Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday Night at the Emergency Vet

I had plans for last night. They weren't exactly thrilling, but they were plans nonetheless. We had already been to the grocery store (for more than just critical essentials) for the first time in weeks, and we'd eaten dinner at Panera. On the way home, DH asked me what I wanted to do that evening. I wanted to watch Avatar, which we had purchased earlier in the week (on Blu-ray, of course). I did see it in the theater (3D IMAX, no less), and I did really enjoy it, but I was also terribly sick that day, and I wanted to see it again when I was at full capacity, so to speak.

After putting Luke to bed, DH went to our bedroom to change clothes. Normally, we keep our bedroom door closed to keep the cats out (they like to "pump" the bedding, which makes it look terrible with all the picks from their claws), but I decided to open our bedroom door before we left around 4:30 to try and help some air circulate in there because it was getting awfully stuffy. DH returned from our bedroom almost immediately, holding Luke's Disney balloon. I had put the balloon in our room because all of the cats like to chew on the ribbon. Clearly, I had forgotten it was in there, or I would never have left the door open. Sure enough, a large section of the ribbon was now missing. I'm guessing it's somewhere in the 3-6 feet (1-2 meters) range.

I knew from previous experience with a friend's cat that this can be very *very* bad. As it tries to move through the digestive tract, it can actually tangle up the intestines, which cuts off blood flow and causes the intestine to "die." If you can get the elongated item out of their system (i.e. make them throw it up) before they try and digest it, you don't have to worry about it. So we packed up all 3 cats, not knowing which one (or two or three) might have done it, and off I went to the emergency vet. This would be at least my third trip there in the last 10 years, which also meant I knew just how expensive this was likely to be. It's over $100 per animal just to be seen, not including any diagnostic tests or treatments.

They were much busier than I expected for 9 PM on a Friday. I first saw the doctor around 10:30, and we started with Bengal, the most likely culprit. (In fact, we took him to this same emergency vet when he was less than a year old for eating yarn. They did get him to throw that up way back then.) Apparently, making cats vomit is a rather difficult thing to do. I never would have guessed since we clean up cat vomit almost daily in the spring (hairballs), and at least weekly most other times of the year! Sheesh. And naturally, neither method worked on Bengal this time. So, we moved on to Cleo, the next most likely candidate. No go there either. I figured we may as well go ahead do Tigger while we were there, even though she was least likely to have done it. It actually worked on her, but no ribbon. That doesn't necessarily mean she didn't eat it, just that none came up.

Besides just "watch and wait," there was one additional possibility. They could do a barium contrast x-ray. Per the doctor, non-metallic ribbon rarely shows up on an x-ray. The barium would hopefully bind to the ribbon to make it visible. But all that would tell us was which of the cats had eaten ribbon, and remember, it still could have been all of them, so even if ribbon had shown on Bengal's barium contrast x-ray does not mean we wouldn't have to test the other two. Barium contrast studies cost about $500. Per cat! And not only that, but it still wouldn't tell us whether or not the ribbon might pass on its own, which is the preferred solution (if you can't get them to vomit it back up). So we would still have to "watch and wait," the only advantage would be knowing which cat(s) to watch. It is still possible that the ribbon is in small enough pieces not to cause a problem, but there's no way to know. There are likely still to be additional vet visits and possibly surgery if the ribbon doesn't pass without issue. I'd rather save the $1500 for that inevitability possibility.

I think I got home around 1:30 AM. Four hours and several hundred dollars later, and all I had to show for it was three groggy and grumpy cats who may yet still get very sick and/or not make it. Lovely way to spend a Friday evening.

Currently feeling: hoping things go well for the cats

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