Maxwell Chronicles (Part II)

Maxwell living his very best life ever

Living with a Maxwell here at the adorable house of misfits has been a whirlwind of emotions and overall trial and error on things to best help Maxwell thrive. After hearing from various veterinary professionals and pet parents alike on what Maxwell’s official diagnosis was I finally decided to end the debate and scheduled Maxwell to see the neurology department at Akron (Ohio) MedVet.

Being someone in the veterinary field who handles curbside appointments daily I can tell you that it was a very humbling experience and reminded me to be patient and compassionate and reminded myself that despite not being allowed to go inside with Maxwell the staff, technicians and doctor’s treated him with kindness, compassion and respect (and they absolutely did! I cannot thank Akron MedVet enough!).

On the “other side” of the appointment for a change; Curbside appointments

The neurologist stated that (among other things) Maxwell has multiple limb deformities along with kyphosis of the thoracic limb region with potential hemivertebra but she reminded me that with the “right family ANY pet can thrive!” and she is absolutely right.

I am unsure why I so badly wanted an official title for what was up with Maxwell, maybe it was because I felt if “it” had a name then I would know better what to expect maybe — but much with life there is no true preparation and we just all have to “roll with the tide” whatever or where ever that may take us!

Examples of the different “types” of back issues dogs can experience

  • Kyphosis is a type of spinal deformity similar to scoliosis the difference is that scoliosis is a lateral (side to side) curvature of the spine whereas kyphosis is a posterior (up and down) curvature of the spine, specifically in the upper, or cervical, portion of the spine.
  • This curvature can cause nerve damage, which is the reason behind many, if not all, of the symptoms presented. 

  • In older dogs, the condition can be caused by trauma (like a spinal fracture) or wear-and-tear on the spine (which could lead to arthritis or osteoporosis). 
  • In younger dogs (less than 1 year old), the condition is most likely congenital, meaning it was inherited by the individual at birth, as was the case for Olivia, so this is the type of kyphosis of focus throughout this website. 
  • If you suspect your dog’s kyphosis was inherited, it is important to get in contact with his/her breeder (if possible) to let them know. They will want to make sure to not keep breeding your dog’s biological mother/father so as to stop these defective genes from passing on to any more offspring

Some of the signs/symptoms MAY include:

  • Atrophy (loss of muscle tone in affected areas)
  • Loss of sensation
  • Incontinence (loss of control over bladder/bowel )
  • pain
  • wobbliness
  • weakness in the back legs
  • walking differently
  • signs of muscle wastage in the back legs
  • an abnormally shaped back

Regions of the spine
Example of hemivertebra (left) and a normal vertebra (right)
09/2021 XRady of Maxwells Spine (lateral view)

Is the future scary? Absolutely it is! But I would feel the future as scary regardless if Maxwell was in our life or not! I am unsure what the future holds for Maxwell but I know one thing for sure: He is going to live a safe, happy & loving life with myself and the rest of the adorable house of misfits!

“Four-On-The-Floor” Rule!

One of the “rules” that I heard upon adopting Bifford was “four-on-the-floor” and all I could think is “what the he!! does that even mean!?” But it makes sense when handling a cerebellar hypoplasia animal and one of the various ways you can ensure their safety!

Cat’s usually have no issues with landing on their feet when they jump down onto the floor but CH pet parents know that this is usually not the case with cerebellar hypoplasia animals.

The rule of thumb “four-on-the-floor” is an effective and friendly reminder to new pet parents, friends & family members to place a CH pet gently onto the ground while properly ensuring all four of their paws are planted firmly on the ground before letting go of them.

Note: This does NOT promise that they will not fall/stumble over but will help ensure they do not fall/stagger from a distance!

Most pet parents (or humans in general!) know that generally cats can jump from a distance onto the ground and land successfully on their feet without issue. This is NOT the case with cerebellar hypoplasia animals and if someone was to let a CH pet jump from a distance this could result in injury to your special baby (or injury to you attempting to catch a falling pet, get caught by a claw etc.!)

“Four-on-the-floor” is a safe, effective and cute way to remember that CH pets need a little assistance when being placed on the floor!

So remember to “PLANT THOSE PAWS” on the ground!

Pet Insurance & CH Pets

We have received lots of messages pertaining to cerebellar hypoplasia pets & pet insurance and unfortunately we have not been able to find a pet insurance that would cover “CH” pets! Below is listed a chart courtesy of DVM360 that shows the top pet insurance companies and breaks down the “dirty details” of each insurance company.

Upon speaking to one of the pet insurance companies “Figo Pet Insurance” I kindly asked them to specify their “pre-existing policy” and how this pertains to cerebellar hypoplasia pets.

“Cerebellar hypoplasia will be considered a pre-existing condition even though the pet is born with it unless it happens to not show signs or symptoms until after the pet has a policy. The earliest you can insure a pet is 8 weeks old and we have a 14 day waiting period for illnesses. In order for the cerebellar hypoplasia to be covered, there would need to not be any signs or symptoms until the pet was at least 10 weeks old…”

I then asked Figo Pet insurance about “accidents or illnesses” [Figo Pet Insurance states that you can still get pet insurance for a CH pet BUT any illnesses/injuries that could be related to CH would NOT be covered by pet insurance] so I asked them to clarify that.


“We base all coverage off of the medical records your veterinarian provides. With CH the coverage will heavily depend on if your veterinarian feels the accident or illness is related to the CH. For example, if your vet states “CH caused pet to fall over and break tooth” it would be considered due to a pre-existing condition. If your vet states that there is a broken tooth and does not consider it due to the pre-existing CH then it could be covered
We could also offer coverage for other accidents or illnesses that your vet deems unrelated to the CH like urinary issues, allergies, diabetes, or cancers…”

So the jury is still out on pet insurance! In our opinion we feel that the pet insurance companies will try to connect any injury/illness to CH (thus the pet insurance not covering the bill for!) so personally we feel it is not worth having your CH baby on pet insurance but always stress to do your homework! If you are looking into insurance for your CH pet contact them directly and ask questions pertaining strictly to cerebellar hypoplasia!

We recommend looking into Care Credit (www.carecredit.com) which is sort of like a credit card that you can only use at the veterinarian’s office (or you can personally use it also! I recently used my care credit at the dentist office!)

Building a Cat Wheelchair

This cat wheelchair is for all the kitty cats out there in the world who are missing one or both of their hind legs, or for those with crippled or paralyzed hind legs. Our goal was to build a wheelchair, for disabled cats, that is just as effective, and more affordable than other wheelchairs on the market. Many cat wheelchairs on the market can cost upwards of one hundred dollars. Ours cost us around twenty dollars.

Materials

  • PVC Pipe
  • Cat Harness
  • PVC Cutter
  • PVC Cement
  • Bolt and washers
  • Wheels
  • Drill Foam
  • Sweatshirt String

Build Steps

  1. First cut two 15 inch pieces of PVC pipe.
  2. Cut PVC pipes to a height of 9 inch (including the 90 degree t-junction)
  3. Connect your pipes to form a U shape
  4. Cut the height pieces to 1.5 inch length and add the new connector pieces for the cat to rest it’s back legs.
  5. Cut axle shield 6 inches
  6. Insert bolts in the hole of the axle and apply necessary amount of washers to those bolts
  7. Drill a small hole into the sides -1/2 in back from front- and dremel the hole to the desired width
  8. Connect axle shield and t-junctions to the U shaped pieces from earlier
  9. Take wheels and screw them onto the bolts
  10. Place cat in harness
  11. Route sweatshirt string through cat harness and run through holes drilled in step 7
  12. Have fun with your little critter and his new found freedom

Life is Mysterious

I would like to believe that I am not so cynical to not believe in signs from above but this one, this one was so blatantly obvious that one could not help but NOT ignore it.

I lost my best friend, my light of my life, my “reason” on Monday 01/25/2021 and to say that I was handling it poorly was an understatement. I was on “autopilot”, masking my utter sadness and heartbreak behind a false smile and felt so incomplete that I felt would be permanent and just simply “who I was” from now on.

Until Monday 03/08/2021.

I heard commotion in my veterinary clinic I work for with my name coming up several times (which peaked my interest) as I saw a small crowd circling something … something tiny. I as made my way into the small group of women I saw him… meet Maxwell Walker (Maxwell after The Beatle’s song “Maxwell Silver Hammer”) an eight week old pug puppy (though the doctors suspect he may be younger) who is a “swimmer puppy”.

Swimmer Puppy Syndrome is a developmental deformity that results in a puppy having a flattened thorax/chest. They may have mobility issues that with physical therapy can be (for the most part) corrected it just takes a lot of patience and humility.

Meet Max:

Max will never replace Maggie ever and in fact he may be nothing like Maggie which I accept and understand also (I used to often joke that I wasn’t a “pug person” but I was an avid “Maggie person”) but I can only hope that somewhere tucked deep inside that tiny little pug puppy is a quality or two that Maggie had for so long – that patience, that calmness and most of all affection.

I know it will take time for Max to grow on me (frankly he’s creeping into my ❤️) and it will take even more time to work on getting him to use his back legs and be more mobile (without my assistance).

If you’ve been wondering why the site and our social media platforms went on a short, short sabbatical it’s because of this little dude. We’re working with him constantly as far as physical therapy, hydrotherapy, puzzles and exercise regularly (in addition to trying to potty train) as well as care for the other part of the crew has managed to occupy the rest of my day (happily of course!).

Please be patient with us as we work to find a happy medium between Maxwell and the rest of the day’s agendas — I promise we will return with gusto! Stay tuned folks!

Meow as Fluff – Bart!

A very special THANK YOU to our friends over at Meow as Fluff for showing off another beloved favorite in our adorable house of misfits — Bart! You can check our pal Caitlin and the rest of the Meow as Fluff family by going here.

When Suzi Langer’s friend, who was working at a veterinary hospital near her home in Youngstown, Ohio, told her about Taloola and Bart, a pair of sick kittens who had recently arrived at the clinic, she and her husband Michael volunteered to foster them. “A good Samaritan found these two kittens alone with severe upper respiratory infections — a female calico and a domestic short-haired black male, about 12 weeks old,” remembers Suzi. Sadly, Bart’s upper respiratory infection was so severe and had gone untreated for so long, his left eye had ruptured and his right eye had suffered severe corneal scarring, leaving him only able to see light and shapes.

The black kitten also had a broken back leg, most likely due to being attacked by another animal before he was rescued, and he had a hernia that required treatment. While a lot of people might have been reluctant to foster a cat with so many different medical issues, Suzi and Michael had three special needs pets at the time — including a Rat Terrier with epilepsy, a deaf Pug with bladder cancer, and a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia — so they welcomed Bart and his sister Taloola into their home in July 2017. “Bart was — at best — leery of people,” says Suzi, so after he was neutered and had his hernia repaired and his ruptured eye removed, she and her husband gave the skittish black cat plenty of time and space to adjust to his new environment. “For the first few months Bart was a ghost in our home — his presence lingered but you never saw him.”

Over time, Bart eventually started to trust his foster parents, but in November 2017, Suzi learned the veterinary clinic would no longer be providing him with free medical care, claiming he was a financial risk. “I knew what that meant,” says Suzi. “He was a not nice, not really cute, extremely shy black cat with vision issues. In their eyes he was the least desirable cat to anyone and thus not worthy of proper medical attention.”

Suzi knew Bart needed an advocate who would make sure he received the care and treatment he deserved, so she and her husband adopted him! Shortly after adopting Bart, Suzi, who works at a vet’s office, had her employer remove a piece of gauze that had been accidentally left behind by the previous vet when he had his left eye removed. “They reopened his eye to remove the offending material and flush it out,” explains Suzi, “and ever since then Bart has not had any issues with sneezing or constant discharge.”

Nearly four years later, Bart is in good health, and while he’s unable to see very well, he’s an extremely active cat! In fact, this handsome one-eyed cat loves racing around his home, but because of his vision issues, Suzi and Michael try not to change the layout of their house. “Every so often when Bart is rushing about he will run into things,” says Suzi, “and we make it a courteous point to not rearrange the furniture.”

While Bart is much healthier today than he was when he first arrived at Suzi and Michael’s home, the biggest change has been in his personality. Initially, Bart, who had a difficult life on the streets before he was rescued, was easily frightened and incredibly shy, but over the past few years, he has blossomed in his forever home. “We gave Bart his space and slowly but surely he began to trust us,” says Suzi, “and now he is the most cuddly, sweet, affectionate and ornery little boy — and we wouldn’t have it any other way!”

By sharing Bart’s story, Suzi hopes other people will consider fostering and adopting cats who are often overlooked for a variety of factors, including age, appearance, temperament, and health issues. Even though they might take a little more time and energy, Suzi believes special cats like Bart are definitely worth the extra effort! “If we would have given up on Bart early on we would have never been introduced to his bubbly amazing personality that came later on with his confidence after finally feeling better,” explains Suzi.

When Suzi and her husband offered to foster Bart more than four years ago, they only planned to care for him until he was healthy enough to find a forever home. However, after just a matter of months, they knew Bart was meant to spend his life with them, and now Suzi and Michael can’t imagine their family without this special boy. “Bart has evened our home out in such a beautiful and poetic way,” says Suzi. “He is affectionate, adventurous, clown-like and never passes up the opportunity to ‘give up the belly,’ which is his way of showing his love and affection to us!”

Five “Silent Killers” of Cats

Dr. Justine A. Lee, DVM, www.pethealthnetwork.com

5

When it comes to caring for your cat, I have a few simple recommendations:

  • Maintain a safe environment (keep him indoors)
  • Feed a high quality food (e.g., a meat-based protein)
  • Think about preventive care (e.g., an annual physical examination, laboratory tests, and the appropriate vaccines)
  • Provide lots of affection and exercise

By following these basic tips, you can help keep your four-legged, feline friends healthy–potentially for decades! But as cat guardians, you should also be aware of five “silent” killers in cats. By knowing what the most common silent killers are, you can know what clinical signs to look for. With most of these diseases, the sooner the clinical signs are recognized, the sooner we veterinarians can treat.

1. Chronic kidney disease
One of the top silent killers of cats is chronic kidney disease (CKD) (This is sometimes called chronic renal failure or chronic kidney injury). These terms are all semantically the same, and basically mean that 75% of both the kidneys are ineffective and not working. Clinical signs of CRD include:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive urinating
  • Larger clumps in the litter box
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath (due to toxins building up in the blood and causing ulcers in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach)
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding

Thankfully, with appropriate management, cats can live with CKD for years (unlike dogs where CKD usually progresses more rapidly). Chronic management may include a low-protein diet, frequent blood work, increasing water intake (e.g., with a water fountain or by feeding a grueled canned food), medications and even fluids under the skin (which many pet guardians do at home, once properly trained).



Tri-colored cat looking up

2. Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is an endocrine disease where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This is seen in middle-aged to geriatric cats, and can result in very similar clinical signs to chronic kidney disease including:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased water consumption/urination
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Weight loss

However, as hyperthyroidism increases the metabolism of cats, it causes one defining sign: a ravenous appetite despite weight loss. It can also result in:

  • A racing heart rate
  • Severe hypertension (resulting in acute blood loss, neurologic signs, or even a clot or stroke)
  • Secondary organ injury (e.g., a heart murmur or changes to the kidney)

Thankfully, treatment for hyperthyroidism is very effective and includes either a medication (called methimazole, surgical removal of the thyroid glands (less commonly done), a special prescription diet called y/d® Feline Thyroid Health), or I131 radioiodine therapy. With hyperthyroidism, the sooner you treat it, the less potential side effects or organ damage will occur in your cat.



Big cat on couch

3. Diabetes mellitus
Another costly, silent killer that affects cats is diabetes mellitus (DM). As many of our cats are often overweight to obese, they are at a greater risk for DM. With diabetes, the pancreas fails to secrete adequate amounts of insulin (Type I DM) or there is resistance to insulin (Type II DM). Insulin is a natural hormone that drives sugar (i.e., blood glucose) into the cells. As a result of the cells starving for glucose, the body makes more and more glucose, causing hyperglycemia (i.e., a high blood sugar) and many of the clinical signs seen with DM. Common clinical signs for DM are similar to those of Chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroidism and include:

  • Excessive urination and thirst
  • Larger clumps in the litter box
  • An overweight or obese body condition with muscle wasting (especially over the spine or back) or weight loss
  • A decreased or ravenous appetite
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal breath (e.g., acetone breath)
  • Walking abnormally (e.g., lower to the ground)

Treatment for DM can be costly, as it requires twice-a-day insulin injections that you have to give under the skin. It also requires changes in diet (to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet), frequent blood glucose monitoring, and frequent veterinary visits. With supportive care and chronic management, cats can do reasonably well; however, once diabetic complications develop (e.g., diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar, hyperglycemic syndrome), DM can be life threatening. 



Ragdoll with flowers

4. Cardiac disease
Heart disease is very frustrating for both cat owners and veterinarians. That’s because, while dogs almost always have a loud heart murmur (i.e., one we can hear with our stethoscope) indicative of heart disease, cats often don’t have a heart murmur present. In fact, it’s estimated that 50% of cats with heart disease have no auscultable heart murmur. Clinical signs of heart disease include:

  • A heart murmur
  • An abnormal heart rhythm (e.g., an abnormal beat and rhythm)
  • A racing heart rate
  • Collapse
  • Passing out (e.g., syncope)
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue-tinged gums
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Acute, sudden paralysis (e.g., typically of the hind limbs)
  • Cold, painful hind limbs
  • Sudden pain
  • Sudden lameness
  • Sudden death

Once cardiac disease is diagnosed (typically based on physical exam, chest radiographs, Cardiopet® proBNP Test, and an ultrasound of the heart called an “echocardiogram”), treatment may include emergency care for oxygen therapy, diuretics, blood pressure support, and heart medications. Long-term prognosis is poor, as the heart medication does not cure the heart disease; it prevents cardiac disease from getting worse. The exception is when cardiac disease is caused by hyperthyroidism, which often gets better once the hyperthyroidism is treated!



Bengal laying down

5. Cancer
As dogs and cats live longer, we as veterinarians are seeing more cases of cancer. The most common type of cancer in cats is gastrointestinal cancer, often due to lymphosarcoma. Clinical signs of cancer include:

  • Weight loss
  • Not eating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal distension or bloating
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Fever
  • Generalized malaise

Once diagnosed, the prognosis for cancer is poor. For this reason, the sooner you notice clinical signs, the sooner diagnosis and treatment may be initiated.
Note that there are other common emergencies that can cause death in cats, including trauma, urinary obstructions, poisonings, and more. When in doubt, to keep your cat safe, follow these 5 simple tips:

  1. Keep your cat indoors to prevent any trauma (e.g., being hit by a car, attacked by a dog, accidentally poisoned, etc.)
  2. Make sure to keep your cat’s weight down – this can help prevent costly problems due to obesity such as diabetes down the line.
  3. Make sure to schedule your annual visit with your veterinarian. This is especially important as we can pick up on physical abnormalities sooner. Note that even if your cat is indoors, she still needs an annual exam; you may be able to skip some of the vaccines (and schedule them to every third year instead) but don’t skip on the exam!
  4. Keep the litter box clean. While this sounds simple, frequent and daily cleaning of the box is a must. Not only will this alert you to life-threatening emergencies like feline urethral obstructions, but it’ll make you aware if your cat is urinating more or less than usual — and help you pick up medical problems sooner!
  5. Seek veterinary attention as soon as you notice any clinical signs – not months after your cat has been urinating and drinking excessively!

When it comes to your cat’s health, make sure you’re aware of these common silent killers. The sooner you notice the signs, the sooner we can run blood work and diagnose the medical problem. The sooner we diagnose the problem, the sooner we can treat it!

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.