My Name is Leo

An adored cat deals gracefully with a jaw tumor while his owner quietly falls apart.

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Location: Philadelphia area, Northeast, United States

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly - 20 weeks post-diagnosis

The Good: Leo's urinary tract infection cleared up over the weekend.

The Bad: He has been eating very little the past five days. May be due to stomach upset from Baytril. Or a combination of that and the difficulty he has just getting food into his mouth.

I went to the secret weapon -- people tuna -- on Saturday when he hadn't eaten anything at all for 24 hours. At first, he only lapped up the tuna water. He kept gagging when he tried to eat the tuna itself -- appeared he had mucus drool stuck in the back of this throat. Eventually, the tuna water seemed to clear out his mouth and he ate quite a bit of the tuna itself.

Since then, he's been acting hungry (lots of meowing, and sitting in the kitchen staring at me with that look) but would eat just a little bit of each meal, then walk away to never want to touch it again.

Saturday afternoon, I bought some Salmon flavored Vita Gravy to make his cat food runnier (so he could just lick it up) and hopefully more appealing. At first, Leo lapped it up eagerly - ate about half of his meal -- but never went back to finish it and has refused the sauce (on food or plain) since.

He's also been completely refusing the high calorie a/d prescription food.

All of which adds up to a very scrawny kitty cat.

I was all ready to call the vet this morning, but (the contrarian that he is) Leo ate most of his food last night. And this morning, I fed him before giving the Baytril (although it's easier to get the medication into him if he hasn't already eaten -- since I am crushing it into food) to see if he would eat better without the med in his stomach. He ate 3/4 of the food right away.

Then I crushed the Baytril, mixed it into mayo, and had him lick it off my fingers. I believe he got enough of it into his system.

Good! No vet call necessary, not today at least.

The Ugly: family members would probably say this is Leo. There has been a lot of complaining about his smelliness. Got "Fast Bath" (a spray on - towel dry cat cleaner) and -- Surprise! -- discovered cats don't really like being sprayed with anything.

But the ugly I'm referring to is a bit more traumatic -- I was giving him his prednisolone pill in the afternoon, and I opened his mouth as usual (put my left thumb into the non-tumor side of his mouth between upper and lower jaws to gently force it open.) Pinching the pill with my right forefinger and thumb, I put it into the back of Leo's throat. Just like I've done a hundred times before. (I actually have to put my fingers into his mouth now to get the pill far back enough for him to swallow it easily.)

Either as I was putting the pill in or as as he closed his mouth, I heard a cracking sound. And noticed that Leo's jaw now looked crooked. Like his whole lower jaw was pushed slightly over to the right.

I felt sick to my stomach...thinking, "Oh my god, did I just break his jaw?" He began opening his mouth wide and closing it over and over...and then just crouched there looking somewhat dazed.

I could see that his right "fangs" were not sitting right in relation to each other -- they were rubbing against each other. When he opened his mouth, I had a rare clear view inside. Leo's tongue hanging over to the right side, as the tumor has grown upwards into his mouth so much that it pushes his tongue over to sit on the right back teeth. No wonder he hasn't been closing his mouth all the way for weeks.

To cut the drama (and if you were paying attention I did talk about him eating pretty well last night and this morning): I realized I didn't break his jaw. It may be slightly dislocated from the pilling, or maybe it was already slightly crooked earlier in the day and I just didn't notice.

It doesn't seem to be bothering him at this point (although I did catch him doing the wide mouth opening later last night, I haven't seen it this morning.)

When he eats, there are all kinds of clicking and teeth-hitting-each-other noises. It's difficult to watch as he opens his mouth wide to take in a big bite, and then most of the food falls out of his mouth before he can swallow it. I suppose because his tongue isn't in its proper position it is harder for him to use it to get the food down. Plus, when food gets into the pouch that the tumor has created on the left side of his face, he has to stop eating and rub his paw on the side of his face to push the food out.

Too sad. But he still has the will and the energy to try to keep eating and still maintains his daily routine, so I will continue to let him live his life.

But it's getting harder and harder to watch. And that's the real ugly.

Leo, as I write...this is where he spends his mornings enjoying the warmth of the sun.

His afternoon hangout


Blogger Merujo said...

I hope you, Leo & Co. have a very peaceful, relatively healthy week. Normally, I check here every day, and I'll be thinking of you guys while I'm out of Internet range for the next 10 days or so.

I'll have a few tuna sandwiches on vacation in Leo's honor. :-)

6/16/2006 12:06 PM  

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