Above: Bun resting with me at home after attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for four days.
When we last left our heroine Bunny Eddington, she was supposedly recovering from a urinary infection and receiving antibiotic injections every morning at our local vet's office. Things were looking up for the young lady, whose pee had returned to its normal color after a scary day of resembling Hawaiian Punch. I made a few dozen cut-out cookies of variety cats and dogs for her doctors to thank them, including this one of Bun.
But on Wednesday night, Bun was yowling and straining at her litter box in a #2 kind of way, and we were starting to wonder if the products we thought she had left behind over the past week were those made by her brother and sister.
I hustled her up to the vet for her routine antibiotics on Thursday morning. Our local animal hospital has a revolving door of doctors, some of them relatively inexperienced, but thanks to the luck of the draw, that day Bun was seen by the head veterinarian, Dr. Birk. She gave Bun her shot and subcutaneous fluids. I told Dr. Birk that I thought Bun was constipated, and after a quick palpitation of Bun's abdomen, Dr. Birk looked alarmed.
"Oh. She is very constipated." This was bad news, she went on to explain, because Bun had just been treated for this at the end of June, staying overnight for half a week as they tried to work out as much of that clog as they could. Repeat constipation like this is a sign of the dreaded megacolon, a disease that manx and other tailless cats can suffer. Basically the large intestine becomes diseased and unable to move things along. Bun's constipation was such that she would be physically unable to pass it through her pelvis. That is, it was bigger than kittens.
Dr. Birk recommended that we take Bun to the emergency room at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, which is only eight miles away from our house, thankfully. Unfortunately, she didn't think they would be able to do much for Bun, but she thought that in taking her there Jeff and I would be able to feel like we were doing all that we could for her.
As Dr. Birk relayed this information, I started to realize that I was getting The Talk or at least The Pre-Talk. She was trying to say in the most humane and gentle way possible that if this situation didn't change soon, maybe we should put Bun out of her misery. I did my best to concentrate on Important Facts For Right Now, such as which U of I office to contact and how we didn't want to wait until the weekend to get her in there, but I broke into a cold sweat, felt faint, and needed to sit down with my head between my knees for a minute. I thanked Dr. Birk, took Bun out to the car, and drove her home in a daze.
By the time I saw Jeff, I was barely able to tell him what was going on before bursting into tears. He took over and set up an appointment for Bun at the U of I, whose doctors would see her within the hour, incredibly. We packed her into her carrier and took off for the hospital.
The University of Illinois is the only school in the state that offers degrees in veterinary medicine, and their teaching hospital is a top-notch, modern facility. We had been there three years ago with a stressed-out Bun, whose bladder had shrunk to the point where it could only hold 2 mililiters of urine. Which is tiny! They took excellent care of her and figured out how to solve her unusual problem.
Upon arrival, we were immediately joined by a vet-med student who took Bun's history, did a general exam, and recorded her symptoms. She left to consult with one of the doctors, a la House, M.D., who joined us after about ten minutes.
"Her bladder is huge!" Bun's beautiful doctor exclaimed, before confirming that she was indeed quite constipated. She ran down a list of tests and procedures they would perform--kindly informing us of all costs along the way, which were considerable. We said okay to everything, signed the necessary forms, and left Bun in her care. The main procedure to remove the mass in her large intestine was a D&C on an anesthesized Bun, i.e. the thing doctors do for abortions, except they were aborting...poop. If I had a dollar for everytime I've said or thought about that word over the past month, I might be able to pay for Bun's vet bills. Otherwise, I could really use a commission here!
By the time we had returned home, Jeff's phone rang. Bun's x-rays revealed that she was housing "an extraordinary amount of fecal material" in her large intestine, and this hugeness may have been crowding her bladder to the point that it was unable to drain. Her case was handed over to Dr. Blake Marcum in intenal medicine. They were unable to do the D&C procedure until Friday morning, but in the meantime they would give Bun laxatives, fluids, enemas, and some medicine for the pain. Our poor girl.
The hospital did a terrific job of keeping in touch with us. Jamie Schwartz, the new student assigned to look after the well-behaved Bun, fell in love with her. She gave Bun plenty of attention and updated us frequently via phone. We later learned that Bun was the only animal her doctor was dealing with that weekend, which made us feel very good about the quality of care she was receiving.
Bun's procedure, which took around two hours, happened on Friday morning. Jeff and I spent a tense day worrying about her and watching the clock. At around 3:30 Jamie called us, saying, "Bunny is awake and doing AWESOME!" She had apparently spent lots of time in Jamie's lap and was purring so loudly that Jamie had trouble hearing Bun's heartbeat. Her doctor removed over a half-pound of fecal material during the procedure, which is the human equivalent of 15+ pounds. (We're still trying to wrap our minds around that one.) They were going to monitor her progress throughout the night. Best of all, they allowed us to visit her the next morning!
We also were able to meet Jamie and Dr. Marcum, who came in holding a towel-wrapped Bun. He put her down on the floor and Bun began walking around the exam room, marking things, coming up to Jeff and me, marking things, saying hi to Jamie, marking things, saying hi to Dr. Marcum, marking things, coming up to Jeff and me. Her right front leg was bandgaged and awkward for her to walk on. Her backside was shaved--full Brazilian--and she had a little sticky stuff in her fur (laxative). There was some smelly anal leakage, which was normal after a procedure like hers, that would hopefully firm up into something more normal within a few days. Dr. Marcum's plan was to manage Bun's condition with a combination of medicine and diet, including a special food he jokingly referred to as "colon blow," which I silently recognized as an obscure SNL reference. He didn't think Bun had megacolon, and if the drugs/food worked out, things could be relatively normal for her.
They wanted Bun to stay until Monday, but we received a call on Sunday morning that Bun was ready to go home early. Jeff and I zoomed up to the hospital and were reunited with a much better-looking Bunny, who was happy to see us and her carrier again.
Jamie and Dr. Marcum victoriously informed us that our kitty had produced some semi-solid stool overnight, which was an excellent sign. Dr. Marcum reviewed Bun's new food and drug regime with Jeff and me as she strutted around the room flirting with everybody, especially her young, smart, and very cool doctor.
We took Bun home with us, fully expecting and dreading anal leakage that never really materialized. She's not out of the woods yet and is being monitored by her local vets this week as she continues to receive daily antibiotic injections. Jeff has been giving her a sticky oral laxitive several times a day that tastes like orange soda (we tried a speck to see if it was awful), along with another oral medication that will encourage her large intestine to move things along. I'm feeding her colon blow and a special wet food that the other cats should not eat and obsessively monitoring her litter box activities. We've had to segregate her from the other cats overnight in order to really know what's going on there, and things are looking pretty good. She dribbles urine every now and then, which is no fun to clean up, but we're managing.
So what was once a medium-maintenance cat is now a high-maintenance cat. My parents very generously offered to help us with her expenses, and I tearfully told them that in doing so they have officially become her godparents. Mom joked, "Umm, I don't know if we want that kind of responsibility..." I've been updating my friends and family about Bun's situation via Facebook and Twitter, and I'd like to thank her many, many well-wishers for their kind words of concern. We live in a county where agriculture is king and animal life is pretty cheap, and many would say that our little scamp is not worth all this trouble. But at the same time many people do get it: pets are family members, and you can't just abandon them when things become difficult.
Jeff and I love our sweet Bun. And it's nice to know that she is no longer full of shit. :)