, and we know there are prayers and wishes being said for her all over the country. It’s quite remarkable and really very touching. I hope the message reaches a family in time, but I also hope to help support someone else in this way. The Twitter community is quite amazing.
Day 9 (5/2/09)
After a night in the hospital following her big surgery, it was time to bring Karma home, for the second time. It’s encouraging, she’s awake and they said she even ate and drank a little on her own. Now that she’s home, it’s lot of sleep and rest for her over this next week. Even though she made it through this surgery okay, it’s critical to manage the wound site, not let her move around too much, plus keep any infection under control. She has two tubes in her tummy that will need to be removed on Monday. I found it remarkable she was only sent home with antibiotics, but no pain meds. Apparently it’s important that she know her own limits by feeling the pain a bit. It will also set boundaries for us in our care of her, making sure to listen to her if we don’t move her comfortably.
Her food regimen will consist of A/D and water, defined initially by her. She has ordered bed rest, although tonight, she was trying to pull herself out of her bed. It was hard to not let her do it, but I’m reminded that she has not regained all feeling down in the area of her stitches, so she could cause more harm to that area. She’s tucked in bed now and covered in a couple blankets, seeing as she’s now missing a lot of fur!
This is what Karma is looking like now:
Day 12 (May 6, 2009)
Back home now, she’s been sleeping quite a bit. The next two weeks are critical to her on-going recovery. She’s gotten the drainage tubes removed and Dr. Dodge says she looks really great. If we proceed like this, he’s hopeful we could have a walking, stalking kitty again. She’s got internal and external stitches, and should be doing much strenuous movement, but it’s hard to keep her idle long, once she’s awake. She’s started grooming herself ( huge step!) and drinking some water on her own. Eating has been by hand, so we’ll continue this until she has the desire to start doing this on her own. We’re continuing with the physical therapy and her legs have a bit of tension, but not full muscle tone. We massage her toes and legs and do a “bicycle” movement with them, plus, as recommended, pinch her toes until she retracts her foot. It works on both feet, and has gotten progressively stronger in the last couple days.
You can tell she’s moving ahead, as now when we’re cleaning her rear or hind legs, she growls a bit. Sometimes during this grooming, she’ll get inspired to start cleaning herself, so there is definitely a self-care element now, which was missing previously. When she’s awake, she’s alert and curious, although not so much so that she tries to go explore.
A friend of mine, @littlefoxy on Twitter, is helping us choose a good space for her recovery, based on the principles of Feng Shui. Karma is most frequently in my office while I work, but at night, we move her to where we hang out. Ideally, we’ll have the right place in every main space she rests. I’m more than grateful for @littlefoxy’s help.
Another Twitter note: Karma has gathered a lot of support there and we hope her story reaches families that enjoy a cat in their life – it would be wonderful to know if our journey prevented another cat from such injury. It’s rather remarkable, the continued wishes and kitty kisses she gets there and all the messages keep our family hopeful. Thank you!
Day 30 (May 21, 2009)
Remarkably, it’s been exactly one month today that our dear kitty was injured. Since then, she’s had 3 surgeries, the last one on 5/19/09, the last being probably her most critical. The one right before this involved having a “mesh” material sewn into her abdominal wall, as she pushed her intestines through it once again. Once this happens, eating of food and drinking of water stops almost immediately. One big hurdle she’s had is being constipated, which has been the case since the accident.
Her last surgery involved her intestines once again, but this time, to “straighten” it, as this was the cause of her constant “clogging” and not being able to defecate. The condition is intestinal intusseseption, and required her to be under once again and another large incision into her belly. This cat looks like she’s been through a war! The little warrior came through very groggy and grouchy, which we know is only the result of the soreness. Because we need her to defecate, no pain meds can be used, as the ones of choice also have the side effect of constipation.
Critical to things is her intake of water and keeping her bowel movements as loose as possible. There is a rectal issue that might have long term consequences, meaning another surgery.(Will update later on the term for this, as it generally means if the rectum doesn’t correct to stretch a bit, she can start backing up again if her waste isn’t as loose as possible.)
Karma’s home regimen is about the same, but she does have some other needs we’re on top of now:
- Cisapride – a compounded medication that helps her smooth muscle in her intestine contract on its own
- Lactulose- a mild laxative that keeps her feces as soft as possible, so it passes more easily through her tract
- Wellness Salmon, soft food variety – we mix a bit of pumpkin in to make it ultra soft/wet
- Baytril and Clavamox – both to prevent infection at her three incision sites
On her most recent visit, Karma made a friend that stayed by her side before and after the surgery. Cheyenne greeted me when I brought Karma back for her 3rd surgery, and every time I came back to visit, she would greet me and run immediately back to Karma’s cage, where she stood by like a faithful guardian. What a sweet dog, I can’t wait to bring her back to Cheyenne when she’s all better, so they can really enjoy each other. Oddly enough, Cheyenne’s owner (a tech at Jasper Animal Hospital) had a cat get in a very similar accident to Karma’s and her cat enjoyed a full recovery. Maybe Cheyenne remembers this?
For now, there are many things to celebrate: she is trying on her own to groom, get to the litterbox for urination and defecation, plus she’s been spotted “walking”, although it’s not very graceful just yet It’s really amazing to see her push herself up on her legs to try and get up and even more amazing that she doesn’t utter a peep in pain. We’re not out of the woods with her, but there is a lot to be thankful for right now and we’re staying right on top of things with her. At the moment, we have to hand feed and water her, but I expect by the end of the day, she’ll be ready to begin doing this on her own. There’s a little resistance I believe because every time in the past, eating has always let to her getting stopped up. Once she realize that’s not the case, I think we’ll see a voracious eater
So her third surgery is well past, and Karma has began walking quite a lot. That’s the good news. The bad news is she’s still not very interested in eating and we continue to spur that on with AF (assisted feeding). We also continue giving her water through an IV, to make sure she stays plenty hydrated. I’m beginning to use some herbal and other methods to spur her appetite:
- Fresh-brewed catnip tea, which I give her in 2ml doses through syringe or mixed into her food
- Dandelion/Milk Thistle tincture – 20 drops 2x daily – to built her weakened blood back up
- Probiotics – to build up the flora in her tummy that was destroyed by over a month’s worth of antibiotics
- Lactulose – prescribed to keep her stools as soft as possible
She’s defecating in tiny amounts, and seems determined to use the litterbox on her own, so her independence is right there. If we can get her over the eating/drinking hurdle, we have some good things to look forward to with her progress. Her most recent check up revealed an elevated liver and anemia. We have much to be thankful for with her, but the road ahead is still long, and it’s no certainty that we’ll avoid a fourth surgery. After another 3 weeks, we’ll have a better idea of what lies ahead.
Shout Out to Holisticat
If you’re a cat person, I strongly encourage you to visit a site that’s been helping me immensely in the last few days, HolistiCat I was prompted by my friend @littlefoxy on Twitter to go there and I’m so glad I did. The forum there is really supportive and they have a wealth of information relating to care of your feline friends.
August 4, 2009
Wow, it’s been a long journey since the last post and I’m happy to report that our dear Karma has made a pretty amazing recovery. There were in fact two more surgeries from the last post; one basically repaired her intestine and abdomen (yes, once again!), sutured her large intestine to the wall of her stomach to repair the intestinal intusseseption, and a feeding tube was placed in her stomach. This surgery happened on 6/9/09. One week later, Karma was back in surgery to replace the feeding tube she’d pulled from her tummy; that last surgery nearly killed her, likely because of the compounded effect of all the previous ones. For several weeks, we were really not sure she’d make it; she vomited every two or so hours, losing weight drastically and becoming really dehydrated. Finally, Dr. Space at Jasper wondered if her feeding tube was crowding in her tummy (they’re held in with a balloon that’s inflated with saline), making it severely uncomfortable about the time the food would leave her stomach and travel to the intestines. Deflating the balloon helped immediately, and with some anti-nausea medication and an antidepressant, our miracle kitty began to make HUGE strides. She began tolerating and holding down her meals and began quickly regaining her strength. In addition, her walking became more steady and she started to put on a little weight.
The tube feeding allowed us to help build Karma back up, and finally, on July 23rd, she began eating for the first time on her own- yes, I cried, as it never seemed we’d see this day. The days that followed, she ate more and more, it was obvious our kitty was now thriving and being a cat once again. All her little quirky kitty traits came out and on July 27th, it was obvious her feeding tube needed to be removed – or she would do it for us. She was drinking water, eating, playing and purring like crazy. In fact, she purrs way more now than she did before, maybe because she’s happy and knows how much we really love her. She is doing everything she did before, right down to drinking from her fountain. She’s continued acupuncture with Dr. Woods Brown, and that has helped immensely.
Fast Forward to September 2009
So what’s Karma up to now? Being a cat! She torments me with my work, snatching pencils off my desk and hiding them, and generally just being the office clown. At bedtime, she snuggles with us and crawls under the covers to get her night’s sleep. Right now, she’s curled in her little bed next to my desk and I just look at her in wonder. What she went through is just amazing, and as her fur grows back at all the surgery sites, I’m sure all she thinks about now is how she can find the brightest sunbeam to lay in during the day.
Doesn’t she look amazing?! There’s a reason we call her “The Million Dollar Kitty”, but Karma has taught us so much about life, love and what it means to care for someone through what might seem to be the most insurmountable circumstances. Before the summer was over, she even brought in a snakeShare