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Struggling to breath Shamu was rushed to emergency services. He was placed on oxygen and tested by their cardio department. The news wasn't great, Shamu had serious heart disease. They weren't even sure if he would make it through the night. By morning they did a trial of being off oxygen and they were thrilled with the result. You were so surprised and joyous when we received the call we could come pick him up that day! He looked great, back to his normal self. He began his medications right away to prevent fluid build up.
About two weeks later he met with his wonderful cardiologist. After several tests, including ultrasound she diagnosed him with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). While a very serious heart condition there was some hope of medical management. the expected life span could be three months to possibly a year. We knew with his age he likely only had a few months. Several more meds were added to his daily regimen. Shamu, the stubborn boy he is, wasn't crazy about this. Pilling was impossible. No matter how we tried he always found a way to spit the pill out. Having to have several at a time and knowing his life depends on it we got a bit more creative. We found crushing and mixing them with a little water was more bearable. This worked for a while until Shamu again built up fluid and ended back in emergency care. This became a bit of a routine over the next few months, frequent emergency visits and meds either added or adjusted. Most of the medications were easy, but because they caused loss of potassium he was also placed on a potassium supplement. Starting with just 2 pills a day, the dose increased over time. It is the only one he truly doesn't care. As more tabs were added, it was suggested to decrease the amount we could try a salt substitute. We were excited about the smaller dosing but Shamu spit out more than he would swallow the first time we tried to give it to him. So a volunteer decided to taste a tad. The look on their face was enough to tell us we absolutely would not expect this of Shamu. So again we had to get even more creative. We found dosing smaller amounts more often mixed with just a tad of sodium free flavoring made it much more tolerable.
Many might think, this all sounds so awful, that poor kitty. Yes, it is truly sad Shamu has a serious health condition, but many pets require medications and medical management. The most important thing for any pet is their quality of life. And boy, does Shamu love life! In fact, while he may not be crazy about his meds and vet appointments, he takes it all in stride. Over the last few months working with him we've seem him blossom every day. When he first arrive with us he really just slept and kept to himself. The change in him has been so dramatic. He has a little girlfriend he loves to talk to and you can often see him following her around. He now greets us at the door (of course he expects us to pop a can the second we walk in). He now follows us around constantly curious to what we are up to. And if it's time for a little nap he'll curl up close by. He has a favorite scratching post ramp he goes crazy on, he gets so excited he moves it across the room. He loves to nap in the sunny window and should another kitty take his place, he'll just sit there giving them the evil eye until they move. We hide a few kitty nip sticks in his favorite place and his nightly routine is to go and get his kitty fix, rubbing all over. He's completely spoiled and while we would prefer him on a rather high quality diet, we let him choose what he wants to eat. Sometime the little devil makes us open five cans until he's satisfied and he does the same with his treats. Of course, we feed him on demand. And because he prefers small meals that is often hourly. Keeping his weight up is crucial so we are more than happy to oblige.
He is one amazing old boy. A true fighter he's outlived our expectations and we hope he'll stay with us a bit longer. While we get attached to every pet under our care, Shamu has formed a very close bond with us. Likely due to all the extra efforts of our loving care givers. We can now sense his moods and comfort levels as if he is speaking to us. This is crucial to ensure he is happy and content for as long as he wishes to stay with us. We've been truly blessed to share this experience with him and be able to be right by his side until it is time for him to go.
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