So, yeah. I’m going to stop apologizing for how irregular this blog is. I’ll post when life and my own brain allow, let’s leave it at that.
But I’m going to try to do regular-ish posts for at least a week or two, because we’re trying something new. Cory-Bear is starting CBD oil. If you don’t know what that is, it’s one of the two main compounds in cannabis – not the THC that gets you all buzzed and gives you the munchies. CBD acts primarily as an anti-inflammatory.
Since some folks not familiar with the story so far might find this, I’m going to do a post now explaining the background situation, and then I’ll do one about the results of the first couple of days.
Basic background for anyone just coming across this. A two-bedroom apartment is home to two humans on disability and three rescued cats.
Trick, who is about 13 years old, has IBS and we’re probably going to start him on CBD as well, since he’s already using prednisolone and Cerenia to keep tummy inflammation down. Otherwise, he’s a healthy old tuxie with a very idiosyncratic personality. Freya is our 9-year-old tabby girl who, one scary bout a couple years ago aside, has no health problems aside from being prone to acne on her chin, especially if she eats from plastic.
Cory, the current focus of attention, is 9 years old, nearly all black, and was hand-raised by me since he was less than three weeks old. Generally cheerful and affectionate, he is quite certain that I am his mom, and he typically chooses to spend most of his time in the same room with me – my bedroom, where my computer is, and where he has at least half a dozen options for kitty beds, including in the closet, under the bed, two elevated ones, and a shallow box on my bed (I’m used to sleeping around cats and related obstacles). He has sporadically suffered from health issues through his life, mostly in the form of sinus infections thanks to having a very bad one when he came to us, and he was (mis?)diagnosed with calicivirus after three episodes in which his outer tongue ulcerated (ouchie!) and he spent some time on pain meds while it healed. He still has virtually no papillae, the littel hooks, on most of his tongue, and needs a little help with grooming and finds running water much easier to drink, but otherwise, not an ongoing issue. The largest chronic issue has been his weight, which spiked badly on his first dose of prednisolone in his youth, and we’ve had a struggle with it ever since. As of December and a shift not so much in type of food or volume as proportions (seriously limiting the kibble, but free-feeding low-carb pate) we started to make excellent progress.
Earlier in the spring, he was started on Metacam because we spotted very early signs of a tooth bothering him. We had to increase the dose over time, as it was clear that it was wearing off overnight. He tolerated it well, as long as we did changes gradually. Then, in early June, things got weird. It appeared to be neurological – his left eye looked slightly sunken and started reacting very slowly, always a little more constricted than the others, while also drooling a bit more and having trouble eating and drinking. Turns out he has some mild paralysis of the left side of his face, although he still loves having a brush run along his cheek and he’s adapting very well to the change. More worrying, while the rest of his bloodwork came back perfect, his white blood cell count is wonky in a way suggesting cancer. Since due to several factors (unavoidable and unexpected legal costs on top of a fixed income) we have a very restricted budget, we couldn’t afford to do hundreds of dollars in further diagnostics to possibly but not necessarily confirm the presence or absence of cancer. At this point, we’re assuming he has it and are acting accordingly… although Cory is not, and has no idea he’s “sick” or “dying” and is going on with his life with his usual resilience and good nature.
Most immediately: all three experienced roughly 10 days of viral diarrhea, treated with pumpkin and encouragement to eat/drink. Cory’s cleared up last (in fact, his bowel movements remain a bit loose even about two weeks later, but greatly improved). A final increase in Metacam 3-4 days before the virus symptoms led to Cory vomiting poorly digested food (not normal for him) so we stopped entirely Friday and got permission to use emergency buprenorphine until our usual vet was back in on Monday morning.
Vet not comfortable with injecting buprenorphine, but due to Cory’s tendency to drool copiously, particcularly when given something he dislikes, we couldn’t get enough into him via oral absorption to be effective, so had to resort to injected at a lower dose (0.08cc instead of .12cc). This was reasonably effective. Considering the diarrhea, she agreed with holding off on the Metacam, and gave me a further 1cc of buprenorphine. I understood it at twice a day, but found later she meant once per day – which would have been completely inadequate on its own with no anti-inflammatory assistance.
After a tense weekend at a slightly low (and not 100% effective) dose of .07cc, vet agreed to give me a further 2cc, but expressed concern about keeping him on high-dose injected opiates for an extended period and whether it meant quality of life was deteriorating.
Cory, at this point, despite the viral diarrhea and low meds, remains cheerful, active, interested in the world around him, generally relaxed with no signs of ongoing stress, and intermittently playful (about as active as ever). Two days before, he was sharing catnip with the other two and enthusiastically shredding one of the foam mats (meant for kneeling on hard surfaces – foam kids play mats are also popular) that he loves to destroy. Sunday, he got into a wrestling match with Freya. He alternates between his protected hideyholes and his more exposed favourite spots at about his normal rate, and is not isolating himself or hiding. He wants to drink from the shower, perched on the windowledge, and leaves it via an active leap onto my shoulder/into my arms, after taking time to look out the window at the view (90 degree different angle from the other windows). He spends time on the balcony, when it isn’t too hot. He wants concussion-strength headbonks, mutual cheekrubs, brushing with my hairbrush, and being carried around while he forcefully nuzzles my ponytail, purring madly the whole time. After over 9 years in which I’ve spent literally most of every single day, with one brief break when I was hospitalized for 4 days, with him usually choosing to be within a few feet of me, even when doing his own thing… I know him. I can read him. This is normal behaviour, and he is still overall my happy bearcat. If anything, I’ve seen him show more distress during periods of his tongue ulcerating.
We have seen only a few negative issues:
1) Partial paralysis of the left side of his face has been making it more difficult for him to eat and drink on his own. However, he is definitely figuring out how to adapt. Water is harder, and he demands to have the shower turned on or to be given water from a syringe. (For several years, he’s found running water easier anyway.) In either case, it helps if it’s warm, presumably due to the known sore tooth. He has progressed from needing to be fed each kibble by hand to being able to pick them up one at a time spread on a soft surface like a blanket to being able to eat them normally out of a dish. Possibly the shallow scallop-pattern ridges on the bottom help him trap individual kibbles. Uneaten kibbles are still sometimes rather damp from excess saliva and failed efforts to grab them, but this is gradually decreasing. He’s very determined! He has never been a big fan of wet food, although he tolerated a high percentage for a while, and he has decided (not for the first time) that he doesn’t want it at all. I’m still giving him 20-30cc of slightly diluted, blenderized Fancy Feast pate just for the extra liquid and to wash down meds (eg, pumpkin), but he’s now eating enough kibble that he really doesn’t seem to need the supplementation.
2) Tooth pain makes him wince when eating if pain meds are inadequate. Anti-inflammatory meds generally seem to be more effective, but Metacam alone was not enough. Neither was buprenorphine alone. Some combination is apparently needed. This is not an extreme pain reaction – it’s a visible wince, which may be followed by leaving if he has already had close to enough. However, on inadequate meds, it becomes more pronounced: even syringes of warm water make him wince and leave before he finishes even one, and he eats much less.
3) On his lower lip, what started as a pale discoloured area has turned into a slowly thickening growth. It does not appear to be painful and he shows no reaction if it’s touched (aside from general indignation – “Why are you touching my lower lip, Mom? That’s weird!”).
4) He occasionally, at random, paws at his right cheekbone the same way he has repeatedly in the past when his sinuses were obstructed. Since we have no A/C and humans and other cats are showing some sinus issues due to humidity etc, that might be all. This is a very mild behaviour: he paws it 2-4 times then goes back to what he was doing. This has been observed only 3-4 times a day, not constantly.
We did notice changes when we stopped the Metacam: he started drinking less water immediately, and his interest in a variety of food flavours picked back up. Around this point, he became much more determined to eat on his own again.
All things considered, trying CBD seems like a reasonable plan that would be worth it even if the effects are perceptible but minor.
So, the next few posts will be focused on what happens.