Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dental Nightmare

Today was a nerve wracking day for me.  I took a cat and a dog into the vet's to have dentals done on them.  Amber, the cat and Joey, the dog are six and five repectively, but both had hard starts to their lives and both have depressed immune systems.  I was mostly afraid Amber would not be accepted for surgery because she has asthma, but when we got there, miraculously she didn't have an attack and her lungs were clear enough.  The vet said we should take this window and jump for it.  With cats with asthma, you may never be able to find a chance you can have their teeth fixed because getting upset, like going to the vet can do, can cause an attack.  Amber's teeth were bad, I've known for a little over a year we needed to get them done, but her health would never allow it.  Today we jumped, and she had all but two of her teeth pulled.  At 6 years of age, her teeth looked so bad that the tech was shocked to find out how young Amber actually is.   The vet understood, writing on her paper in big letters,. BORN FERAL..
Cats that are ferals, or who are born feral often have medical issues that doom them to die young if they are left in the streets.  Amber's mother Bullseye delivered her litter in our garage, but immediately took them across the street to the wrecking yard.  Five weeks later, she showed up at our front door and started yelling.  At least I think she intended it to be a yell, but she, like Amber, had a soft spoken nature and it came out about as loud as a cat sounds when it is upstairs in the bathroom linen closet and you're in the basement doing laundry.  I only heard her because the door was open, and I was walking by the screen when she tried to yell at me through it.  I was puzzled because  one of the marks of a feral is their silence around a person.  It is the first test we use to see if we have trapped a feral or just a neighbor's cat.  Her odd behavior made me go to the door to see what was wrong with her.  She ran a few steps, turned and yelled at me again, so I stepped out.  Again she ran a few steps and yelled.  I had the strong feeling she needed help, so I followed her around the house to the garage.  In the garage was her litter, minus one kitten.  They looked horrible, covered in grease and with grease impacted under their eyelids.  At first they tried to run, but as soon as I scooped them up. they started purring.  I always wondered what their mom had told them, but they were the most cuddly kittens you could ever meet.
It took us two months and the loss of another kitten, but finally most were healthy.  Not Amber, though.  She was the sickest survivor, and she has had problems since.  She had the "dire rear" and throwing up for two years, long after we found out her allergies to chicken, beef, corn and wheat.  Have you ever tried to find cat food without any of those ingredients?  Throw in budget and it gets even harder.  We had to have litter boxes in every room, but even with them, sometimes she just couldn't make it.  You've never lived til you're cuddling a sweet little kitten on your lap and you suddenly see that look just before she starts spewing from both ends right on your new robe.  Finally, though, she could eat, and keep it down most of the time, and she got fat.  Like the vet said, wouldn't you if you starved the first two years of your life?  Of course this is the same vet that when asked why she walks so oddly, said that in his considered opinion, she'd built weird.  Then all of a sudden, about 6 weeks ago, she stopped eating.  I knew it was time to get her teeth done, but with the monsoon, as sparse as it was this year, she still was having minor asthma attacke.  No big ones, but she couldn't have surgery. 
But today, the stars aligned and the airways cleared.  She could have her teeth pulled.  All but two.
Joey I wasn't worried about.  Sure, he had it rough as a puppy.  I'm sorry, you don't have a pup lose 60% of his hair and have skin with black thick places without knowing something was wrong.  I was fostering dogs at the time, but had already let the group know I was too full and couldn't take anyone else in.  That didn't stop them from calling me and telling me to get to the animal control immediately, or "he" will be put to sleep in an hour.  I had to get him, they insisted.  They said to look for a springer spaniel.  When I got to the kennels, I couldn't find a spaniel of any kind, just some big dogs and this 15 pound half hairless mix.  That was "him", Joey.  He had the demon, demodex mange, and he had a life threatening case of it.  The vet the group wanted me to take him to was one I had worked with in the Humane society.  I told the lady exactly what that vet would say.  "Why are they wasting their money on this dog.  They should put him down."  Not believing me, she made the appointment, the vet looked, told me word for word what I said he would, and later called her and told her the same.  When she called me with an appointment at another vet, she couldn't help but laugh, but she also asked if I thought they should take their speutering (spaying/neutering) to another vet.  No way, for surgery he is one of the finest vets I've seen.   Six months of poisonous treatment later, Joey was finally well, and I couldn't part with him after all the work I'd put into him.
Joey's teeth were never good even as a puppy.  They had always been easily chipped and because of his lack of early socialization and the things he endured when sick, it was impossible to brush his teeth properly.  I knew his immune system wasn't up to snuff, if it had been, he's never have had such a bad case of mange, so I knew that we needed to get his teeth cleaned before he ended up with heart problems.  But I didn't think he'd have problems being accepted for surgery, after all, he'd just had a checkup in June.  He almost got bounced from surgery because his protein levels were too high.  We had more tests done, all negative, so the vet went ahead and did the surgery.  When the vet started, it was obvious Joey had far worse problems than either of us had imagined and HE had almost every tooth pulled instead of the two she predicted or the three I expected..
You just never know.   We went in today, fingers crossed Amber could have her teeth pulled, and no problem.  Joey, who was expected to sail right through almost didn't have his dental, and as bad as his teeth turned out to be, that could have ended up fatal.
They're both home now, happy with their pain meds and the first food they've had in 24 hours (a dangerously long time for a cat, by the way).  Amber will probably get fat again, and Joey, well he was still the same smart ass when he came out of the vet's office as when he went in. prancing along, barking at a man across the street and complaining that if he had thumbs he wouldn't have to wait for me to open the door.

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