**ATTENTION: this post is discussing a serious feline disease. It contains graphic video of my pet. Potentially controversial surgery is discussed, and if your first urge is to call me a monster for considering it, please take that urge and kindly run yourself into a wall repeatedly.**
I think most people around these parts know my pets, but for anyone who doesn't, this is Salinger:
Salinger is a champion napper:
He also does yoga:
And is generally awesome in his derpiness:
Unfortunately, Salinger is also sick and was diagnosed last month with feline hyperesthesia, which has rapidly escalated to the "very severe" category.
For those who don't feel like clicking, here are the highlights:
* Most commonly shows up in mature cats, with no higher rate of occurrence in any specific species. Onset is sudden. However, it is unclear whether the disease forms from some sort of epileptic seizure that occurs directly before or after an attack, or is purely its own neurological impairment, or even possibly environmentally related.
* Is generally marked by uncontrolled rolling or rippling of the skin, obsessive grooming, and in severe cases, spastic tics, self pouncing, biting and scratching.
* Normally, attacks last 20-30 seconds and the condition is generally thought of as annoying, weird, but mostly mild and harmless.
Of course, Salinger is not normal. Noooooo, he is an overachiever in the weird shit-o-ramadome. Over the course of a month, we went from the skin rippling (sudden onset, totally normal) to this video here that I talked about that is disturbing. Remember that? Ok, you've been warned:
That is 30 seconds of an attack that went on for eight hours. EIGHT. HOURS. And that was the second day of attacks that lasted just as long. The Captain and I had to take turns holding him down to prevent him from further hurting himself (our bathroom looked like a horror movie last night, and I'm still trying to get blood off the walls). He finally settled down around 11:30pm, after being held for long periods of time by both my husband and me. Since last night, except for the visit to the vet this morning (my 4th in as many weeks - wooo, Sal's going to have a frequent flier hospital card, just like his human mom!), I can't even leave my bed, because if I do, Salinger panics and goes right after his tail.
So far, we have tried:
* Buprenorphine (commonly known as Suboxone for human use) - absolutely no change in behavior, and it is much, much too expensive to continue this course of treatment, anyway.
* Xanax - generally worked at conking him out for 3-4 hours, but as soon as he woke up, he was right back at it, and dosing cats with alprazolam is really tricky, so it's not like I can just double up a pill and hope for the best. Btw, the video above was taken 2 hours AFTER he was given Xanax. Didn't even knock him out the last time - and his dosage is human sized: .5 mg.
* Baby aspirin - supposed to work as a mild sedative. Hahahaha, no. Not my cat, who might be secretly sneaking PCP, who knows?
* Environmental changes - we had been cleaning out our apartment for a garage sale so a lot got moved around and there was a lot of mess for awhile. Of course that's stressful for a cat. Once we got the diagnosis, we zipped into gear to get as much finished as possible to clear surfaces, make more soft and high spaces, and generally make the place even more cat friendly. Nope, behavior has just gotten worse.
* Behavioral cues - he gets fed at the same time every day, has playtime/exercise morning and evening, and his normal sleeping areas are always clear and free from any clutter. Nope, just keeps getting worse.
* Soft cone of shame - Damn cat Houdini-ed out of it in about 3 seconds. Tried it again. Rinse, repeat. When I finally got him to keep it on for a little while, he smacked his head so hard on the walls twice from being panicked about this THING around his neck, and we decided a concussed cat with broken teeth is probably not something we want on top of our current problems. It was returned.
With last night's attack, it marks the second time he's ripped open his tail to draw blood, only this time, he opened sores down the entire length of his tail (which is why there was so much blood. Side note: blood on a cat's white paws is fucking horrifying).
Here's where we're at with the vet:
* Researching how his rabies vaccine was produced. It uses partial live virus, and while I know the possibility of him having a reaction are REALLY remote, we figured it's worth the research, given some of the other options we have to consider.
* X-Ray the tail and bandage, with heavy sedation until the healing is complete - because this is largely sensation based (his tail doesn't feel like part of him, so he's attacking it), and because of his Hulk like ability to now throw off human sized doses of Xanax, we need time to figure out how in the hell much we can give him without killing the little guy accidentally. Most likely drugs that would be used are Tramadol or a larger Xanax dose.
* Researching muscle relaxants - extremely unorthodox treatment and we're not sure it can even be compounded for cats. Since he is having spastic tics and spasms we can't control, we decided to run with the idea. My vet has never really heard of it as a treatment course for hyperesthesia, but is intrigued by the idea and game to try, if we can figure out the safe dosage.
* Tail amputation - This is the recommended course of treatment for very severe cases, such as my cat has developed. While it is not a systemic fix (and realistically, the disease is so poorly understood that there may never be such a course of treatment), it is a further extension of "environmental changes," in other words, removing all aggravating factors from the environment.
Pros are that it is a short and easy surgery, with a very high success rate of both recovery (any problems usually stem from surgical complications, like any surgery) and positive behavioral change in the cat. Once the tail is removed, leaving about a two inch stump to preserve all the nerves surrounding his butt and spine, there is nothing that the cat can attack, and can be put on a course of anti depressants (the normal course of treatment that we haven't been able to use, because of how quickly this has escalated), to further calm symptoms. There's no further risk of the cat infecting his tail with biting or scratching, or risk of fracture from violently whipping it into walls - both of which would require emergency amputation and higher risk. I no longer am resigned to not even being able to get out of bed to go to the bathroom or cook a meal, because the cat will panic and start the attacks will start (Seriously cat - I love you, but I kind of have shit to do). Cat's happy, we're happy, everyone's happy.
Cons are, let's be honest here - I'd have to chop off my cat's fucking tail knowing that it's not a systemic fix. It's, at best, a really good way to prevent further violent and possibly damaging behavior. And no surgery is ever guaranteed. He would also be a bit clumsy for awhile, because he'll no longer have his tail to help with balance, but cats generally self correct pretty quickly to that.
This is a loooooooooooong ass way of asking: anyone here have a cat with severe feline hyperesthesia? Any treatment options out there I don't know about? Although we are doing everything we can (and my bank accounts agree) to save the cat's tail, we're rapidly getting to a point where we have to make a decision on amputation.