Billy wasn’t just an old cat. He was a warrior, fighting multiple chronic feline diseases for the last several years of his life. Chronic renal failure (CRF), hyperthyroidism (hyperT), hyperparathyroidism (hyperPTH), and skin cancer were his enemies. Resorptive tooth lesions and chronic herpes eye infections were additional and sometimes painful annoyances. How did I help him do battle with these multiple chronic cat diseases? I became a researcher, a strategist, a juggler, and a fellow warrior, and I can teach you how to do the same.
Being faced with the onset of a single chronic disease in your cat can be emotionally difficult, but trying to handle multiple chronic diseases can be overwhelming. The single most critical component of managing both your own initial sense of helplessness and your cat’s multiple diseases is education. In order to competently and successfully manage several chronic feline diseases simultaneously, you must develop a strong understanding of the diseases, their treatments, and the ways in which they interact. You need to know which potential symptoms and associated conditions are linked to which diseases. You need to inform yourself about the medications available for the treatment of your cat. The Pill Book Guide to Medication for Your Dog and Cat by Kate Roby and Lenny Southam is an indispensable resource for researching most medications in veterinary use. The more you learn about the multiple diseases your cat is battling, the stronger and more effective a partner you will be in the fight.
All of the major feline diseases can be thoroughly researched online, and most have dedicated mailing lists. Utilize your favorite search engines to learn all you can about your cat’s illnesses. Join the mailing lists, most of which can be found on Yahoo Groups. They can be lifesaving resources of current information and support. List members are dealing with these chronic feline diseases in real time, some in consult with renowned veterinary specialists, and they are eager to share their experience and knowledge with those in need.
All of that new information you have acquired now needs to be organized into a strategy for the management of your cat’s multiple diseases. Start putting it all together. Make a list of the various treatment and management options for each of your cat’s illnesses and decide how much you are able or willing to do, or how much is humane to do, to address your cat’s health issues.
Multiple chronic cat diseases will present multiple treatment or management options, some of which may be in direct opposition to one another. A cat with CRF, for instance, may require regular supplemental fluid administrations, but a cat with CRF and cardiac issues may require a reduction of fluids. Cats with both hyperthyroidism and liver disease must be carefully managed, because thyroid medications can be hepatotoxic. Sometimes managing multiple cat diseases is a matter of choosing the treatments that have the greater probability of doing more good than harm.
The Fellow Warrior
You will, of course, need to enlist a veterinarian into your battle against your cat’s multiple diseases. Choose this comrade-in-arms carefully, and make sure (s)he understands and is on-board with your decisions regarding the ongoing medical care of your cat. You want to fight chronic feline diseases together. Your veterinarian should be your partner, not your dictator.
Accept and embrace these roles, and you will not succumb to feelings of helplessness if your cat is diagnosed with multiple feline diseases. You can and will come out fighting, and your cat will reap the benefits of your loving dedication.