A few weeks ago, I took Bert to the vet because I was concerned about how thin he had become. He was still eating his pureed food, but he wasn’t maintaining his weight.
The vet examined him and told me his kidneys were failing. “There’s nothing short of a kidney transplant that will keep him alive. It’s just a matter of time…”
I suspected as much but the news still made me incredibly sad. At the time Bert was still able to get around okay, he still enjoyed sitting outside on the porch, nestling in one of the dog beds, and he still intimidated the girls. By all accounts he was still fine…at least HE thought so.
I brought him home and did my best to keep him comfortable and eating. Things went along as usual until last week. On Tuesday he needed some help getting around and I figured he was living his last few days.
Things turned very bad overnight and on Wednesday morning he died. I was with him at the time he passed and up until his final last stretch he was aware and alert. I am so thankful he died at home, surrounded by the things that brought him joy. And I am so glad I was there gently patting him as my remarkable boy – the boy who wandered into my yard 15 years ago, the boy who survived cancer of his mouth 5 years ago, the boy who came to dominate and hold his own amongst my two 80 pound dogs – passed over.
I don’t know what happens after death, but I sure hope to see Bert along with all my other beloved animal companions again some day.
It was touch and go there for a couple of months, but those days are behind us now.
He’s been cancer free for a year and a half, has gained back most of the weight he lost, and he’s a very happy boy. He has adjusted well to not having a lower jaw line (his tongue doesn’t hang out of his mouth as the vet expected) and he enjoys his pureed food – he even has his own blender (the magic bullet had to be replaced since it was not up to the task of twice daily smoothies with a real blender) that is dedicated to the task.
Bert is doing very well and so far he remains cancer free.
I’m still blending his food up to a pea soup texture and I’ve started him on cans of kitten food to help him gain back some of the weight he lost. He really loves the kitten smoothies I blend for him every day and I think he’s already gained a little weight back.
After about a month of syringe feeding, we noticed that Bert was licking out the little bit of milk that was left in the breakfast cereal bowls. My cats are discouraged from get on the kitchen counters, but we’ve relaxed lots of rules around here ever since Bert got sick.
I stopped by the pet store the following Monday and spent a lot of time perusing the cat food aisles. All along, Bert has been eager to lick the gravy from any canned cat food we opened for him, leaving the shredded pieces or morsals for his brother Ernie to clean up. I hoped to find a hearty gravy only type of food at the pet store, but only saw gravy packets or “toppers” to pour on top of dry food, these packets are hardly enough to sustain a cat, much less to help a cat gain weight (Bert lost a quarter of his original body weight in the 10 days after surgery).
In the weeks of syringe feeding, I have tried many things to get him eating on his own, laying out a buffet of pungent foods every morning, only to wind up spooning most of the buffet into the garbage that evening. I have ground up his favorite dry food with chicken broth in the food processor, creating a soupy, stinking goo that he was very interested in, but that he would only lick at for a few minutes before walking away and leaving it to go rancid. I have heated his buffet of foods in the microwave, creating a tantalizing aroma which brought him running to see what delights were being placed on his buffet, only to turn away after a few moments of serious sniffing.
And so for 4 weeks I picked him up each morning and each evening, carried him into the basement bathroom, closed the door, dampened a rag (for cleanup), filled the syringe with watered down A/D cat food – amazing stuff, but only available by prescription so costs some $$$ and not readily available – and pushed the syringe into his mouth. Luckily he accepted that mode of feeding and didn’t fight it too much. When I took him to the vet a few weeks ago to have all of his stitches removed, he had only lost .1 of a pound and was holding fairly steady at 9 lbs . . . and there was no sign of the cancer’s return.
Thank goodness for small favors, for in the early days of his recovery – the first days after I brought him home with his greatly altered lower jaw – he didn’t understand that he had to learn a new way of eating and drinking. He would reject the syringe, run away from me, hide under the tables, boxes and doodads that fill the basement. I would grab him and hold him tight while he fought against my embrace, scratching me and eventually getting loose and running to hide again. I changed my tactics somewhat…he HAD to eat, to drink, to get his antibiotics. So I enlisted my husband into the struggle and we’d try holding him tightly wrapped in a towel but that didn’t work so well either. I was stressed out, Bert was stressed out, and hardly any food was being eaten.
At night I dreamed about ways to get food into him and woke up one morning with a new plan. Instead of attempting to restrain him I decided to give him some space. So I stopped trying to force the syringe on him. Instead I brought him into the bathroom, placed him on the toilet seat and offered the syringe to him. Surprisingly, he calmed down, accepted the syringe and when he realized I was feeding him, he got a little greedy. Oh joy! He was eating!
It was messy and slow and discouraging to see the food falling out of what used to be the bottom of his mouth, but I learned to take it slow and easy, tilting the syringe back in the side of his mouth, to place the tip above his tongue so all he had to do was swallow. It worked and his weight stabilized. I suspected he was drinking some water on his own during the day when I was at work, although not from the expensive water fountain that I bought to attract him to drink. I have yet to see either of my cats drinking from it.Instead he preferred to drink water from the dogs’ water bowl in the kitchen. We would see him standing at the water bowl, lowering his chin into the water.
Over the last month, I’ve made regular trips to the cat food store. I know the aisles intimately. I’ve brought home samples of Sheba Perfect Portions, Fancy Feast Classic Pate, Meow Mix Classic Pate, Delectables Stew Lickable Treat, and I bought a case of the A/D cat food from the vet. With each opening of a can or envelope, there’s been encouraging interest, where he’d eagerly lap up the contents for a few minutes, then lose interest and walk away. It has been discouraging and a week ago I had to resort to syringe feeding him some of the A/D.
Last weekend, I had another idea and went out and bought a small blender (I have a Vitamix blender, but it’s really too large for blending up small meal sized portions of cat food – any success I’d had with Bert eating this stuff was only when something was freshly opened or blended). I bought the Magic Bullet – and it’s working! For the last couple of days, I’ve opened up a can of cat pate, put a teaspoon or 2 of water into it and blended it up in the Magic Bullet. He’s eating it and I’m so pleased. I am hopeful that the Magic Bullet is the silver bullet I have been searching for to get Bert eating on his own again.
Bert still struggles to eat canned & hard food on his own. I’ve had to syringe feed him for a month to keep him from literally starving to death. I fed him with this Hills Prescription diet A/D food. It is a high calorie pate type food that, when mixed with a little bit of liquid, works really well in a syringe.
He eventually figured out how to drink water on his own, but it’s taken him longer to start eating on his own. Some days, he’ll lick up really soft canned, pate textured cat food, but some days he struggles even doing that.
When I took Bert to the vet last Saturday to get his stitches removed, I bought a case of the Hills Prescription Diet food (it is not sold at the store without a prescription) just so I’d have some on hand just in case I have to resort to syringe feeding him again. Today was a syringe feeding kind of day. . . it’s been a discouraging day.
We paid a visit to the vet’s office this morning for a follow-up to Bert’s jaw surgery. I had hoped to have the stitches removed, but decided to leave them in for a while longer to allow the front of his jaw to heal more.
Bert has lost 3 pounds over the last 10 days since surgery. He is still struggling to eat & drink on his own, so I’ve been syringe feeding him.
I got a good look at his mouth and tongue and it is clear that his tongue is in great shape. The vet believes Bert should be able to lick & lap food & water into his mouth, but Bert is accustomed to having the support of his front lower jaw that is no longer there to help him. It looks like I’ll have to continue using the syringe to water and feed him for the foreseeable future.
My sweet kitty Bert has had some health issues lately and we’ve gotten to know our veterinarian pretty well since he’s made many trips for care in the last few months.
The vet performed some exploratory surgery on his bottom lip and chin 10 days ago and sent some tissue samples off to UGA for examination. We got the word on Thursday that the tissue was malignant carcinoma.
When the vet operated on him, he removed all of the suspicious tissue that he could see, so we are hopeful that he got it all and that Bert will live several more years. Bert is not as handsome now as he is in this picture above, but he is still just as sweet as ever. <3
Here’s a picture of what his lip and chin looked like before surgery.
Got really terrible confirmation today when I took Bert in for a final check up from his cancer surgery…..I noticed on Sunday night that his mouth didn’t look right and woke up Monday morning crying with the realization that the cancer was back. The vet confirmed it in today’s visit.
So now I must explore some options…..If anyone who reads this has had a pet with cancer, I would love to hear about your experience.
I will be taking Bert in for an oncology consult with a cancer expert, hopefully, next week and will go from there…..
Needless to say I am sick about this latest development. Right now, Bert is happy, eating well, and feeling pretty good, so it’s really hard to think about what is going to happen to him in the future. I just can’t bear to think about watching this beautiful, happy boy succumb to cancer.
I scheduled an appointment with a cancer specialist for Bert for this coming Thursday, but over the weekend, the tumor on his lip grew quite a lot.
Last week, when I discussed options for Bert with the veterinarian, I was given 3 options: a more invasive surgery, chemotherapy, and to do nothing. I had hoped to explore the veracity of chemo and then make a decision, but, given how fast the tumor is growing, I am concerned that the window for a surgical solution is closing rapidly, so I called the vet yesterday morning and told him that I thought we should pursue the surgical option as soon as possible.
So this morning I dropped Bert off at the vet’s office and sometime today he will be operated on again. This time the vet will remove part of his lower jaw (partial mandibulectomy) in the hopes of removing the cancer.
UPDATE: 2/27/2018 Post Surgery
The vet called me after surgery to let me know that Bert was okay. He texted me a few pictures.
Bert got through surgery okay, but stayed overnight at the vet’s office. He is home now and appears to be hungry, but is having some difficulty eating. He has to learn a new technique for eating….
Bert is struggling to eat, but he seems to be doing okay. His tongue hangs out of his mouth and he doesn’t have much of a lower jaw so when he tries to eat his tongue gets in the way. I have been syringing water & watered down food into him. It’s a very messy business and stressful for both of us.
So far, I think I’ve managed to get his meds in him and keep him hydrated, but haven’t gotten much food in him.
Tonight we wrapped him in a towel & Mark held him tightly. I was able to put some soft food on my finger & get it in his mouth. That was a little encouraging & tomorrow we will try to get more food into him.