Oliver update

Well, we spent a lot of time this weekend figuring out what was wrong with Oliver. The end result is he’s not attacking himself anymore, and seems pretty OK for now. But here’s the full story…

On Friday evening we took him to the same vet who treated him for his cut three weeks ago. We hadn’t really had a chance to shop around for a vet in Whitby yet (when you have five cats, it pays to get the best deal) but we’d been here before so it seemed like the best option, plus it is a cat-only vet office.

So we took him in, explained to the vet what was going on with him. The first thing the vet asked us was if he had fleas. Now Sandy and I are not dumb and we’ve both seen what a flea infestation on a cat looks like and how to spot them. None of our cats have fleas. The vet didn’t really seem to believe us.

We told her he was attacking his rear end and tail. She took him away for a few minutes and checked out his rear end and its environs for a minute. Up until this point he hadn’t freaked out at the vet yet, he was just acting normal. When she came back she said that he seemed to react when she prodded his hip joint, so she suspected there was something wrong with that. She gave him a shot of anti-inflammatory drugs and gave us a few more pills of the stuff to give him over the weekend. She advised us to keep him confined to a room over the weekend so that he would get some rest and not give the others any fleas. She was so stuck on the flea theory that she insisted we leave the office with a box of Advantage flea control stuff, so that if we found any fleas on the other cats we could treat them. She said if the shot didn’t stop him from attacking himself we should take him to the emergency clinic the next day to get some X-Rays done to rule out any hip problems. They said that their office didn’t have enough time to do it the next day.

So we went home and confined him to our small bathroom, along with food, water, and a litter box. Now, cats may be solitary creatures at heart but our cats like to see each other and do not like to be separated. While he was in there he was clearly freaking out and attacking himself – he was even louder though! Soon though we left to go see the last Erin Smith Band show. When we came home he obviously wanted to get out of there, but we were following the vet’s advice.

The next morning (Saturday) I got up and checked on him. I swear, our bathroom looked like a horror movie scene: there was blood all over the toilet, walls, litter box, floor, everywhere, and Oliver was in the middle desparately trying to get around me and out the door, to the freedom of the rest of the house. I grabbed him and checked him over for any cuts or damage: the only thing was his tail, which he must have shredded: the tip had obviously bled quite a bit and was still red-tipped. I couldn’t bear to keep him in there anymore and I took him out, and just stayed with him around the house for a while, petting him so that he didn’t attack himself.

By this point I was feeling really bad for him. I called the emergency clinic about getting the X-Rays, but the price they gave me over the phone was insane. We looked in the phone book and found another vet closeby, that was open all weekend.

On Saturday afternoon we took him over to Thickson Road Pet Hospital. By this time we’d decided we were looking for a second opinion. We saw the vet and once again Oliver was acting normally at the vet’s office. He was so normal I said to Sandy maybe we should move here, because Oliver was so happy. We once again explained to another vet the whole situation, what he was doing to himself and what the other vet had told us and the result of her “treatment”. She heard us out, examined Oliver a bit, went away and then came back with her diagnosis.

Her opinion was that he had a condition (the official name of it escapes me now) where a buildup of anxiety could be released by certain triggers or stimulus. It all fit together: he had hurt himself, and then right afterwards we left him for two weeks. The vet thought that he was probably most afraid of being left alone, which made sense to use because he would sometimes go into the basement and then cry for us to find him, plus separating him from everyone last night had only made things worse! The treatment for this condition are anti-anxiety drugs and mood stabilizers, similar to what is prescribed to people for manic depression. Even with this diagnosis, we decided to do a bunch of tests to rule out anything else that may have been causing his behaviour. We had to leave him at the vet’s office for the rest of the afternoon.

When we came back to pick him up he was sedated (for the X-Rays). The vet said that he had had a few episodes of attacking himself before they sedated him for the X-Rays, so they had seen first-hand what we were talking about. His X-Rays were perfect: no problems with his hips or anywhere else. (It was really cool for me to see what was inside him, I’d never seen a cat X-Ray before). We’ll have to wait until Tuesday to get the results of the blood tests but we started him on some drugs immediately. He’ll be taking two drugs for a week, after which the main drug will be in effect and we can stop giving him the other one.

Sunday morning we gave him his first dose of pheno-barbitol. Overnight he was still groggy from the vet’s office and hadn’t attacked himself at all. After we gave him his pill, he was pretty out of it: he spent basicially the whole day just sitting by the sliding door, mostly asleep. Still, he wasn’t attacking himself so that was a good thing. Later on he perked up a bit and we spent some quality time together. In the evening we were to give him another dose of pheno-barbitol but we only gave him half a pill this time (the vet said we could do this if he was too groggy with a whole one). He was a bit more active but really, really mellow.

A nice touch was that on Sunday the pet hospital called us to see how he was doing! I talked to one of their assistants and they said that they were all worried about him and wanted to know how he was doing on the treatment. It was really nice to hear that they cared! That’s why I’m linking to them: if you live in Whitby I’d highly suggest Dr. Jones at the Thickson Road Pet Hospital.

So where do we go from here? Once we get him off of the pheno-barbitol and onto the other drug, I’m hoping he’ll be more alert but with less anxiety. I don’t want to have to medicate him for the rest of his life… I hope deep down that this was just an episode triggered by some bad circumstances.


One reply

  1. Wow, that’s scary! I didn’t know cats could have psychological problems… Glad he’s doing better, but I’d be interested to know if it was really all in his head, or if it was more a result of his physical probs…