The Mean Season

Of the eight years we have lived with our pointy-eared companions, this past late summer and early fall were probably the worst for the preponderance of Ragweed pollen. We in the Midwest endure our fair share of hot, humid days each year, but these last weeks ushered in the longest streak of Florida-esque humidity in a very great while, even setting some records. It was not all that hot, but every day felt like living in a hothouse dome, a light sheen of sweat gathering the moment we stepped out the door and our leaden chests pushing that little bit harder for each breath. The amount of pollen exploded in this fetid air, never reaching critically high levels, but inescapably there week after week after week. Though we live in an air conditioned house with a merv eight air filter, eventually our poor allergic furry succumbed to the onslaught of so many waves of microbes assaulting her little ten pound system. She chewed a gash in her right rear central paw pad that fairly quickly became infected.

We almost made it. The cat held on throughout the summer until late August when, traditionally, temperatures come down, days get shorter, and we start to relax as another allergy season usually begins to close. Not so this year, as the humidity and warm temperatures extended into mid then late September. Once the infection in her paw took hold, we brought our distressed kitty to our usual veterinary clinic for renewals of the antibiotic Orbax and the pain medication Torbugesic. Our preferred experienced vet left on holiday the week before, so my wife saw one of the younger, more philosophically committed vets who once again warned us of antibiotic resistance then grudgingly gave her the medications once she insisted. Mission completed, my wife brought our terrified Calico huddling in the very back of her carrier past a gauntlet of barking dogs out to the car then home to begin treatment.

At this point my wife and I both feel a real concern about this cat developing an antibiotic resistance. In the last five years we administered Orbax to her for at least one two week duration every summer, with a few summers like this one in which we gave her the drug for even longer periods. If she develops a resistance we fear that no antibiotic would work to combat the infection and it would spread, causing the cat to lose a leg or even her life. We also worry about the amount of chemicals we put into a relatively small frame. During an episode she gets antihistamine as well as antibiotics as well as pain killers. We do not want her liver or any other organ to fail. As an alternative, the vet could give the cat a shot that theoretically would work for a month to combat infections. Some preliminary research mentioned a small percentage of cases in which the shot actually killed the animal, so naturally we eschewed this option as the greater of two evils. This winter we need to research the options further and possibly reconsider.

These considerations remained foremost in our thoughts as we went through the regimen to treat the infection in her right rear pad. At the end of two weeks her paw healed and we nearly stopped giving her the antibiotic and the pain killer. Then I noticed her favoring her left front paw, holding it up off the floor when she sat. That night I grabbed her gently by the scruff and we examined the front paw. Our hearts sank as we saw a new opening in her central pad. My wife called the vet, bandied once again with the young vet who eventually acceded to our request for a renewal of the antibiotic. We extended her treatment, uneasy with both the length of time on the medications and the severity of her symptoms.

Eventually our usual vet returned and we were able to consult with her regarding the situation. She told us that this allergy season hit many animals extremely hard with very little relief coming until the end of September. Oddly, we felt better knowing that others also struggled with the elements this year. As we continued to talk, I mentioned that I worried about the damage we might do to our cat’s innards. Our vet then told me that the Torbugesic had no lasting effect upon feline systems and we could give it to her for an extended period. She renewed our prescription for a slightly larger bottle. As the second round of antibiotics came to a close toward the end of September, the cut on the front paw still bothered our white splotchy pal. Rather than go for another round of antibiotics, we simply extended the pain killer and hoped the weather would turn cold sooner rather than later.

This feline on pain killers gets a glazed look in her eyes and she only wants to sit undisturbed to stare at the world. The first few years we felt very guilty about this because she had no way of understanding what happened and obviously we could not explain it to her. In the past few years she copes much more calmly with the whole situation and we learned to simply let her alone in her purple haze. She also really likes the chicken flavor the vet puts in the liquid to make it taste good. This particular batch lasted well into October by which time the cut nearly healed, but more importantly the temperatures finally eased putting an end to the high humidity. We still give her antihistamines daily, though we began lowering the dosages in preparation for removing them completely. Withal, we put more drugs into her system for a longer period of time this season than in any year but one since we brought her home.

Our pesky Calico now once again taunts her gray tabby sister until we shout at them to stop, her paws healed, her eyes clear, her fur softer, and our hearts lighter. In the new year my wife and I will think about what we will do next spring, possibly talking to the vet about using the pain killer in lower doses prophylactically as another way to prevent our friend from experiencing her allergies so deeply. Those thoughts will wait until after the holidays. Now, just grateful to survive this mean season, we move on to a late fall and wonder what the winter will bring.

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