Last Thursday in the middle of an extremely busy work day (including a go-live of a software product my team has been working on for a long time), I was interrupted by a cat who skittered across the kitchen floor at a dead run, yowling. It sounds funny, but fAngus only yowls when he’s in pain or sick, so I muted my call and found him lying on the steps. He was drooling, not moving, breathing harder than normal, and his eyes were extremely dark gold.
Bad signs. All of them. fAngus is an indoor/outdoor cat, so my first assumption was he’d eaten something bad. Called my vet in a not-panic while Butterfle sat next to him on the step, comforting without touching him. She’s VERY good at that, and it kept him calm.
My vet referred me to a more local vet (my vet is a 45 minute drive since I moved). The local vet said “nope, that’s an ER situation. Call one of the two ERs close to you.” So I did, and ended up at the closer of the to (30 minutes away) at 2pm. I brought my work phone with me, and hoped we’d be home in an hour or two.
We were in the ER until 5pm. fAngus did not appreciate the poking and prodding as the awesome docs and techs at Southview Animal Hospital tried to figure out what was wrong with him.
After hours in the ER we had a preliminary terrible diagnosis: acute anemia and severe dehydration (both of which were really strange because he’d been eating and drinking just fine). So he didn’t eat anything bad or accidentally ingest rat poison (or eat a mouse that had been poisoned), but his blood cell count was so low the ER vet said he likely wouldn’t make it through the night. So we knew the WHAT, but not the WHY, and she referred me to the Animal Emergency Referral Center, a specialist hospital that had cat blood on hand in case fAngus needed a transfusion to keep him alive overnight.
During all this, I had a deployment zoom call on my work cell. I listened while we were waiting and fAngus slept, and turned it down when the doc gave me updates.
I wasn’t even aware cats can have blood transfusions.
The AERC doesn’t have a waiting room, so when you get there you text the office from a parking spot, just like doing carside-to-go food pickup. They came and took him (the ER had given them a heads-up so they knew he was coming), and I said goodbye through the cat carrier bars, knowing that might be the last time I saw him.
Yeah, there was a lot of crying that day.
So I went home because it’d be hours before the specialist vet even called. And it was. Hours, I mean. The news wasn’t good. Something is killing Angus’s red blood cells: normal count is in the 30-40%, his were down to 13%. The doc went over all the possible options, and none were great. He may have an injury we just don’t know about, so he needed an ultrasound. He may have a viral infection (one of two that are known to destroy blood cells): finding out requires sending blood off to a lab so it takes some time for a final diagnosis. In the worst case, his body isn’t making any new blood cells, which would be an autoimmune or cancer situation. Confirming that would be a bone marrow test, which would be last resort and need my permission to do. She laid out all the treatment estimates as they moved forward and I paid my deposit (the lower amount of the estimate range), and she said they’d call before bed and first thing in the morning.
The first text update and pic came that night at bedtime. They gave him fluids and some anti-nausea meds. That dropped his blood protein percentage further, but the morning doc said that’s expected.
After 2x daily updates and a barrage of tests, we are here today: fAngus does not have any injury or poisoning. His blood counts and % have come back up after antibiotics, steroids, and fluids and he’s eating/drinking well (and apparently charming the bejesus out of all the staff). So we’re down to two options: he has one of those infections (waiting for the lab to confirm whether or not this is the case) or he has lymphoma. He’s on steroids to suppress his immune system a little in case it’s that.
The diagnosis to confirm cancer is essentially a biopsy requiring full anesthesia or, at the very least, a needle aspiration of the spleen and liver, which are horrendously painful. There is zero reason to do that diagnostic unless I’d put him through chemo, and for now we’re still waiting for the lab results.
Today, fAngus came home:
The twins came with me to pick him up, so Butterfle could sit next to his carrier on the car ride and give him comfort. Now he’s locked in our room (to keep him separate from the dogs until he’s up to shenanigans) and VERY HAPPY to be home. He at a 1/4 can of tuna and is napping.
He’s on steroids for a few weeks, antibiotics for a while, and anti-nausea meds. The next doses of pills are all due tonight.
I write this as a record of how fAngus finally decided to murder me, just in case this is my final post. I’m so fucking happy to have my spicy boy back. This past week has sucked. I hope the lab gives us the best possible news, preferably tomorrow.