Sam's Story continued
Sam and Scamper Go to The Eye Doctor
We’ve had some adventures since our last update. One of the things FIV+ cats are likely to have issues with is eye problems. Sam’s right eye was looking Not Quite Right, pinkish around the rim, somehow not very clear, and the third eyelid was covering more than half the eye. Sam doesn’t look directly at me very often, doesn’t give me “The Look” like some cats do. I was looking at his eye at night with him in my lap facing away from me, and my own eyesight is something less than 20/20, so it took me a while to decide whether it was just me or whether his eye really didn’t look right. He wasn’t doing any of the more obvious things that would indicate an eye problem, like squinting and scratching or rubbing at his eyes.
Dr. Kathy took a look and didn’t like what she saw. She refers anything other than minor eye issues to the ophthalmologist, so off we went. Sam’s right eye had a loosened right lens, an immature cataract in the posterior cortex and some retinal degeneration. Both eyes had uveitis (inflammation of the interior parts of the eye) and the intraocular pressure was quite high in the right eye, indicating glaucoma. The specialist prescribed Prednisilone eye drops three times a day with a recheck in three weeks. Of course, with an FIV+ cat there is a risk that the steroid can depress his immune system and aggravate his underlying virus. Certainly we’d rather go an all-natural route, but this is one of those times when conventional medicine is what’s needed.
At his recheck, the inflammation was clearing up nicely, so we began to taper the steroid drops, twice a day for two weeks, and then once a day for two weeks, then stop. The right eye still had some issues, which probably have been going on for some time and will be ongoing. Meanwhile, the pressure in his left eye was still quite high, so we began Azopt drops in that eye twice a day in hopes of reducing the pressures and saving his vision and the eye itself, which is in danger if we can’t keep the pressure down.
Sam’s eye pressures (IOPs) need to be checked every so often to be sure the meds are doing their job. Our office doesn’t have the special tool for rechecking his pressures and the specialist’s office is an hour away with hours pretty much the same as ours, so we go to a conventional vet practice a little closer to home for that. The ophthalmologist was very particular about how it should be done – I should be holding Sam and keeping him calm, and the person doing the checking should have a very steady hand. The instrument has to be touched to the anesthetized eyeball, and it must be done very quickly and with just the right touch to get an accurate read.
Sam’s pressures came down pretty well, then spiked up again. A recheck with the ophthalmologist showed recurring inflammation and high pressures, but there’s no telling whether the inflammation caused the pressures to spike or the spiked pressures caused the inflammation. So Sam will stay on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drop once a day as well as the Azopt three times a day and Timolol twice a day. The Azopt and Timolol work in different ways to control the pressure. Although we may be able to reduce dosages – hopefully, since right now we’re doing eye drops six times a day as no two can be given closer than 10 minutes apart – Sam will most likely be on these meds for the rest of his life. I must say it’s very nice to see his beautiful blue eyes both looking nice and clear again! Maybe he can get a modeling job to help pay for his meds – right now they’re costing about $125 a month.
Sam has been mostly amazingly good for his eye drops. When my timing is off and I have to catch and restrain him he’s not very happy, but doesn’t fight me. If he knows I’m looking for him he will try to escape and hide – although he doesn’t try very hard and sometimes it seems like he just wants to be chased. But if I’m doing my part better and pick a time when he’s watching birds or dozing or just sitting in his meditation pose so I don’t have to manhandle him so much, he finds it much less insulting. He stays quite still and tries to squint his eyes closed, but doesn’t object to me holding them open. He definitely knows when ten minutes have gone by! I’m sure the Prednisilone made his eyes feel better right from the start. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he gets a cookie after each set of drops – and Scamper, as usual, shows up for the cookie part of the procedure. They’ll both probably gain half a pound. I’m really going to have to keep a lid on that! But it is a definite advantage to have a food motivated animal when it comes time to medicate.
The ophthalmologist and his staff are very nice, and very gentle with cats. Bill and I took Scamper to him in January for her chronic conjunctivitis. We were very happy to hear that there were no lesions on her cornea, especially since this has been going on for such a long time. The decision was made to treat first for Chlamydia cati since the treatment is an antibiotic that can be put in food and if it is effective, it can completely clear the problem. Next would be to treat with an antiviral for Feline Herpes Virus I. The antiviral would keep the herpes under control, but she would be subject to flare-ups. The third option would involve eye drops, which at this point would be pretty difficult with her since restraining her at home is still pretty much out of the question. (At the vet’s office she just freezes, which makes it fairly easy to examine her!)
After two weeks on the antibiotic, Scamper’s eye is much improved. The goo and crustiness have cleared up, the redness is steadily decreasing, and her eye is much more open. We will keep her on the antibiotic for two more weeks, hopefully knocking the Chlamydia out of her completely. I have loads of pictures of her with the left eye squinty – I’m really hoping to get some “after” pictures with her eye all pretty!
On another note: I recently had reason to do something I usually tell people never to do – figure out exactly how much our two cats cost in a month, including food, vitamins, kitty litter, and an average for annual bloodwork, visits to the eye doctor, dental procedures, etc. It was an eye opener. It came to about $150 a month before Sam’s eye meds, and that’s considering that I work where I do. Ten years ago I was spending a lot less, but I was feeding Mouse and Fearless Freep dry junk food, trusting that the big companies whose names were on the package would put out a good nutritious product. That led to spending lots of dollars on a very overweight Freep when he developed severe urinary issues. Now here I am feeding Sam and Scamper chicken that I order through the health food store and pay about $5.29 a pound for – more than Bill and I usually spend on chicken for ourselves! But as part of this exercise I compared the cost of the chicken, veggies and vitamins I use with the cost of feeding good quality canned food at the recommended quantities and guess what? My cost is lower than the canned foods! I know exactly what’s going into my cats’ food, and they are doing really well on it. I could save some money by buying grocery store chicken, but when I switched from that to the all-natural stuff there was a big difference in their coats within a few days. In fact the difference was big enough to convince Bill and me to go more for the all-natural and/or organic and especially the locally grown foods for ourselves.
Sam likes his winter mornings in the sunny bedroom window. When the sun moves away from the window, he heads for the chair in the living room where there might be a sunbeam for another hour or so. He’s quite an accomplished sleeper, but now that his head doesn’t have so much pressure in it he goes for more runs through the house and beats up toys more often. Scamper, too, is feeling pretty chipper from whatever other issues are being cleared up by her antibiotics. She’s becoming quite vocal and more playful and inquisitive, which is really good to see. In fact, I need to come up with some new games for both of them. I’m very happy to say that Scamper is definitely looking for more interaction with her people these days.
Both cats will need their eyes rechecked, Sam’s due for his annual bloodwork, and Scamper will get another dental procedure in a few weeks. We’ll have all that to talk about next time. Right now we seem to be in an early mud season, so we’re looking forward to birds in the trees, flowers in the yard, and warm breezes!