Gifts Not Asked For Parts IV & V and Plague-ridden Editorial Department

Most of the editors in my office have been laid low by a cold bug, including me (*sniffle cough*). No doubt Hobkin feels more chipper than I do right now, but does he get me soup? …’Course, his idea of comfort food is mealworms and crickets so that’s probably just as well.

In other news, Part IV: Temple of Mau and Part V: Healer’s Gift (conclusion) of “Gifts Not Asked For” is out in the January ’10 issue of Bards and Sages Quarterly (I somehow missed when this issue came out originally). I’m also doing a week-long author Q&A on the Bards & Sages discussion forum during the week of 2/22. Be sure to swing by!

Hobkin Update: Good weekend

Had a quiet weekend, most of it spent napping with Hobkin on the couch. Such a contrast to last weekend. Feels both like that was such a long time ago and that it wasn’t.

Hobkin is back to his normal diet of veggies, yogurt, and cottage cheese with the addition of a couple crickets to make pill-giving easier and a couple dollops of whipped cream, ditto easier meds. I continue to be worried about his hind leg, but it doesn’t appear to be hurting him, which is the important thing.

The vet gave us buprenor as a pain reliever for his tooth extraction, and I’m hereby bestowing “wonder drug” status upon it. The tooth doesn’t bother him at all while he’s on it, although he does seem to find it uncomfortable when he’s not. (Which we discovered when I botched the Saturday giving of it. Hobkin wasn’t quite asleep when I went to squirt it in his mouth. He turned his head, and the couch got most of the dose. But I was afraid to give him a second dose ’cause I knew some of it had gotten into him, and I was worried I could OD him.)

Matthew’s going to ask the vet if we can get another couple doses.

A very big Thank You to britzkrieg for dropping by on Saturday PM with Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. You’re an absolute sweetheart, and the cheesecake was wonderful!

Hobkin Update: Why I Overslept This Morning

Thank you, everyone, for the outpouring of support and sympathy. I’ve taken strength from the knowledge that so many people have been pulling for Hobkin during these past couple weeks.

Hobkin had another good night, and this one was without any furosemide. The vet told us to take him off it as it seems that his heart meds (pimobendan and enalapril) are effective enough for now to keep the fluid from building up in his lungs. Of course, we’re to put him right back on the furosemide if he starts having breathing problems again.

His hind legs are still weak, particularly his right one, but I found discussion on several veterinary sites about how dilated cardiomyopathy frequently causes blood clots to form that often lodge in the primary artery of the abdomen, blocking the blood supply to the rear legs and tail. This starves the muscles of the legs and tail of oxygen, causing them to become limp, resembling spinal cord damage and/or paralysis. Haven’t been able to find much discussion about what to do about this, although they say that the clots usually dissolve slowly, returning limb function.

He’s also off the lactulose, the prednisolone, and the cephalex (which we couldn’t get him to take anyway), but we’ve added Metacam (an NSAID) and buprenor (an opiate) for pain management. Seems that while Hobkin was under for the ultrasound, the vet went ahead and pulled the tooth we were worried about. Apparently the root was rotting.

I’m glad to have that taken care of but concerned about having added another complication to Hobkin’s recovery. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to be in much pain. He ate dinner without any hesitation, although he was a little restless during the night. Skunks don’t seem to be the most forthcoming about expressing pain, so I’m not sure if the restlessness was just his energy coming back (yay!) or a sign of discomfort (wah).

He also woke up at 4AM, thereby waking me up. Concerned he might be hurting, I offered him a light snack to see if he had an appetite. He did, but only for blueberries and mealworms. After his snack, Hobkin curled up in a pile of blankets in his area. I fell back asleep at 5 and subsequently slept through my wake-up alarm.

Sigh.

Had fosteronfilm drive me into work in the mad hope that I could make it on time. Mad hope dashed. We passed no fewer than three accidents on the way to the capitol, which of course ground traffic to a standstill.

Glad the weekend is almost here. Also glad my office and co-workers are really understanding about pet issues. Especially since I just had the courage to add up all the vet bills we’ve accumulated. Over $3000 and counting. Ouch.

Hobkin Update: Ultrasound Diagnosis – Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Heard back from Matthew. Hobkin’s ultrasound procedure is over, he’s awake and alert, and I can breathe again.

The good news is that the spot they saw in his lungs is gone now and his kidneys seem fine. The bad news is that he has dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a disease where the heart is enlarged and the walls of it have subsequently thinned.

Hobkin’s long-term life expectancy isn’t good. The disease is fatal. However, he may still have some quality time left with us. The vet couldn’t give us a precise estimate; he said anywhere from days to months.

He’s already on the meds he needs to be on—pimobendan, furosemide, and enalapril—and will be on for the rest of his life. My preliminary research has come up with a couple additional treatments (i.e., taurine and L-carnitine supplements) which I’ll want to bring up with the vet as well.

Finally having a proper diagnosis eases some of the helpless frustration I’ve felt this last week, but knowing that Hobkin is indeed dying makes me anguished and tearful. I am grateful that it seems likely we’ll have some time left with him, just not as much as I wish we had.

Hobkin Update: Second Good Night in a Row and Ultrasound Day

Hobkin had another good night with no breathing problems and no need for oxygen as well as a good appetite.


Napping nestled in bed.

So today he goes in for an ultrasound and needle biopsy. They’ll be putting him under for much longer than they did to draw his blood the other day, which has me quite anxious. We’ve asked them to ultrasound his kidneys as well. I’ve been doing a lot of research, and I think it’s very likely that Hobkin has, and has had for a while, chronic kidney disease–which I believe is the likely ’cause of his pneumonia. I’d really like to have that confirmed as well as get an indicator of what stage he’s at. But of course that would also mean he’d have to be under for longer. The vet said they’d see how he was doing and if he was doing well enough, they’d include the kidneys.

More waiting. Trying to remember to breathe.

Hobkin Update: Another trip to the vet and a LOT of meds

Had the first full night of sleep in a week last night. Matthew took Hobkin back to the vet’s who administered another Lasix injection yesterday. By the time I got home, Hobkin was downright frisky. And hungry. Devoured cottage cheese, veggies, blueberries, and several med-stuffed crickets.

Which brings us to the next development. The blood work was inconclusive. His white blood count is fine, his tooth appeared non-problematic, and he’s never manifested a fever through this, so it’s looking less likely that it’s an infection–which I guess is probably for the best right now ’cause the antibiotic is the only med we can’t seem to get him to take. However, his kidneys are showing some distress, which could be due to his sickness as much as the cause of it.

That places us back into the brainstorming and conjecture realm. The vet speculated that it could be his heart. He’s due to go in for an ultrasound and needle biopsy of the spot they saw on his lung in his x-rays tomorrow, but only if we can get him strong enough for the procedure since it involves a much longer period of having to be under anesthesia, not to mention a needle in his chest.

So we’re upping his furosemide dose and adding pimobendan and enalapril for his heart, metronidazole to treat his kidney, and lactulose for ammonia in his digestive tract (to ward off an apparently common side effect). He’s also been switched to cephalex as his antibiotic, but so far we can’t get that into him. Otherwise, the pills, including the metronidazole which we have been cautioned tastes as bad as anything is possible to taste, have gone down easily, either crushed and mixed in whipped cream or stuffed into a cricket. I’m a little concerned about over-medicating him, but we’re running out of options.

So it’s all about the waiting and seeing now. But Hobkin looked the best he’s looked since this started last night and hasn’t needed oxygen at all since he got back from the vet’s. And his breathing was regular this morning. He wasn’t as hungry, but he did eat some cottage cheese, blueberries, and bugs (the breakfast of champions) before I had to head to work.

Waiting is.

Hobkin Update: Another Downswing

Hobkin’s breathing has continued to get worse again. He’s wheezing and each breath is labored, and his appetite has fallen back to accepting only crickets and mealworms. We’ve put him back on continuous oxygen therapy. I gave him an early dose of furosemide (Lasix) last night, and I plan to administer subcutaneous fluids before I have to leave for work.

We’re going through cycles of aggressively treating the fluid in his lungs with intensive meds at the vet’s until he starts recovering, bringing him home to recuperate, seeming to be on the mend, and the fluid building up again. We need to find and treat the cause of the fluid build-up in order for him to get better, and we need to do that before his strength gives out.

Discovered that Hobkin still has all his teeth. Since the vet was only going to pull the one tooth if it was an easy and quick extraction, I have to assume it was neither. He didn’t actually give Matthew a post-procedure rundown so I don’t even know if Hobkin’s tooth was all that bad. Apparently the vet office had a staff meeting right afterward, so the vet wasn’t available for consultation. I find that quite frustrating.

Hobkin has a follow-up appointment on Thursday. I assume the vet plans to tell us what he thought of the tooth then, but Hobkin’s not going to make it that long without another Lasix injection, preferably later this morning. The unspoken assumption was that the results from his blood work would be discussed then, too, but I’m hoping they’ll be available before then. Also, the new antibiotic they prescribed for Hobkin tastes vile and Hobkin won’t take it, even if it’s doused in whipped cream. Need to find out if the pill form is any better and small enough to conceal in a cricket (that actually works with the furosemide tablets–and I’m so glad about that I don’t even care about the eww factor). If not, I’m hoping they’ll allow us to administer it as an injection at home. But they won’t give us the furosemide in injection form for home use. FDA regulations. I’m also concerned about having to give Hobkin so much furosemide. It can cause an electrolyte imbalance, especially with Hobkin not eating properly, and they’ve also got him on prednisolone. And corticosteroids can cause an additive potassium-depletion effect in combination with furosemide. And while I can help offset that with subcutaneous fluids, the fluids that I’m injecting may just end up building up in Hobkin’s lungs.

I haven’t been able to sleep at all tonight. Worry and fear and stress don’t make for peaceful slumber. Hobkin is curled up in my lap right now. He’s so beautiful. His coat is thick and lush and soft beyond belief. When I hold him in my arms, it’s like cuddling the warmest, softest stuffed animal in the world, but even better, ’cause the stuffed animal cuddles and loves me back. I’ve been watching him and listening to his breathing get more labored and the occasional wheezes in his chest become louder and more frequent. I look at him, my beautiful Hobkin, and I can’t understand how he can be sick. And I listen to the small, distressed sounds he makes with every breath, and it breaks my heart.

Hobkin Update: At the Vet’s, a Scary Decision

Matthew phoned. He’s at the vet’s with Hobkin. The vet says that one of his lungs is clear and the other is very good. And that he only needs oxygen therapy for support rather than round-the-clock. He’s been downright feisty there, which is a great sign.

But now they want to anesthetize him so they can draw some blood to run tests on. They also want to see if they can pull a tooth while he’s out. This is the tooth that we were planning on having them look at next month, before all this happened.

My first impulse was to have them wait a couple days for him to get stronger, but the vet is concerned that we don’t know what’s causing his pneumonia and he might not get better and could get worse in a couple days unless we can treat the cause–especially since his last UTI was resistant to Amoxycillin (which he’s on now). And that the tooth might be the root of it all.

We decided to go ahead and have them draw his blood, and if his tooth is loose enough for the vet to pull out “with his fingers” to go ahead and do it. But putting Hobkin under is so risky. I am, once again, terrified.

O gods and spirits who watch over little animals, please, please let us have made the right call on this.

[Edit: Matthew just called. Don't know if they pulled Hobkin's tooth or not, but he is now waking up from the anesthesia, and Matthew knew I'd want to know immediately. I'm so relieved, I'm shaking.]

Hobkin Update: Another quiet night, promising signs

Another quiet night. Hobkin’s breathing still remains clear, but it’s a little harder than it was at its best yesterday. So brought his oxygen up to 1.5 lit/min. He’s also sneezing/coughing less, and–OMG frabjous day–his appetite is returning. Got him to eat egg and yogurt, peanuts, blueberries and watermelon, and some veggies–although he still needs a jump start with crickets and mealworms. Hey, anything that works. Have also started adding Pedialyte to his meals. Was encouraged enough by his appetite that I decided not to give him another shot of subcutaneous fluids this AM.

Need to go back to work today. Hope fosteronfilm can manage without me. And please, please let Hobkin keep getting better.

Hobkin Update: Stable, Subcutaneous Fluids, Sneezing

Had a quiet night. The best kind of night in the world. Set an alarm to wake me every two hours so I could offer Hobkin some food and see how his appetite was. Normally didn’t need to wait for the alarm to go off, as Hobkin would wake up and try to get down off me to use the litter pan at around the 1hr 45min mark, which woke me up anyway. Feel a great empathy and appreciation for parents of newborn infants. Don’t know how they can survive this sort of sleep schedule for months.

Hobkin’s appetite is still way down, which is worrisome but totally understandable. However, I’ve been able to coax him to munch a few mealworms or crickets or peanuts throughout the night, and he’s readily taking his meds infused in whipped cream. I also just administered 150ml of subcutaneous fluids to him, so he should be hydrated.

The so-good-I’m-trying-not-to-overreact news is that I think his breathing is back to normal. Possibly a little harder than usual, but so much better than Friday night/Saturday morning that it’s nearly unbelievable. He has started having sneezing/coughing fits—little bursts of 5-7 sneezes/coughs in a row—which I don’t know how to feel about. Is he just clearing the last fluid from his lungs? Or is it indicative of a problem? As long as he’s breathing well and seems comfortable, not going to fret about it and will bring it up with the vet tomorrow. Also been gradually dialing down the oxygen throughout the night from 4 liters/minute to 1 liter/minute.

What I am really worried about is that he suddenly started displaying severe hind leg weakness last night to the point where he can barely walk a couple steps without flopping or wobbling over. He’s a senior skunk and this has been very hard on him, and he already suffers from arthritis, but this looks like what some of our ferrets experienced when they had cancer. Not a lot I can do about it right now since our total focus must be on getting him over his pneumonia, but it’s worrisome.