I feel horrible.
About two and a half years ago, another client of my wonderful vet brought in a cat that had been abandoned by a moving family. She fed the cat, but eventually realized the cat needed something stable. My vet took her in and asked if I would take her into our rescue. Of course, I said yes.
Patches was already spayed, but she was then fully tested, received a thorough exam, got all her labs done (including a fecal), was de-flea'd, wormed, vaccinated etc. A couple of days later, she was here with 23 other cats doing extremely well. She dealt with the onslaught of new felines and canines like a champ and settled in right away, as expected. She had done very well at the vet, so we knew she'd adjust quickly. Patches was very behaviorally stable and just a super cat. A ten on a ten scale.
I changed foods. No change. After one or two more started showing the symptoms, I knew something was very seriously wrong and re-tested about three or four of the cats--the worst ones. Again, nothing. At. All.
My vet then decided to test for tritrich (TRITRICHOMONAS FOETUS) [pdf], a nasty, nasty intestinal parasite that cannot be found in typical lab tests requiring, rather, a specialized test which she ordered. Sure enough. We tested three or four cats and they all had it. it was then that my life went to hell in a hand bag for about two years. Actually, closer to two and a half years.
Tritrich is treated with a human drug and its use for this purpose is off label, but it is the only thing that works. It was clear that we were going to have to treat ALL the cats in the house as it is highly contagious through contact with feces, particularly wet feces and boy, did I have plenty of those.
The treatment, using Ronidazole, toxic to humans, is 14 days administered once daily, dosage by weight. Side effects include potential neurological damage. From disease expert Dr. Jody Gookin, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine:
Toxicity data have not been published for this drug in cats. However, neurotoxicity has occurred in some cats treated with Ronidazole. Signs of toxicity include lethargy, inappetence, ataxia (drunken-like behavior), or seizures. These generally resolve if the drug is withdrawn immediately, but can last 1-2 weeks and may require costly and intensive emergency veterinary care. Cats need to be monitored closely while receiving Ronidazole. Signs of neurotoxicity may be easier to spot if the treated cat is engaged each day in a playful activity (e.g. laser pointer) that requires coordination and agility. If symptoms of toxicity are observed, owners must resist the temptation to continue/complete treatment with Ronidazole. Even after Ronidazole is stopped the symptoms of neurotoxicity may continue to worsen for the next few days before slowly subsiding. Continuing treatment after signs of toxicity are observed will be very dangerous and life threatening to your cat.I moved the first half, 12 of the worst, of the cats to the vet for an extended stay and treatment. After approximately a year, when ALL of their stools were acceptable, we retested using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. They were all clean. Any cats needing any additional vetting at that time received it (vaccs, dentals, whatever), and returned home the SAME day the next 12 left to avoid any cross contamination.
Ronidazole is not FDA approved for use in companion animals. It is currently banned for use in food-producing animals in countries outside of the United States due to human hazards. Due diligence is required for protection of humans from exposure to Ronidazole and veterinarians are advised to obtain informed consent prior to use of this drug in cats.
I also threw out all the cat boxes, soaked all the cat scoops in a veterinary solution, and onward we went. Patches had normal stool through all of this. She was one of the few cats that NEVER had runny, volcano-like, horribly smelling poop. And of the second twelve, when tested, she was the ONLY cat remaining positive.
It is almost a certainty that she brought it into the cattery with her. I have now changed the protocols to include a PCR test on EVERY cat that comes in. I don't think I could go through this again. It was extremely hard on me and through all this, my mom, who passed away last December 27th, was increasingly falling into the depths of dementia and eventually, psychosis. This whole two year period was absolute hell.
And of course, most of the cats that this affected were part of the nasty 24 cat/kitten hoarder rescue I wrote about, in part, here. I almost feel cursed.
During this time, I went to the vet daily to care for my cats which were individually housed in a back section of the veterinary office. My vet insisted this be done at the clinic because of the chance of reaction to the drug and because there were so many cats involved. Eventually, I began working for the vet.
Just a bit less than two and a half years and about $20K after this began, 11 of the group II cats returned home leaving only Patches at the vet. When she finally cleared her PCR test, she was given a dental and vaccines, again, and brought home. And I stopped driving to the vet every single day of the week. I finally uploaded her photos and description, again, on my rescue site to find an adopter.
This eventuality just played out about a month ago.
I quickly put the ten rescue dogs (which were everywhere) in crates, threw on some jeans, grabbed my keys and very, very gently and carefully wrapped a semi-conscious Patches in a blanket and ran for the car. I drove like a maniac.
Patches had two more seizures--very bad ones--on the way to the vet and died before I got there. I looked at the car clock. It was exactly noon.
I am at a loss and completely crushed.
I have not talked to the vet yet about this, but I am almost certain that the treatment she received for tri trich had nothing to do with her condition given so much time has elapsed. She had been eating a little lighter recently, but nothing to be concerned about and nothing else seemed unusual. Seizures can come from a billion things.
I was supposed to attend an "end of the world" party tonight, ironically, but I called and explained I would not be there. I had ordered a lot of food to take as the entire street is being blocked off for the event. They agreed to pick it up for me and I will repay them. The party hosts, my very best and very long time friends, are animal lovers and know just how I feel. I just am not up for a loud and raucous night.
I will curl up with the dogs and cats in bed and marvel at how quickly life changes for us all. End of the world, or not.
RIP little Patch. I did the best I could. Walk peacefully in the tall grass and say hello to those who have gone before. We love you.