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Athena: (Almost) Halfway There

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Phew! This should be my last Athena-centric post for a little bit. I look forward to some variety in my writing again, despite how proud I am of my recent posts.

This post is an overview of Athena’s first month of treatment. If you haven’t already, I suggest reading my post on her first week of treatment. If you want to dive deep into her story, check out her tag page.

Like the first week post, this one and future monthly updates will be in a journal-esque format. I intend to only touch on major/important events and updates, rather than what happens each day as I did in the first week post.

Week 2

January 1 (Day 9): Athena’s temperature was at the high end of normal — 102.0° F.

January 2 (Day 10): Athena’s temperature was right at the edge of the normal range at 102.5° F. On a recommendation from a member of the FIP Warriors’ support group, we tried refrigerating the medication. While doing so didn’t seem to affect the amount of pain from the injection, it seemed to cut the duration of the pain in half. We decided to continue refrigerating the medication.

January 5 (Day 13): As part of the schedule to wean Athena off of her steroid — Prednisolone — we switched to 1ml every other day after the dose on the 5th. I was concerned, based on her temperature the past few days, that it would jump right back up, but she had to come off the steroids eventually.

January 6 (Day 14): Athena weighed in at 6.7 lbs.

Week 3

January 7 (Day 15): After 2 days without steroids, Athena still maintained a normal temperature. I was relieved, as I’d been so sure that she’d spike another fever.

January 8 (Day 16): Athena weighed in at 6.9 lbs. She hit the next threshold, bringing her dosage up to 1.6ml per injection.

January 11 (Day 19): Athena weighed in at 7.03 lbs.

January 13 (Day 21): After a couple of rough shots and additional research, we tried moving the injection sites from the region of her shoulder blades to the area of her lower ribs. This seemed to hurt less, so we continued injections in that area. We also allowed ourselves a little “hooray!” for making it through one quarter of the treatment. If only we could make Athena understand.

Week 4

January 15 (Day 23): Jim got Athena to play some, and she received her last dose of steroids. I’m sure she’ll be happy to be off her “icky.” The injections in the lower rib area still seemed less painful.

January 16 (Day 24): Hoping to further reduce the pain of the injections, we tried using a smaller needle. The ones we’ve been using are 20 gauge (0.908mm diameter), so we tried the 25 gauge (0.515mm diameter) needs we have for Sandy‘s Adaquan injections. Unfortunately, these proved problematic as nearly the entire dose leaked back out of the injection site and we had to reinject. Needless to say, she was not happy, and we didn’t try smaller needles again.

January 17 (Day 25): Since we were down to 5 vials of medication, Jim ordered the next 10. We wanted to allow plenty of overlap in case of shipping delays.

Carry over from previous post$8,968.62
10 vials order$865
Running Total$9,833.62

January 18 (Day 26): Athena weighed in at 7.24 lbs.

January 20 (Day 28): The ordered medicine arrived.

Week 5

January 21 (Day 29): Athena weighed in at 7.34 lbs. She’d hit another threshold, bringing her dosage up to 1.7ml per injection. She played with Jim, then stayed out of her bathroom for a long while without supervision. Too long, we found out. At some point, she peed on the sofa pillow, then migrated to the other end of the sofa. I’ve seen her do the same in our front flower bed when she was an outdoor girl. We’ll have to teach her that the world is not her potty. No matter how cozy she is or lazy she’s feeling, she has to go to the litter box. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to do this?

Still hoping to reduce the pain of her injections, I tried a somewhat different method, using a shallower angle. She’s a bit hard to inject, as she’s gained weight fast enough that she doesn’t have a lot of extra skin. However, this more shallow approach seemed to significantly cut down on the pain.

January 23 (Day 31): Sandy had to go to the vet for some medicine-related bloodwork, so we also had him tested for feline coronavirus (FCoV). Here’s hoping it’s negative. Because Athena’s diarrhea has seriously improved, we switched her to dry food twice a day and wet food once, as opposed to the opposite she’s been used to.

Feline Coronavirus Test$95
Running Total$9,928.62

January 25 (Day 33): Athena had her one-month treatment exam. Her clinical symptoms were gone. As follow-up work, the vet ran a standard complete blood panel (CBC), chemistry panel (CHEM), and a urinalysis, Both the internal medicine specialist and the emergency room vet who managed her case last month were thrilled with her progress. Athena’s teeth, while definitely not good, are not at “medical emergency” levels. Because it’s advised to avoid stress and unnecessary medical procedures while on the FIP treatment, we can’t have her teeth worked on now. We’ll get her a good dental cleaning as soon as her treatment is done and it’s safe to do so.

The shallower injection approach was a major improvement. A couple of times, her only complaint has been related to the needle itself — notably, when it enters her skin. We’re very happy with this and hope that it will reduce her fear and stress at injection times.

Internal Medicine Reassessment$133.55
Follow-Up Lab Work$310.55
US Guided Cystocentesis$23.20
Visit Total$467.30
Running Total$10,395.92

January 27 (Day 35): An important day. We got Sandy’s FCoV results. I thought the test would tell us if he currently has FCoV; unfortunately, this particular test is for antibodies. It was positive, which means at some point in his life, he’s been exposed to FCoV. He could have it now, he could be clear. We also found out there’s neither a treatment nor a cure for FCoV. Given the results and new information, we decided not to test the rest of the boys. We won’t get any useful results.

We also got Athena’s lab results. Except for her globulins, everything of interest was within normal limits. And, according to the vet, her globulins could be elevated because of her tooth problems.

TestResultsRef. rangeUnit
Hematocrit3829 – 48percent
Bilirubin0.10.1-0.4milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
Total Protein8.95.2 – 8.8grams per deciliter (g/dL)
Albumin2.92.5 – 3.9g/dL
Globulins6.02.3 – 5.3g/dL
A/G ratio0.50.35 – 1.5
ALT2810 – 100international units per liter (IU/L)

Athena explored the house in the evening after we finished work. She sniffed around the kitchen cabinets, fridge, and the boys’ feeders. Then, she jumped down onto the sofa in our front room and checked out the floor and furniture. She had a brief, boundary-establishing hissfest with Dante — neither growled nor altered their body language, just hissed gently at each other. That was enough to encourage her to make her way back down to her bathroom.

A little after dinner I brought Athena back out of her bathroom into the basement to check her weight since she’s been eating less. She made her way up onto a ledge from the scale. I encouraged her to make her own way back down, and she seemed rather pleased with herself when she did so and joined me on the sofa.

Jim brought down some brushes and Athena submitted to a nice long brushing session. I got a lot of loose fur off of her, and she must have liked it, because a couple of times when I stopped to clean the brush, she complained. She was so soft and shiny when I finished.

Week 6

January 28 (Day 36): Athena weighed in at 7.6 lbs, her third threshold, bringing her dosage up to 1.8ml per injection. She’s gained a pound in just under a month. That’s 15% of her starting body weight, and 13% of her current weight! Once again, though, she hadn’t finished her dry food. I think she prefers the wet-food-heavy diet. But the dry is better for her. To encourage her to eat, I applied a dose of the appetite stimulant we got after her emergency room visit to SouthPaws.

Unfortunately, in the evening, we discovered an injection sore. They are fairly common during treatment. Per the advice in the FIP Warriors Treatment Guide, we bought some Vetericyn Plus wound and skin care spray from Amazon.

January 29 (Day 37): The Vetericyn arrived in the morning, and we applied it to the sore. Unfortunately for us, Athena was more offended by being sprayed than she is after her shots. She held a grudge against us for a while. She was even unhappy with me when I took her her lunch several hours later. By late afternoon, though (around 7 hours later), she was fine and spent about an hour curled up with Jim on the sofa.

When we sprayed her sore in the evening, we, unfortunately, found three more (which we also sprayed) although one is really small. I felt so bad for her. They don’t seem to hurt, but I’m guessing they’re at least uncomfortable. I hope she doesn’t end up with too many. Or that they go away quickly. Thankfully, she wasn’t as upset with the spray this time. Whether that’s because she was happy it wasn’t an injection, or she realized from the morning that it wasn’t too bad, I can’t say.

Having found out you can give injections further down the side as well — we thought it had to be up near the spine — I tried injecting her further down toward her belly. It seemed like the skin there is more sensitive, as she complained more when the needle touched and pierced her skin, but the medicine was no big deal. She didn’t complain, so the shallow angle is still proving useful.

January 30 (Day 38): We received some information from our FIP Warriors “case worker” that Athena can get her teeth dealt with as early as week 9 of treatment, if her week 8 blood work looks good. Apparently weeks 9 and 10 of treatment are a good time to take care of any major work that can’t wait because there are still three remaining weeks of treatment to help deal with any setbacks caused by stress, but the cats are typically far enough along in their treatment to have reached normal blood work levels.

So, Athena has a dental appointment scheduled for February 20th. Hopefully her week 8 blood work is as good as her week 5 was. That, of course, brings me to the other bit of information I realized from the conversation with our FIP Warriors “case worker.” Blood work is supposed to happen every four weeks, NOT every month. I rescheduled Athena’s appointments accordingly.

Dental Appointment Reservation$120
Running Total$10,515.92

I’m eager to get her teeth taken care of as early as possible to find out if her elevated globulins are due to FIP or the inflammation/irritation of her gums.

We gave Athena her injection further down her side again, which worked well, and made sure to spray her sores. She didn’t complain at all about the spray in the morning or evening, so I’m guessing it must feel good, or, at least, relieve some discomfort.

January 31 (Day 39): I struggled with whether to include this information, but, obviously, ultimately decided it was valuable. Athena struggled so much while giving her her shot in the evening, she actually pulled herself off of the needle.

I felt SO bad, because it caused quite a nick in her skin. I wish I could talk to her, explain that holding still would make everything go faster. We’re going to investigate getting thin-walled needles and see if that helps, because it absolutely broke my heart to know I’d caused an injury, regardless of the fact that I probably couldn’t have done anything to prevent it.

She’s so brave in the face of the pain each night. And she’s so forgiving. We’re lucky that she doesn’t hold it against us like we’ve heard other cats do with their owners. Every morning, she’s just as happy to cuddle into us and get pets. We have an amazing girl.

Thanks for reading to the end, I hope you enjoyed this update on Athena. If you’d like to keep up with her progress, be sure to to subscribe to my blog, check her tag page, or follow the AthenaUpdate hashtag on Instagram.

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