I live in Caledonia, WI, with my husband, Joel; our three dogs, Owen, Tucker, and Blue; and our Ragdoll kitty, Willow. Our lives are enriched by our pets, and we treat them as part of our family. We have traveled to Madison (WI), Illinois, North Carolina, and New York City to find alternative treatments for their illnesses in hopes of giving them a chance at longer, healthier lives.
I read Maeve Connor’s Catster story about raising money for her cat Effie and her other stories about Effie’s illness. It is so hard when you will do anything for your cat but are out of options due to money. We have been in a similar situation.
People think we are slightly nuts for going through so much for our animals. We never thought twice about it, however. It seems strange to me that people think we’re the ones who are weird. I know people who would rather go on vacation or buy a new TV than treat their pet for even a relatively simple condition.
How many times do you hear of people giving away their cats because they are peeing outside the litter box? Take them to the vet — it’s what you owe these creatures you choose to bring into your lives.
My husband and I have had a number of health issues and have always researched the best treatments and supplements for ourselves, and this carried over to our pets. We just feel like we brought these helpless animals into our lives, so we need to do the best for them we can. We’ve made choices to make do with less so that we can give them the best care we can. I know that many people cannot do what we have done, but I also know a lot of people choose not to for various reasons.
I don’t want to sound preachy or like we are better than anyone else, because we are not. It’s just a little frustrating because people judge us. It’s good to have websites like Catster to let people know that they are not alone in their fight.
Our kitty Mika was 11 at the time of her rare diagnosis. She was such an adorable kitty and grew up to be a beautiful cat. She was a lynx point Siamese. She was eventually diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, due to a tumor on her adrenal gland. This doesn’t sound so rare, but for cats it is extremely rare.
Because our normal vet did not know anything about it, we kept bringing her back to have tests run over the course of a year. Finally, the disease progressed too far and her skin started splitting open like wet tissue. We rushed her to a vet specialty center, which ran tests and found out she had Cushing’s disease. If the tumor could be removed, her symptoms should go away.
We decided to take the chance with surgery to remove the tumor, which was very risky. In the end, we felt that we wanted to give Mika the best chance at having a longer, healthy life. The total cost was over $10,000, which we put on our credit card. That was the only way we could do it.
Mika pulled through wonderfully. After her adrenal gland was removed, her cortisol level went down and her torn skin began to heal. She still had some borderline diabetic issues, but lived for another 1.5 years. During this time I turned to the forums on the Feline Diabetes site. The support system and great information I received there allowed Mika to get off insulin and live a longer, healthier life until she passed away in March 2010.
Our other kitty, Nala, was six months older than Mika and a Siamese mix. She had more than 40 lifelong allergies, which included chicken, pork, fish, cotton, and hemp, among many other things. We’ve dealt with issues regarding the allergies all her life, from vet visits and meds to giving her better food.
The summer after losing Mika, Nala started having some issues with her allergies, or so we thought. Unfortunately, our vet treated her with prednisone for allergies when she actually had underlying heart problems. This caused her heart to start to fail. We had many tests done — ultrasounds, fluid tap, bloodwork — and gave her meds multiple times a day. Her prognosis was six months to two years.
Only one and a half months later, we had to make the decision to end her suffering. Her blood was not pumping right, and she couldn’t breathe. She passed away Sept. 6, 2011. Again, we put this on our credit card … up and up the limit went!
We also have rescued dogs who started out as fosters. Tucker was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma last February. We took out a 401k loan for $18,000 to pay for a bone marrow transplant, which ultimately did not work. Last May, our other dog, Owen, was diagnosed with liver cancer. He is being treated in a chemotherapy study in New York City. Most of the study pays for his treatment, but a lot also falls to us — it goes on our credit card. The pet insurance we got when they were puppies has paid a portion of their bills.
We looked into fund-raising, but did not want to ask for money. We were in contact with Save An Angel, which helps dogs with lymphoma, but in the end did not want to go down that route. I know there are a lot of generous people out there, however, who can offset the enormous costs of treatment.
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