Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cat Nutrition

An anonymous commenter who is obviously very well informed about cat nutrition left a great comment on my last post. Cat nutrition is near and dear to my heart after I lost my first cat to cancer at a rather young age after following the vet's advice, and then having two cats with inflammatory bowel disease, one very severe, that the vet could not help and gave me terrible advice for. I began to realize that American cats and dogs are very, very unhealthy. They suffer from obesity, diabetes, thyroid issues, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more. Pets in many western European nations do not suffer these maladies nearly as much. Why? The answer was easy: DIET.

When was the last time you saw a cat harvest some grain, cook it and eat it? Or go pick a potato and eat it? Yet grains are a leading ingredient in most cat foods. Cats are not designed to drink a lot of water either, yet dry kibble requires massive amounts of water in order for it to be digested. Dry kibble is the absolute worse thing you can feed a cat. It's like you eating dry macaroni and cheese right out of the box.

So, what did I do? Research. And tons of it. I've been making my own cat food for many years now, using the raw food recipe found at My cat with severe inflammatory bowel disease was cured after four days on the raw food for the rest of her life. Henry gained weight and maintained it for the first time ever once I got him wholly on the raw food diet. Canned cat food has a LOT of water in it. So much water that Henry couldn't eat enough to get enough calories to grow.

Cats have a very short digestive tract, like sharks. However, cats require high quality protein. They aren't scavengers, they are hunters! Animals with short digestive tracts aren't designed to digest grains and vegetable matter, which requires a long time in the intestines to digest. Ever wonder why cows have three stomachs? That's what it takes to digest grass.

So, with Henry recently, I had a terrible dilemma. He was throwing up over 12 times per day, despite the fact that I was feeding him top-quality food and keeping him hydrated. Ten days passed. What I didn't know, what that his pneumonia was so bad that his fluid was going straight to his lungs to try and keep the infected secretions loose enough to allow him to breathe. Once they dry out, it's like having cement in the lungs. The vet never brought up nutrition and with Apple so recently out of surgery and needy, I was using up a lot of my own brain cells. Finally, Henry had three feet and a tail through death's door. I also saw his x-ray, with contrast, and finally saw how huge an esophagus he actually has. It's larger than his stomach and has displaced his trachea. The vet also said his neutrophils were in the 4000 range, indicating something dreadful, like cancer, but I've had cats with cancer and they don't get to the state Henry was in without starting to lay in cold lonely places and have no appetite. I didn't believe the vet, but I wondered if I should euthanize him since he was unable to keep anything down. His eyes followed my every move. Big round beseeching eyes. I could feel him saying, "Do something!" Even as weak as he was, he followed me around, teetering on his skinny legs. This wasn't a cat that was ready to die. Turns out the vet also read the machine wrong about the neutrophils. What it really was was new blood cells, very immature, trying to replace the ones being lost to fighting the pneumonia, but I didn't find this out for several days. I just knew he didn't have cancer or any other dreaded disease.

I prayed. I didn't want to lose him, yet I didn't want him to suffer. I prayed to know if he should live or die and if he lived, what should I do to heal him. Suddenly, it came to me that he was starving to death. Of course he's not responding to the antibiotic for the pneumonia, he hasn't got anything in his body to heal with. But he couldn't hold down any protein and he couldn't eat any carbohydrates, which would ferment in his stomach, if they stayed down long enough, then he'd vomit anyway. I got online and starting doing research and I was truly inspired as I'd prayed to be.

I knew that carbohydrates digest the fastest and easiest. I chose the simplest carb: Glucose. I looked up the ratio of water, sugar and salt and added it to the proper amount of water, but I boiled a tiny amount of white rice in the water first and strained it out in order to get even more carbohydrate into him. I wasn't sure about the rice water, but I kept remembering and hearing my grandmother's voice saying, "Rice strengthens the blood." Since she was 1/2 Japanese and had the gift of healing, I knew I needed to heed this inspiration. I started with 1/2 tsp. in a syringe every 30 minutes. He kept it down. I increased the amount slowly to 1 tbs. He kept it down. After 6 hours, the life was returning to his body. I still did subcutaneous Ringers Lactate Solution, which kept him hydrated, but didn't provide any nutrition. I also gave him an injected anti-emetic that worked on neural pathways in the brain, but didn't stop him from vomiting if I fed him even the tiniest amount of baby food chicken. His Reglan wasn't helping so I stopped it and realized I had Domperidone, so used it instead. Still no bowel sounds, still throwing up if I gave him even the tiniest amount of babyfood meat, but he kept down the glucose solution. What next? What's the most perfect protein? Egg yolks! I started with 1/8 tsp. egg yolk in 1/2 tbs. glucose solution. He kept it down and became voracious for it. Every 30 minutes he got some. He kept it down, going from vomiting 12+ times per day to 3 then 2 times per day. Day after day he ate like this. He stopped losing weight. But the breathing difficulty remained. He was still in perilous condition.

I read up on feline pneumonia. I learned a lot. He needed lots and lots of fluid to help his lungs. He needed moist air. Above all else, don't let the lungs get dry! Then, coupage. Pat his lungs, like burping a baby, to loosen the secretions so he could cough them up and also keep them from accumulating in one area of the lungs. Keep changing his position so the fluid doesn't accumulate in the same area of the lungs. Let him exercise as much as he can, again to encourage the draining of the lungs.

All the while he's been on two antibiotics. So, as I fed him, I added probiotics and feline digestive enzymes to his glucose solution. By now he was eating several egg yolks per day, little by little every 30 minutes or so. Days passed. Still no bowel sounds. Finally, improvement. He started holding down the raw catfood I made, pureed to a mousse-like consistency with the glucose solution in my Vitamix blender. He started asking for his Reglan. He knows where it is and how to ask for it. I gave it to him. His gut turned on and I heard those sweet gurgles and blurps I call his aliens. Glorious bowel sounds! His digestive tract was working. After another few days, I saw him poop. I knew he had to have been because he wasn't getting distended, but to see it was confirmation that the tract from his "eater" to his "pooper" was finally working.

Then his breathing got worse. He looked like a fish out of water. He was nutritionally stable, now it was time to attack the pneumonia. Last Wednesday he stayed at the vet for awhile in the oxygen tent having an inhaled antibiotic treatment. Finally, yesterday, as I mentioned in my last post, he started getting the gunk up from his lungs.

March 20th is when I returned from Apple's surgery trip to find Henry in dire condition, followed by 10 days of him vomiting every single thing he tried to eat, to the fact that he is now recovering. He is still very ill, but he's improving every day. He even jumped up on my back tonight and rested his head on my shoulder when I was on the floor changing Apple. He's my little miracle man. My daughters get to witness this miracle. Love, prayer, using one's brain to figure it all out, nurturing, patience, gentleness, love, healing, thankfulness, more love. Apple imitates my every move with Henry. She pets him so gently with her casts on. Sissy and Blossom are amazed. Especially, Blossom who saw me seek out more information to learn more about how to help heal a cat, to gain knowledge when she thinks adults already know everything. Jie Jie expects me to be able to take care of anything medical, but she also says the sweetest prayers for Henry to get better. The faith of all my girls will be strengthened as their prayers are answered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More Henry advice:

Henry will be happier, and your finances will be healthier, if you do the oxygen tent thing at home. You can pick up a used oxygen concentrator on Craigslist (continuous flow type) and use plastic sheeting to create a tent in one of Henry's favorite spots (I put one under my bed), or a movable tent with plastic sheeting over a metal cage-type dog crate, leaving a flap so he can come and go as he pleases (e.g. to visit the litterbox, so there doesn't need to be a box inside the tent). My kitty, who needed this due to heart disease, quickly learned to go there on his own when he needed it, even if it had been several months since the last time he needed it. Sometimes one of his kitty friends would join him in there for a bit. Much, much nicer than the oxygen cage at the vet hospital!

In my experience, putting the concentrator on the highest setting, and using an enclosure anywhere between 5-10 cubic feet will produce an appropriate concentration of oxygen. I bought a portable tester, but you really can manage without that -- the concentration doesn't need to be precise. You can get a long piece of aquarium pump tubing (much cheaper than medical grade oxygen tubing, just watch out for kinks) and put a cut-off plastic bottle on the end to create a sort of face-mask that you can lay in front of kitty's face when he's napping -- this way you can move the oxygen around easily without having to move the whole machine.

I'm not sure where you live, but I seem to recall a mention of LA at some point, so did a quick Craigslist search there and found plenty of concentrators. This one is the model I have (Respironics Everflo): This model (and probably most models) includes a water bottle that you can run the oxygen through to humidify it.