Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Easter festivities are upon us, and as my family and I took in the Kimball Easter Bunny appearance/egg hunt party last Sunday, I thought about Liz the cat, who just last week suffered severe toxicity from ingestion of lily leaves. Easter lilies, along with other members of the lily family and numerous other ornamental plants are toxic to pets, especially cats with their natural curiosity of anything new in their environment and affinity for nibbling leaves. Liz was hospitalized with us while being treated for acute renal failure (sudden inability of the kidneys to filter out waste from the blood which normally comes out in urine) secondary to the toxic effect of these plant leaves, which may actually have been jack-in-the-pulpit. She was vomiting, lethargic, had no appetite, and was definitely not herself. Her physical exam was otherwise normal, but when I got the bloodwork back, my stomach dropped. I realized I had to go tell the concerned owner that his two-year-old cat's kidneys were failing, and the levels of these toxins were higher than I had ever seen, higher than our blood analyzer could even calculate. Having lost a canine patient recently to the same condition, with the owner's description of their experience watching their dog die unpleasantly in their arms at home vivid in my mind, my usual optimism was at an all-time low. I discussed the disease and treatment with Liz's owner, with its potentially poor but unpredictable prognosis, and we discussed euthanasia because I did not want to have anyone else experience the horror of a failed treatment. Certainly I did not want Liz to suffer the effects of the circulating toxins if treatment was a long-shot, and based on bloodwork results, "long-shot" was an accurate assessment. After considering everything, Liz's owner looked up at me and said: "I'm not one to give up." We immediately began treatment, and decided if she started to look worse we would then consider putting her to sleep. The next day I anxiously anticipated the new bloodwork after she had several rounds of fluids to treat her condition. I sunk when the lab values came back even worse, still some too high for the machine to read. We relayed the bad news to Liz's owner, but since she didn't look any worse, we decided to stick with the plan, and to give her a couple more days before repeating bloodwork. Friday, a very difficult decision was going to be made, based on what numbers the blood machine printed out on its paper. I think my jaw was on the floor for a full minute, as I stared at a completely normal blood panel without even the slightest elevation in Liz's kidney parameters on Friday morning. Optimism restored. Liz went home to happy owners with maybe one fewer of her nine lives. For the rest of us, Liz's case should remind us to keep Easter lilies and other potentially dangerous plants out of our cats' reach. Most importantly, though, maybe when presented with adversity, we can be like Liz's owner and say: "I'm not one to give up."
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