Tag Archive | chemo for cats

Chemo Kitty Gets Love and Other Drugs

This week was Martini’s off week in her chemo regimen.  She gets her chemo drugs every other week, and on the off-weeks she goes to see Dr. Kim and get her chemo blood-work and her weigh-in.  Unfortunately, she lost weight again – and is now back down to 6.5 pounds (I’m hoping part of that was due to the fact that she hadn’t had her supplemental fluids Sunday like she usually does – I had done them Saturday instead).

So, I went about the rest of the week, and Tini did ok, and seems to like her new green pea and venison food, but she was pretty grumpy.  Oliver got the brunt of it, but I felt bad because she was clearly feeling out of sorts – she normally doesn’t beat up Oliver constantly.  I was beginning to feel like I needed to referee; she was squabbling with him over and over, and not just at mealtime!  I got the results back later this week, and talked to Kim about the bad attitude when she called.  It seems Martini is now dealing with a case of pancreatitis, and the grumpiness is likely due to the pain associated with it.  So it was off to the vet to pick up supplies – a new painkiller medicine, more green pea and venison, a bag of lactated ringers and IV tubing and needles.  I feel like I’m becoming a pretty well stocked pharmacy!

Oliver Likes Green Pea and Venison Too - Good Thing Tini is Focused or She Would Be Beating Him Up!

Oliver Likes Green Pea and Venison Too – Good Thing Tini is Focused or She Would Be Beating Him Up!

The pain med seems to be taking the edge off her bad attitude, so hopefully peace will return to the house.  I hate that she hurts, and I hate that she can’t tell me.  The good news (I hate that this is good news) is that Kim doesn’t feel that the pancreatitis should get in the way of Monday’s dose of chemo.  She has to have another complete blood panel a week after that, and this time it needs to be a fasting panel – Tini’s not going to like that, and unfortunately Oliver will pay the price!

Chemo Kitty Has Some Hair

One of the most frequent questions I am asked when someone finds out that Martini is going through chemotherapy is whether or not she is losing her hair.  I have to admit, I wondered about that myself.  Would I end up with some sort of scrawny hairless cat who needed to wear a sweater all the time to keep warm?

After a month and a half, and three chemo treatments, Tini is just as furry as she always was.  Well, almost.  Remember she had to have her belly shaved for her ultrasound?  Well, the vet says that her shaved patch probably won’t start to grow in until after chemo is over.  Apparently most cats don’t lose their hair, although some lose their whiskers (Tini still has hers so far).  I guess that’s one less indignity that she will have to endure.

She had just received her subcutaneous fluids, so she was mad at me and wouldn't look at the camera.  But you can see her fur coat is intact!

She had just received her subcutaneous fluids, so she was mad at me and wouldn’t look at the camera. But you can see her fur coat is intact!

So far, so good.  I hope it continues to go this well.

Chemo Kitty Passes the First Test

Oliver says, "Tini, are you done yet?  Can I have some?"

Oliver says, “Tini, are you done yet? Can I have some?”

Martini has now officially been a cancer patient for three and a half weeks.  She has been subjected to two chemo treatments, and one to two sessions per day of up to three additional drugs, plus subcutaneous fluids for dehydration every other day.  When we first discussed this treatment, Jon and I were willing to give it a try to see if it helped to give Tini some time, and a better quality of life.  I was skeptical…

Tini has tolerated the treatments well, not getting sick, and she doesn’t spend any time being mad at me for the drug regimen.  The only time she gets bent out of shape is that night every other week when she has to swallow three and a half pills, one after another – chemo night.  Although she is a moody, bitchy, kitty, she doesn’t hold a grudge for long.

Since she hasn’t been vomiting, the vet decided to cut her anti-nausea med and the GI coating med down to once a day, except for the days immediately before, during and after the chemo treatments.  We cut her back to once per day starting last Thursday and have gone fine – no vomiting!

Yesterday was her first check-up since starting chemo.  An exam and a CBC (complete blood count) to see how she’s doing.  She has been feeling heavier, and eating like a horse (the prednisolone stimulates appetite), but until yesterday I didn’t know how much weight she had gained.  The result – two and a half pounds of weight gain!  At her lowest point, she was 5.8 pounds and now she is up over 8 pounds!  I’m so happy to see her plumper, more hydrated body!

The CBC results came back with nearly flying colors too!  Her red blood cell count is a smidge low, but her other blood levels are good.  She is tolerating the chemo so far!  The vet wants to continue the treatment protocol for six months – assuming she continues to do well.

And for cats with her type of lymphoma that respond well to this type of chemo protocol, mean survival times are between 367 and 800 days.  I hate having to think about her in terms of statistics, but I could get another couple of years with my little girl!  And that is what this is all about.  Because she isn’t “just a cat” to me…

Chemo Kitty Caught a Cold

Friday morning, Martini woke up with a cold.  She has been sneezing and rubbing her tiny little nose for a couple of days now.  It is to be expected – chemotherapy is known for running the immune system down.  So far she is sleeping a bit more, but she still has a good appetite and is enjoying snuggling with me.  If she had to say what she is thankful for at the Thanksgiving table, I think she would say she is thankful I had a four day weekend to stay home and snuggle.  That, and a heated cat bed.  Hopefully, her cold won’t get any worse.

She has her second dose of chemotherapy tomorrow.  Another round of 3.5 pills of poison.  I feel less anxious because she responded so well last time, but more anxious because this time we are going into it with a cold.  Hopefully that won’t be too hard on her little body.

She has had a better appetite, just like the vet promised.  My days off have turned into something like this… get up, give Tini her meds, feed Tini, shower, putz around, feed Tini, do some errands, feed Tini, get lunch, do laundry, feed Tini…  I suppose it could be worse, but this little 6 pound girl is demanding!  With all the eating that has been going on, she does look like she has gained a little weight, and I swear she feels heavier.  Jon says she couldn’t possibly have gained much weight in the last two weeks.  She has a follow-up vet appointment a week from tomorrow to check her white cells and do some other bloodwork, so we will find out then.

She is also continuing to tolerate her every other day subcutaneous fluids, and it is actually getting a bit easier to do it.  Maybe it will get to the point where I don’t need Jon to help!  Who knows…  I never thought I’d add skilled feline oncology nursing to my resume, but we do what we have to do.

Kitty Chemo

We started Martini’s chemo treatment on Monday evening.  It feels like we opened a kitty pharmacy really.  We went from feeding one low allergen prescription food to having to dose the poor little girl with all this: chlorambucil (a chemo drug used to treat lymphoma), prednisolone (a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation from chemo, relieve nausea, and boost her appetite), metoclopramide (to relieve nausea) and carafate (an antacid used to treat ulcers, but also used to coat the GI tract and prevent nausea).  In addition, Martini is getting subcutaneous fluids, every other day at least, to help with her hydration levels.  Cats can very easily get life-threateningly dehydrated, and they don’t like to drink when they feel crummy.

Tini’s chemo drug is a pill.  3.5 pills, actually.  She gets 3.5 pills every other week.  Her other 3 meds are every day.  So Monday night, I put on my latex gloves (it is dangerous to touch the pills), and Jon helped hold her while I shoved pill after pill down her throat.  She was not pleased…  And I learned there is a special kind of misery when you feel like you are poisoning your baby.  Afterwards, I cried.  Martini was mad at me for awhile.  Especially because two hours after the chemo drug, I had to hold her down again and give her the prednisolone (doc wanted them given a couple hours apart in case one caused immediate nausea), and then hold her down yet again one hour after that to give her the carafate (you have to give it an hour after all other meds, because it prevents the GI tract from absorbing the meds for a couple hours afterwards).  Finally, after all that, she hid under the bed for several hours.  I felt terrible when I went to bed and she wouldn’t sleep with me.

And then, we waited.  I didn’t know what to expect – would she start vomiting?  Would she be really tired or achy?  Would she lose her hair?  The interwebs says some cats lose their whiskers but they don’t really lose their hair.  Well it has been 6 days now and here’s our experience.

Tini vomited once the night of the chemo, and once since then.  2 times in a week, that’s not bad, all things considered.  And at least she had the decency to not puke under the bed again!  We have a Tempur-pedic mattress so moving it off the bed to get under there to clean it up is a two person workout.  She was tired the first couple of nights, certainly, putting herself to bed about 7.  She hasn’t seemed more achy than usual, and is still jumping up where she wants to be – counters, beds, etc.  And after a few days, just like the vet said, her appetite started to improve!  We are giving her wet food whenever she wants it, which she is eating well, but she is eating some kibble too!  That makes me hopeful.

And while I wouldn’t say she likes her meds, she is tolerating them pretty well.  She doesn’t hide at med-time.  She doesn’t glare at me or hide after med-time.  She doesn’t like the prednisolone, because it makes her drool – but that’s just for a few minutes afterwards…  Last night she was protesting her subcutaneous fluids, but purring at the same time!  Jon says she bit him, but not hard.  How’s that for passive aggressive!?  Here Daddy, let me purr while I bite you!

So, one week into cancer treatment, I’d say things are going well.  We have a long road still ahead, but at least so far, it could be worse.

Undone…

This is how I feel today.  Because my sweet, fiesty, loving, cranky Martini kitty has cancer.  Low grade diffuse alimentary lymphoma.  Cancer of the white blood cells (lymphocytes) in her GI tract – hers is in her small intestine.  Low grade means slow growing (a good thing, relatively) and diffuse means instead of tumors she has cancerous cells – in her case throughout the lining of her intestine.

I got the news yesterday afternoon, and then went to pick up some meds to get her stablized.  An anti-nausea med to stop the vomiting, and a med to coat her GI tract to settle it down.  They seem to be working; she hasn’t thrown up since early Saturday morning (unless I haven’t found it yet!).  I’ve been peering under the bed with the flashlight and under other furniture every couple of hours – yes I know that might make me a wacko.

Martini (front) and Oliver Demanding Their Breakfast

But maybe I should back up and tell you about Martini, because she is more than a cancer diagnosis…  Martini came home on February 5, 2004.  I had been looking at PetFinder ads and noticed her, well, because she is just so cute.  I saw that she had been at the shelter for awhile, and at the urging of a friend, called about her.  The shelter didn’t have her anymore, because just the day before they had transferred her to the Alternative Humane Society, a no kill shelter.  I found out later that this was a reprieve from death row for her, because she had developed kennel stress and started biting people.  She was going to be put down if the alternative shelter didn’t take her.  Biting your new potential mommy or daddy… not the most effective way to get them to adopt you…

She was not spayed and she was found as a stray, so they really didn’t know much about her.  They named her Allie (as in Allie Cat – gag…) and she was 3-4 years old and had had at least 1 litter of kittens.  If you know cats, you know age is just a guess in adulthood.  She could have been 4 or even 8, which makes her 12 or even 16 now…  A world of difference in an elderly cat. She was small – about 8 pounds.  They brought her over fresh from her spay surgery, and Martini (I couldn’t keep calling her Allie, that was just too dumb) hid in my closet for the next 3 days.  On the third night, she crawled up onto my bed and slept next to me.  I remember reaching over to pet her and being a little nervous that she would bite me, because she had been biting people at the shelter, but she never did.

She did however, immediately set about asserting her dominance over my 16 year old male cat Zorro.  Zorro didn’t have a mean bone in his body, and she was ruthless.  She would hide around corners and jump on him when he walked by, and she would smoosh in between Zorro and me if he was sitting next to me on the couch.  She growled at him, pounced on him and chased him relentlessly.  About a week in, I even called the shelter and talked to them about giving her back, because I didn’t want Zorro to live out his days being bulled by this little pipsqueak!  She was half his size!  They convinced me to give her just a little more time.

Finally one day, Zorro laid down the law.  He was sitting next to me on the couch (his favorite place) and she jumped up and squeezed in between.  Then I heard this strange, unearthly high pitched growl from him (mind you, it was very strange because in 16 years I had never heard him growl).  Martini looked over at him, but did not move.  He growled again.  She stood her ground.  Then he reached over with one big paw and brought it down on her back so hard it made an audible WHOOMP noise.  No claws, no hissing, no fight.  Just one huge thump on her back.  She jumped down off the couch, and they never had a major problem again.  His spot next to me on the couch had been secured, along with his dominant position in the house.  I was so proud of my boy!

Zorro passed away a year later, and Martini has ruled the roost since then.  I’ve gotten two more cats, Oliver and Oscar, and even though she is smallest by far, she is clearly the matriarch.  And she loves me.  She loves to snuggle.  She loves to sleep on the bed, and under the covers if she gets cold.  She snuggles right up against me.  She has never bit a person since her time in the shelter.

But, she is super cranky about being brushed, and gets mats in her thick hair very easily.  She is pretty easy to pill, but it took awhile to get to where you can trim her nails easily.  When you brush her or trim her nails, she emits these yowls that would make anyone within earshot think you were cutting off her leg with a dull, rusty knife.  She loves to be pet, but not for too long, and if she is sitting on your lap and you move around too much, you run the risk of pissing her off.  And she will tell you all about it!

And then there is her meat obsession.  Ever since her food allergy was diagnosed, she has been a fiend for meat.  She trolls around looking for scraps, and will steal whole steaks or breasts of chicken that are defrosting on the counter.  Size is no object, she can haul off something almost so big you wouldn’t think she could get it off the ground.  She stole a piece of pizza once and had it all the way up the stairs and under the bed before I could grab her!  And the time she had the strip of prosciutto hanging out of her mouth was hilarious!  But all kidding aside, as much as she wants that meat, we always have to wrestle it away from her, because it makes her so sick.  It seems so odd for a carnivore to be allergic to protein.

She starts her chemo Monday – the goal is not a cure, but an attempt to give some time while maintaining a good quality of life during the time she has left.  I hope she can fight this with as much zest for life as she has approached everything else.