Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pablo's Progress

"I'm just trying a new hair style."
Pablo, in the round bed in the middle, is a unique kitty.  I got him as a kitten, he's eight years old now.  Pablo and his mom were rescued from the outdoors when he was about 12 weeks old.  His mom had obviously been around people and liked them, but Pablo missed out on that early socialization and was a little scared of people.  With some work he became very affectionate with me and my ex-husband, but he would rarely come out when new people came over.  When my mom would stay a few days he might come out and she even got a couple pets in occasionally , but that was it.

At about two years old Pablo developed a skin condition that caused him to scratch his chin until sores formed and lick and pull his fur out on his belly and sides.  The picture above is from this past March when he had an outbreak and you can see that he had licked most of his fur off his sides.  His belly was also bare and his chin had sores.  After a year or so of trying medicines and the condition coming and going a few times I had him tested for allergies.  It turned out that he is allergic to many different pollens, some foods, and his number one allergy is apparently to dogs.  That's right dogs.  I felt bad, but Zephyr had joined the family by then and was not going to be leaving.  I felt a little better when I remembered that Pablo's condition developed before Zephyr came and it didn't get worse after.

"This is my bed, crate, and house for that matter."  This is a picture from May and his fur was filling in.
We tried allergy shots and it helped some, but never enough to get him off other medicine. The only medicine that seemed to stop the itching was Ovaban, which is a kind of steroid and not a very safe medicine. Years before I had a cat develop diabetes from taking Ovaban for only a few months. It went away when we stopped giving it to him. It has lots of other side effects and is really not recommended for treatment of anything anymore. This always worried me, but we had tried other meds. and I was told there wasn't any other medicine that might help Pablo.

Things got worse in February.  Not only did he have the allergies and skin trouble he had slowly gained weight even though I cut his food, and he did not seem happy.  Pablo can be a bossy, cranky boy who often has the dogs afraid to pass and barking for help.  He is also demanding and doesn't hesitate to tell me when he needs some lovin' or food.  He had become more cranky, demanding, and frankly very annoying.  So, yet again, off to the vet we go.  I took him to the vet that originally treated his condition (a vet I had seen for over 15 years) because I figured she was familiar with him, even though I had mainly switched to another vet.  Plus, the Ovaban has to be compounded, because it's not even sold anymore, and they had it. Blood work showed that he was hypothyroid.  The vet said she had never actually seen a cat that was hypothyroid, but did not suggest doing the more sensitive thyroid testing.  I had asked about the Ovaban side effects but that didn't seem to be given much consideration.  She did suggest adding thyroid medicine though.  This was all in between struggling to get ahold of her and one very short phone call. Can you tell I was getting annoyed and didn't trust the information?

"I'm getting a furry belly and I feel so good I think I'll kill this bird."  Pablo hasn't wanted to play like this in years.
Off to our new vet we went, the one who I took Zephyr to, after not getting satisfactory help from old vet office, and who agreed with me and recognized that something was wrong with his head when he got encephalitis. The one that got us an appointment at the neurology center in Phoenix the same day which saved his life. Did I ever tell you that from the very first day Zephyr got sick I could tell there was something hurting his brain, but it was dismissed? I even wrote it here, in a happier still naive tone. There's a story there too, but I don't have the energy for it now. I'll just say that I've learned to trust my instincts.

New vet also said that she had never seen a cat that was truly hypothyroid and suggested the more sensitive thyroid testing. She said she'd seen cats who's thyroid was sick from another condition and the sensitive testing would show if that was the case. I had not started giving him the thyroid medicine. In the mean time we put him on a really strict novel protein diet for allergies, while also giving a different steroid shot. Still a steroid, but maybe not as bad as the Ovaban that we suspected was causing the thyroid problem. And yes, the other testing showed that Pablo's thyroid was not truly low, but euthyroid sick. She also told me a medicine used for dogs, Atopica, had been approved to treat this condition for cats and she could find out about it and order it for us to try. Apparently the other vet hadn't learned this yet as I had asked just the week prior if there were any new medicines that might treat this.

I haven't seen that happy look in his face for years.
The shot helped, but Pablo was still a little itchy and I really wanted to get him off the steroids and to try something new.  I really thought that his bad mood was related to the thyroid illness and Ovaban. Atopica is actually cyclosporine, an immune suppressant, and the funny thing is I know that sometimes it is used to treat encephalitis in dogs.  Our vet found out about getting us the best price for cyclosporine, actually from Target for us, and called in the prescription.  It took a week or so for them to get it in.

"Hey, you're a nice guy, it's time for you to give me some  lovin'.  Here, let me lean into you to make it easier."
As you can see from the pictures, Pablo has improved so much since starting the cyclosporine.  He takes 25mg once a day.  I know that it possibly has some long term side effects too, but it is much better than the other choices.  The itching is gone, his fur is growing in, he has lost weight, and best of all he is feeling happier and more energetic than he has in years.  The tone of his meow is even happier! He is playing, wrestling with the other cats, going out in the yard more, and is much more outgoing.  I should mention that when we moved to our new house about two years ago he started coming out more when visitors came, but he never went up to anyone and stayed at the edge.  That was an interesting change, but he still had the other issues.  The last time my parents were up he came out and went right up to Eric and insisted on some affection.  He has never done that before in his life.

"Ah, the nice summer warmth.  I'll take a stroll a little later, too."
Pablo is still a slightly annoying funny boy, that's just his way and it's what makes him such a character.  His improvement is wonderful.  I haven't had his thyroid rechecked yet, but I suspect it's doing much better.  So, what to take from all this?  Always trust your instincts and don't give up on trying to find and expecting the best possible care for your pets and family.  I know veterinarians can't know everything and they do the best that they can.  I think my expectations have changed and there were some little things that occurred with the other vet in the past years that I wish I wouldn't have ignored.  I'm not blaming anyone for Zephyr's or Pablo's illness or treatment.  I'm just thankful I got them the best care when possible. I'm so happy with how well they are both doing.  I meant for this post to be about Pablo and how well he's doing, but I guess the frustration slipped in there too, sorry. I've learned that there's no reason to stay with a doctor when something changes and you're not feeling completely comfortable with their treatment of you or your animal. I know most of you learned this a long time ago. :-)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Agility Pups

I've mentioned a number of times that Astro and I are doing a lot of agility training.  I finally got some video of us practicing.  These are not our best runs, he was a bit slow.  It was a warm afternoon.  Upper 70's and low 80's is warm for us, especially with direct sun.  Astro's energy is zapped with even a little heat and direct sun so, he wasn't moving very fast.  But, I thought he did a nice job of staying with me and he kept his tail wagging.  I hesitated to post the videos.  You know how when you see yourself on video you find all the little things you don't like about yourself and focus on what a doofus you look like? Well, that's how I felt.  But, I figured everyone starts somewhere and hopefully someday I'll be able to compare back to these videos and see improvement.  Astro is great of course.

Warning - It was a windy day and this made a lot of loud annoying noise on the video in some places.  You might want to turn the volume down.  If anyone knows how to turn the sound off in iMovie or Youtube let me know.

The first video is a standard run.  It was supposed to have a couple tunnels out behind the tire and before the dog walk, but I didn't put them out.  We were the only ones at practice this day because most people were at a trial.  Astro's focus was really nice because we were the only ones there.  Distractions are our hardest thing and at the top of the list for improving.

Our club was really happy to be able to get this field to use as we don't have a permanent home.  It's a horse arena that wasn't being used on some people's property.  This winter they were offering to let people use it, so the club asked if they'd consider dogs instead of horses.  The only bummer is that when it's windy it's like a sand blast. And, we always leave covered in dirt.  The things you'll put up with to practice some agility.  :-)

The next video is a jumpers run.  He was even more tired, and me too, because he had done a few standard runs and some jumpers before this run.  But, I still think he did a good job.

So, there we are.  I'm hoping with continued distraction practice and improvement in my handling that one day we'll be able to enter a trial.  Our distraction problems are that he often still wants to go and visit other people and dogs.  And, in new locations or with new dogs and people around he can get pretty goofy until he settles and gets used to the situation.  Usually after one bout of this he settles and does a great job.  If anyone has suggestions for improving that I'd love to hear them.

I'm really happy and proud of how well he does.  His energy was low in these videos, so I'd like to get some better ones.  He does a great job and can really fly through the weaves.  :-)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Murder Scene

"Hi, Hi, this is Astro!" "Ya, and this is Zephyr!"  For some reason Mom has not been blogging lately.  We don't know why, she says something about being busy and blah, blah, blah.  So, we are taking over the computer to let you know that we have still been having lots of fun.  Ya, we are all about the fun.

Here I am, Astro that is, looking super fine as I move through the forest having a grand time.  I'm sure I was on my way to find something really good.

Eh hem, Zephyr here, do you want to hear how our mom tried to embarrass us?  Our forest has a lot of yellow toadflax.  She says even though it's kind of pretty, the toadflax is invasive and therefore must die.  Sometimes she gets this crazed look on her face and starts tearing at the ground.  We have no problem with this as usually she just uproots a few of them and we go on about our business of having a good walk.  Well not this time.  She went nuts.  It looked like the scene of a mass murder.  She moved through the forest like a mad woman using both arms, grabbing left then right, not even looking back, leaving a trail of mass destruction behind her.  She must have killed at least one hundred of them.  She says she is not the only one that does this, but still, we were so worried that some other dogs would come along and see us.  How would we go about trying to explain to the other dogs that oh, our mom was just weeding the forest?

I tried to distract her, "Hi Mom, don't you want to come run with me?  Aren't I so cute?"  It didn't work.  Of course she wouldn't document her destruction and she didn't give us the camera claiming we wouldn't be able to use it anyway because of our lack of thumbs.  Whatever, how convenient for her.

"Zephyr, is Mom really doing this?  She looks like a crazy weed wacker."

"I know, I'm so worried the other dogs will come and see and then they'll always laugh at us because "We're the dogs with the crazy mom that tries to weed the forest."  What should we do?"

"Let's get out of here, run home and act like we don't even know who she is!"  We made a break for it.

Then something pulled us back.  She said it was our love for her that made us return.  Hee, Hee, Bwah, Ha, Ha, Ha!!!!

Ya right!  It's more like the pocket full of treats that you always have Mom.  Smoochies to you Mom!  You better get busy or else we'll be doing all the posts!