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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

What a Beautiful Day! Hope for Stimpy!!

I don't care how cold it is, or how mild. Whether the sun is shining, or it's raining, makes no difference to me. No, today is a beautiful day to me because I have hope. I am madly in love with my two ferrets, and one of them has been sick for a long time. We've been trying to find out what's wrong with him, which isn't very easy with an animal that only weighs 2 pounds. It's been a couple of years now, trying to get him diagnosed, and since his symptoms were so ambiguous it's been a difficult and expensive road.

He was originally presumed to have adrenal disease, despite the fact that he suffered no hair loss, because I've always been careful to keep my home dark for him (light triggers the pituitary gland, which is part of the cycle causing adrenal disease symptoms). My vet assumed his symptoms had been abated by my careful handling of him. He'd had x-rays and there were no blockages, his blood work was fine, and he seemed okay for the most part.

I put him on melatonin every day to help regulate his hormones. Then he started to get sick, trying to throw up (ferrets almost never throw up - it's almost impossible for them, though it happens occasionally). I thought it was the melatonin, so I took him off it. That didn't work, so I changed his food. He's been on the newer food ever since then, and it made no difference.

I brought him to a new vet a few months ago. She checked him, suggested an x-ray and blood work once I could afford to do it. She thought one of his kidneys was enlarged a bit at the time, and wasn't where it should have been, but it didn't seem particularly urgent. Suddenly Stimpy's kidneys both got so large I could feel them. I took him back in and she said it was most likely either a kidney infection or cancer.

The vet gave me a good antibiotic that works on most infections, and off we went, hoping the antibiotic would do the trick. It didn't, and he hated the taste of it. She said I should see vast improvement within a few days. After a week he wasn't any better, and he was miserable when I tried to give it to him, so we both agreed he should be taken off the antibiotic. If it was cancer, which was the most likely scenario, there was no point in forcing him to take the medication and making his life miserable.

It was at this point that my vet and I talked about when the time would be right to euthanize Stimpy. If you've been following my blog, you'll already know about the criteria I was planning to base my decision on. If there came a time when he was no longer getting enjoyment out of life, I would let him go, and I felt he would be the one to tell me he was ready to go. If he stopped eating and drinking altogether, and made no effort to live, it would be a decision I would respect.

My vet's opinion, knowing my financial situation isn't particularly strong at the moment, was that to do further diagnostic tests would most likely just tell us what we already thought we knew, and that they weren't going to help Stimpy get better. If it's cancer in his kidneys, chemotherapy was not likely to be an option considering how hard it is on kidneys.

Still, Stimpy has been holding on, wanting to live. He hasn't given up, so I couldn't either. I decided that I would go ahead with the additional x-rays and blood tests, because I just had to know, and today was that day. As much as I caution myself that it may come to nothing, the x-rays provided a ray of hope. His kidneys are, indeed, swollen. Twice their normal size, actually. However, there are no obvious masses showing up on the x-rays, and his spleen looks perfectly normal. It's possible, if he has tumours, that they're in the kidneys themselves, showing on the x-rays as regular tissue. It's the lack of splenic swelling that the vet said was very odd if it was cancer. So, it's now gone back to the possibility of a kidney infection.

Since Stimpy has already been on antibiotics, however, if it is an infection that means it's an antibiotic-resistant infection. It looks like I'll be doing some research into other drugs today, or alternative treatments for infections. I won't know until Thursday what the blood work has to say. If it's cancer, there's nothing that can be done with his specific set of circumstances. If it's not, he's not going to be any worse off having to wait for treatment for an extra day or two.

It would probably be best if I didn't get my hopes up, but I'm going to anyway. If nothing else I'll have a couple of days where I can look at him and think that just maybe he's not going to die right away, and that I might actually have him with me for a couple more years. Maybe I won't have to make the decision to euthanize him. I don't know about you, but I'll take the hope.