Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cat illnesses: Senior cat behavior provides pain insights

Eamon has been living with arthritis-related pain for many years now. Earlier this year, I started him on Adequan (I wrote a blog entry about that here), in an attempt to help keep him comfortable and happy. We had great success at first, but now, there are a few behavior changes that have me concerned.

First off, Eamon isn't moving around as much as he once did. He's always been the kind of cat that leaps onto the counters to investigate leftover food, and he tends to pace around the living room right before his meals are due for delivery. I've noticed that he no longer gets up on the counters at all, and the yeowling before meals has stopped altogether. He still eats well, but he just doesn't seem as interested in doing extra work for a touch of extra food.

Eamon is also incredibly grumpy, and that's becoming a little dangerous. Last week, when Sinead and Liam got into a little bit of rambunctious play with a new toy, Eamon turned into the fun police, smacking poor Sinead in the eyes and then biting me on the arm. He's never done anything like this before.

Finally, Eamon is also doing a little bit of nighttime crying. He sits in the middle of the room, and he lets out the most heartbreaking little cries. When I get up and sit with him, he stops. But when I try to go back to bed, he starts again.

In veterinary appointments, Eamon seems no worse than he was previously. His x-rays show the same level of damage, his weight is maintaining and he isn't grumpy about being handled. A cursory examination shows a senior cat with arthritis at a stable level of joint deterioration.

But clearly, this is a cat that's painful. And leaving that pain untreated could mean more outbursts that put the rest of the members of this household in a little bit of danger.

So I'm talking with Eamon's doctor about adding in a pain medication. That's tricky, as cats can't handle many of the pain medications experts use with dogs. They have slow metabolic processes, so drugs dogs can take stick around in little cat bodies for far too long, and that tends to lead to irreversible organ damage. That's not something anyone wants.

But there are some good opiate options for cats, and some other novel anti-seizure drugs that seem to help cats deal with ongoing pain. I'm hoping that by adding something like this to Eamon's regime we can keep him comfortable enough to stay with us for just a little longer.

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