Sunshine is a cat that has had not one or two but seemingly ALL the common older cat diseases, one on top of the other. She is our Braveheart this month because of how well she has responded to her numerous treatments, how good tempered she has been through it all and how committed and determined the Pitts family, particularly Mrs Michelle Pitts, have been to give her the very best care.
We first saw Sunshine at Market Vets in 2014 when she was already on treatment for hyperthyroidism, diagnosed at their previous vets. At the time her condition was fairly well managed and she was stable. Unfortunately she also soon developed chronic diarrhoea (colitis/IBS) and weight loss. We managed to control the diarrhoea by putting Sunshine onto a special diet and giving her low dose steroids. However she had lost so much weight that her anti-thyroid treatment needed a lot of adjustment before she was stable again. We managed to change her onto a slightly different drug and a much lower dose given twice daily instead of once daily and Sunshine was once again a happy cat and started to put on weight again.
All went well for more than a year and we were able to reduce the steroid dose that controlled Sunshine’s bowel problems. However, in September 2015, Sunshine also developed diabetes (on top of her other problems of hyperthyroidism and colitis). The diabetes was stabilised with twice daily insulin injections. In April 2016 she seemed to be going into remission from the diabetes and the dose of her insulin injections was being gradually reduced.
Unfortunately, Sunshine then came down with the final of the common trio of old cat diseases: chronic kidney disease. She presented one day wobbly and inappetant and we were initially worried that we were overdosing her insulin and causing too low blood glucose. However, after running some more blood tests and testing a urine sample we diagnosed chronic renal failure (kidney disease). This is a very common older cat disease for which there is no cure but can be managed to try and slow the progression of the disease. We immediately started treatment for this condition and Sunshine spent a day in hospital on intravenous fluids to correct her dehydration. We started Sunshine on drugs to bring her high blood pressure down; a change of diet to a special kidney disease diet which restricts the amount of protein and phosphate and is designed to help Sunshine absorb the nutrients she needs so she doesn’t lose weight; encouraging her to take fluids including having an injection fluids under her skin every 2 or 3 days to stop her getting dehydrated and a drug to take away nausea and help stimulate her appetite (as cats with kidney problems often feel a little queasy and don’t want to eat).
Her diabetes, which had seemed to be going into remission, at this stage became a problem again and her insulin therapy needed re-starting, including changing to a longer-acting type of insulin which suited her better. Because spending time in the hospital is often stressful for cats, including Sunshine, Mrs Pitts learnt to take a small pin-prick blood sample for her cat’s ear at home and was able to test Sunshine’s blood glucose on a little machine at home; similar to how human diabetics can test their blood sugar at home. This meant that we were able to monitor Sunshine’s blood glucose more closely without distressing her and adjust her insulin as needed.
The good news is that, thanks to the dedication and commitment of Mrs Pitts, Sunshine is once again a happy cat. Her kidney problems are currently well controlled and she is once again in remission from the diabetes. Her hyperthyroidism and kidney problems will need managing for the rest of her life but the Pitts family are once again able to enjoy their happy and relatively well, lovely cat, Sunshine (who really does live up to her name!).
As Mrs Pitts commented when she sent me this photo of Sunshine: “Doesn’t she look well for a 17 year old cat!” I’m sure you would agree that she does!
Ellen Harmer MA VetMB MRCVS