Cushing’s Disease and Fragile Skin

I wanted to write a post about what’s going on and what has been going on with our cat, Chloe. Our vet did give her a diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease, and my internet searches just haven’t brought that much information up.  This isn’t scientific in any way, so I can’t help you there, but I wanted to share our struggles and challenges and what we are dealing with so that other people might be helped by this.

It all started over a year ago. I’d recently moved my cat into the house with Louie, and he already had a dog and cat. Mine was feisty and possessive and they took awhile to start getting along. We’d noticed that Chloe (Louie’s cat) peed on the bathmat, so we always made sure to hang it back up, but it took us awhile to notice that she was peeing other places too, all over the basement. It was one of those things, you’d notice the smell, but there was a lot of junk in the area and we’d think we found the source, and we thought she was peeing on the rug (she was) and then one day I realized she had completely ruined two ottomans I had down there, by peeing on them over and over, and I didn’t even NOTICE because I just didn’t think to look at them as the source. Since this was a time before we had the vet on speed-dial, we hadn’t taken her in yet, but we realized we had better. Chloe was diagnosed with a UTI and diabetes then, and that’s where things started to go downhill.

At this time the vet thought that if she lost a bit of weight (she was maybe 13/14 pounds then?) she might get back to normal and not have diabetes anymore. He gave her (I think) a shot of antibiotics for the UTI and we started giving her special food and twice daily insulin injections. At first, this was really hard, but we quickly got very accustomed to the new routine.

When we went to Italy in May we boarded Chloe at a local boarding clinic, thinking that was the best thing for her, since it was a lot to ask of a friend to give twice-daily injections. In retrospect, we didn’t choose the best place, as she came home with a cold of sorts, weird stuff on her front legs (mucus or something?) and honestly we weren’t even sure they’d give all the injections as there were more syringes left than we thought should be. She had to have twice daily antibiotics by mouth (liquid, giant PITA) for 10 days after that stay.

I don’t remember if there was anything more over the course of the summer. We were able to leave her with Louie’s family for our other trips and his brother became quite adept at giving insulin shots as well. She and Fatness didn’t get along, and she still kept peeing in a variety of places, but otherwise seemed okay. We’d been strict with her diet but she didn’t seem to be losing weight either.

In early October, one day I completely freaked out when I noticed that there was a weird spot on Chloe’s side that didn’t have any hair on it.

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We thought maybe she and the fatness got into a skirmish and then the area got infected or something. We made an appointment at the vet, and took her in—the vet diagnosed her with fleas (I believe this was when she got that diagnoses) and thought she’d been scratching/overgrooming herself. He gave her steroids and antibiotics in addition to flea treatment. She started healing up a bit, and then kept picking at the scab that grew, so she had to wear a cone for a bit.

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At the time we’d thought it was temporary, and after her scab healed, we took the cone back off.

Then one morning I woke up and it looked like she had been in a fight. She had fur hanging off her belly, a deep wound on her shoulder, and a mess on her back. We immediately put the cone back on and took her to the vet. We were absolutely freaking out. The vet shaved her fur, cleaned her wounds, and we picked her up later. (I don’t want to get into it either, but they actually didn’t see all her wounds at the time, and it took nearly two weeks before she was really cleaned up and fixed up from this incident.) We kept having to bring her back in, and since the vet thought this was from her being itchy and scratching/overgrooming, he gave her another course of steroids at some point. He also gave more antibiotics at some point as well—I’m sure the vet records would reflect all of this, but this blog post is more anecdotal anyway Smile 

The vet kept trying to figure out what was wrong. At one point we got the diagnosis of ringworm, and gave her a topical medication for that. That might have been before this incident though. In any case, nothing seemed to help. Wearing the cone was the only option and she did start slowly healing.

Louie worried that the problem was stress due to not getting along with Fatness. We were working on that as best we could before Fatness got sick. And then, while the fatness was in the hospital (the night we had hope that things were going well, I cry just thinking about it) Louie took off Chloe’s cone for a few minutes to let her eat, to brush her/clean her up a bit, and anyway, the vet had said we would start transitioning into not wearing it with supervision. He looked away for a minute, and she was lightly grooming herself, and suddenly a huge portion of her skin just ripped apart. So here we are, one cat getting fluids for renal failure, another with a giant hole in her skin. The vet glued the skin back together and stapled her, and that’s when we knew that there was something really off, really weird, and that probably Chloe wasn’t going to heal and get back to normal.

That’s when I really started googling, and did find some things online about fragile skin syndrome, and Cushing’s, and then tests were run, and that’s where we are. She has both of those things—the fragile skin seems to be caused by the Cushing’s, and beyond that I just don’t know. (A friend mentioned the potential link between steroids and fragile skin, so it’s worth mentioning that it’s possible the steroids caused it, or even caused the Cushing’s…it’s possible her initial skin issues were different than her current issues. It wasn’t until Louie saw her skin tear that we realized that she had fragile skin.) We haven’t been into the vet again since the diagnosis, and honestly, we don’t know if we will change anything. When we brought her home from the tests we realized they sent her home with a new wound (we assume no one noticed, but that doesn’t make us happy) which required stitches. We are thinking of trying to put on a shirt to protect her skin.

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She also has been getting a lot of what looks like eye boogers, which we try to wipe off, and you can see the fur around her neck is a little dirty. We’ve tried some dry shampoo here and there, and light brushing, but now we are a little worried about hurting her more!

And she keeps peeing. Mostly she pees on a pee pad we put in a box, and she always goes number two in the litter box, and occasionally pees there too. She pees probably dozens of times a day, which is apparently both pretty normal for a diabetic cat and one with Cushing’s disease. The treatment for Cushing’s varies, but there isn’t much really. It depends on why it is caused—it could be a tumor I guess, or something else. Surgery or medicine could be the options, but she is 13/14 years old and we certainly aren’t subjecting her to medicine. She has lost a couple pounds over the course of time and is now about 11 pounds. And lately we noticed the cone is chafing her ears so I ordered a few other options online that should arrive Saturday.

We just don’t quite know what to do, and I’d hoped to find people on the internet who had been through something similar to get anecdotal guidance. And I just didn’t find anybody. I wanted to hear from people writing about their experiences with a cat with fragile skin syndrome, and what happened next, and how they helped her feel better, and how it ended. So I’m telling the story here, the best I can, in the hopes that somebody else will find it when they need help. Or perhaps this is just so rare that nobody will need it!

So if you are reading this and have any stories or suggestions or advice, please don’t hesitate to comment. I know we’ve probably made mistakes along the way of this journey, but we’ve done our best, the best that normal people with jobs and busy lives can! We’ve also been dealing with two other pets during the same time, and they just all got to be elderly at the same time…how did that happen? We want to think that we are doing the best for our animals, even when it is hard to know what that is. I think we will just continue to treat her diabetes with insulin and be careful with her skin, get any new wounds fixed up, and see how this progresses.

Groundhog Day

I’ve probably asked in years past, but since I don’t have any actual readers (just kidding, long time readers!) I figured I’d ask again: when you were a kid did you know about the groundhog in NY or just use the weather outside to determine whether it would be winter or spring? I always thought it was the individual weather in the place where you lived, not some national thing. I suppose that was pre-Groundhog Day, the movie. Anyway, it was raining here, so the groundhog (which is quite different than a prairie dog, I looked it up, not like mountain lions and cougars and pumas which are all one magical mythical creature) wouldn’t have seen his shadow and been scared back in. Woo hoo winter is no longer coming!

I don’t exactly work in a nonprofit, but I have certainly worked for a lot of them, and so this article was very entertaining to me. If you are in the nonprofit world you might find it entertaining as well. The rest of the blog is probably worth poking around too if you have some extra time (aka if you are self employed like I am and am avoiding the rest of my to do list at this time…)

Louie and I have gotten in the habit of meeting for lunch on Tuesdays after my quartet rehearsal near his work. It’s nice and feels like we are real adults with jobs. To be fair, he is (which is awesome—I’ve never dated somebody truly gainfully employed before and I’m so proud) but I am, as they say, self-employed. But it’s neat because my rehearsal is near his work and the scheduling works out. I remember when I first graduated from high school being out and about during the school day was so strange! Now I run most of my errands while other people are at work, and I get overwhelmed by the traffic otherwise. Aka I love having lunches, and I especially love that I have a little more time than most people do for lunch if I want it. Perhaps having lunch out is a sign of success? It’s a nice way to celebrate the middle of the day, and goodness knows we all need more celebrations.

Public service announcement: if you own cats, just don’t have flowers! Or at least know that lilies are very poisonous to cats. My sister had a bit of a scare and had to take both her cats to the hospital for emergency treatment. It looks like everybody will be okay, but better in the future to just avoid it altogether by making sure not to have lilies in the house, or at least very out of reach, and we cat owners know that very few places are truly out of reach. (Do you ever think that pet owners are truly crazy, the lengths we go to change our lives around our pets? Then again, imagine being a parent…that’s really crazy!)

Back to work! I have a couple more hours of teaching and then I get done earlier than usual to go to a rehearsal. It always feels like I’m getting done early when that happens, but since I’m not home until after 10, I’m not actually getting done early. Weird how things feel different?

A New Month

Perhaps February will be a better month! I’m happy to shut the door on January.

Chloe has a new wound. She spent all day at the vet for testing and then came home and we saw a new wound. That meant she spent more time back at the vet (for free, thankfully) getting stiches. Now she has less fur than ever, but seems to be glad to be home and stitched up. She has a rare condition that seems to be known as fragile skin syndrome, and what the cause of it is is partly why she spent the day at the vet for testing. (Also for her diabetes). We’re going to try having her wear a shirt, I think.

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She’s a cutie and a sweet cat. It took me a little while to warm up to her when I first met her, because she likes to cuddle on your chest with her claws out, and she used to “knead” with her claws out too, and I didn’t care for that. But we’ve come to an understanding, and we are enjoying our time together.

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She sat on my lap last night. She usually smells like urine and obviously can’t groom herself, but she’s sweet. We don’t have the relationship I had with the Fatness, obviously, but I’m fond of her, and I’m sorry she’s having such a hard time. She’s still enjoying cuddling and eating and doing stuff, so we are forging ahead.

I’m sorry if some of those pictures might be gross—I’ve gotten used to seeing her. You get used to weird stuff I guess!

Mackenzie is trying a special diet. She is not a huge fan, simply because it means no more table scraps, which she loved. But hopefully she will stop being so itchy and maybe even regrow her hair…she has a friend visiting this weekend (litter mate!) and they are having a pretty good time. (edited to add: she seems to like the new food, it’s just being limited to ONLY that food that makes her sad. Or it makes ME sad, when she looks at me with those eyes!)

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In non-pet-related news…(is there anything else going on really?) the weather over the weekend was amazing.

Friday night we had dinner at Sapporo 2 in Midtown. It was quite good! Louie and I shared this chirashi bowl and a swordfish dish.

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Louie and I went to Forest Park on Saturday to walk around with the dogs. (darn it, mentioned the pets again!)

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The previous week this was ice and geese covered!

I had a quartet rehearsal after that, and then we went to a surprise party for April’s boyfriend Charlie. I couldn’t make the surprise bit, so we got the party after he already knew it was happening, but it was still fun Winking smile

And then Sunday my quartet had a concert in Edwardsville. We had nice audience and played pretty well. It was our third performance of the Beethoven Quartet and the first of the Smetana Quartet. I talked about the Smetana and thought the audience responded well, especially when I read some of Smetana’s words about the piece, so I’ll have to do the same for our repeat performance at the end of February.

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Afterwards we all went out to dinner in Edwardsville to celebrate. Stephanie (our cellist) had a bunch of family at the concert and it was fun to chat with them and enjoy some good food (we went to Social Gastropub and I would recommend it) and relax!

So here we are, February 1. Here’s hoping the month is less stressful and worrisome than January. There are quite a few things going on, and the remaining pets are still sick, so I’m not super hopeful, but losing the Fatness definitely ruined January…

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It’s not just pets to worry about, there are also various family members going through things…I hate to think that this is what getting old is like, but I think it is. You just deal with what’s right ahead of you, treasure the time you have with loved ones, and hold tight to happy times and memories?

Purrsday

We have Caturday, we could have Purrsday, correct?

Okay, so I have a no-show student and I thought I’d try to squeeze in a quick blog post. Teachers, do you call or text when your students don’t come? I used to call (back in the day) but learned that by that point nothing is going to change anyway (that is, the student is either on their way or has forgotten and won’t make it in time to have the lesson—maybe it’d be different with an hour long lesson…). Maybe my student will read this and realize they missed their lesson Winking smile

Anyway, pet things, as usual. Though I’ve entered the land of living once again, I’m still busy with pet things. Tomorrow is Chloe’s big test and I’m also taking Mackenzie in to try to see why she is still losing hair and super itchy all the time. Sigh.

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Look at those guys. Best buds! I texted that picture to Louie the other day and tried to type “besties” but it autocorrected to “beasties” which I thought was also appropriate.

I apologize for the messed up slip cover. I’m sure some of you are dying to straighten it…I try, but then Mackenzie just jumps on it again and within a few minutes it’s a mess. That’s technically her couch anyway.

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This is my old cat, Heifetz. She and the fatness used to live together until she died in 2007. I’ve been carting a cardboard box of her ashes with me ever since…and no idea what to do with them. While I was looking on Etsy the other week to decide what to do with Oistrakh’s ashes to honor her, I decided to finally get something made for Heifetz too. I had less pictures to choose from, but I think I got a nice one. I don’t think I’ll use the keychain to put keys on, but I’m just happy to finally have something nice as a keepsake…for so many years I just couldn’t even deal with her ashes. She died suddenly while I was away for the weekend, and I was sad for so long, (and surprise, I felt SUPER guilty, that she died without me, though not alone, as Oistrakh was there)…So now I have this, and I think it’ll be much nicer. I can’t believe that nearly 9 years have gone by, actually.

Other than cats, that’s mostly it Winking smile I’ve been practicing and teaching and doing the freelance hustle, as always. This week has been trying but I’m making it through! We aren’t doing Taco Thursday tonight and instead I purchased salmon at Trader Joe’s, so after 3 more students I will get to have a really delicious dinner.

How is your week going?  What have you done in the past to preserve the memory of a deceased pet?

Pet people are the best people

I’ve found so much wonderful support over the past few weeks from all different people. We humans sure do love our pets! I’m settling back into my schedule of teaching and playing and missing the fatness but not too much. (I do miss her! And gleefully look forward to each day’s timehop to see if she is featured!)

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For instance, there she is today. What a sweetie. I can picture how it feels to pet her Smile

Do you ever feel like your emotions are a roller coaster? For me, some days I’m loving life and feeling good and connected to the world, other days I feel stressed and annoyed and that nobody understands me. I’m going to assume that’s pretty normal, but it’s rough on occasion. I heard a bit on NPR today about meditation and relaxation and thought maybe I should work on that. There are a fair amount of work-related things that get me riled up and I just want to be more calm and less stressed over them. On the one hand, I want to make the world I live in better, but on the other hand, maybe I should just try to relax and accept the things I cannot change.

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Mackenzie certainly never worries about whether she is fitting it or whether she is being paid fairly.

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Chloe doesn’t worry whether her playing is valued or whether she lacks confidence. She also never worries about smiling enough or whether her personality is too strong.

So, the snow from last week was thawing by the weekend and Louie and I had a lovely time walking about Forest Park. My new iPhone has a feature where it counts your steps, so I usually try to keep it in my pocket, even walking around the house. Saturday was one of the few days I got over 10,000 steps. Even on days when I run for a couple miles I only tend to end up with 8000/9000 steps. I guess I sit too much? But!

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There were so many geese sitting on the ice. I thought maybe they had a guest speaker.

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I never noticed this rock before. I like the shadows.

Earlier in the week I’d taken Mackenzie up to a nearby park.

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Sticks are one of her favorite things!

Besides walking around, we went to Farmhaus on Saturday night (had a gift certificate from a fried) and had dim sum at Lu Lu’s on Sunday.  Both were relatively easy to do eating pescatarian which was very nice. Farmhaus didn’t have too many listed menu options without bacon but the server was very nice and the kitchen was very accommodating. For dim sum we just had to ask about stuff, but again, it wasn’t too hard. I think the further I get into this the more I want to continue—I don’t really miss meat and I feel like little steps are a good thing.

This week is crunch week for the Perseid Quartet as we are playing a concert in Edwardsville on Sunday. I’m really looking forward to it—I’m so happy to play chamber music and have really enjoyed my quartet time. I feel I’m learning so much from the other players and I’m continually being challenged. It’s really awesome and helps me feel happy and appreciated as well. My students have been wonderful this month as well, and I have never regretted branching out and turning into a full time at-home violin teacher! Being my own boss is really the best. Even though there is often loads of paperwork and so many records to keep (and taxes to pay, so many taxes!), I think it gives me the best chance at success.

Last picture before I leave you to go feed Mackenzie and practice until my next student arrives. Leslie sent this. Can you spot the real cat amongst the stuffed animals (do I need to restart Caturday??)?

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Catalunya doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.

Life Goes On

Yesterday I had to stop by the vet to pick up Fatness’s ashes. I have something on order to put them in but it’s from etsy and will be handmade so for now I just have them in a box. I have to say the vet has been really great through all of this—I’m sure they are used to it, and have lots of experience dealing with people’s grief over their pets, but still, they have made me feel better. I meant to return some of the cans of special food they’d given me that Fatness never ate but I forgot it. I find myself getting obsessed over what to do with her remaining cans of food, and figuring out what to do with them but then being seemingly unable to actually follow up on my plans.

Sometimes I forgot that the fatness is gone and I’ll see a dark shape out of the corner of my eye and think it’s her.

I’ve noticed on facebook that quite a few of my friends have lost pets recently. I’m not sure if more than usual have lost pets, or that I’ve noticed more than I did before, or if (creepy idea) facebook’s algorithms are showing me more lost pet posts. Maybe even all of the above.

I wrote a rant about snow driving but erased it. In a nutshell, bad traffic in the snow is another one of those things people from St Louis think only happens in St Louis. Oh, and I’m glad the Rams are leaving. I was tired of hearing about how much money the city had to spend on football, but not on all the things that would actually benefit the city. Sigh. It’s so easy to get angry and worked up about these things but so hard to know what to do. *insert inspirational picture with quotes*

I’m leaving this post with no picture. Next time. Enjoy the rest of your week and stay warm, friends. Thank for all of your support and kind words.

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.