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.

IMG_3629

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.

IMG_3533

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.

IMG_4479

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.

One thought on “Cushing’s Disease and Fragile Skin”

  1. She looks like such a sweet cat and even in good spirit with the cone. I don’t have anything to offer since I have 2 dogs, but just wanted to let you know that I think you guys are doing a wonderful and noble job with your animals.

    One of our dogs is quasi “special needs” (as I like to call it) and my husband and I were talking this weekend about the lengths we will go through to accommodate and help/treat our animals—and love them for all of their “specialness”—without even a second thought. It’s made me have a different kind of appreciation for the effort that’s required and that becomes part of the routine that most people wouldn’t even think about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge