Poor Charlie… he’s had a hard time recently, having to have an operation at the vet during the UK lockdown. We now know how veterinary practices are operating during the coronavirus pandemic and we also learned how to give an angry cat his medication.
I remember when the lockdown happened, I looked at Charlie and thought, I hope you don’t want to go to the vet soon. Well… it was as if I had given him an excellent idea.
Our holiday had been cancelled and I had started working from home while my boyfriend was furloughed. One evening I was just finishing work when Charlie came up to remind me it was dinner time. He kept shaking his head and making a clicking sound. I watched him thinking it was just a one off but he kept clicking and clicking all evening. I started to get concerned, especially when he just took himself off after dinner to be alone.
The next morning Charlie didn’t wake us up for his breakfast and I knew then that something must be dreadfully wrong. He’s never late for breakfast! After frantic googling I diagnosed kidney failure and decided he had hours to live. My boyfriend was a lot calmer and told me he had noticed Charlie’s breath had started to smell. It could just be a decaying tooth. Seeing as he was clearly the calmest adult in the house, he agreed to call the vet.
Initially, we were given a time to have a telephone consultation with the vet. I was particularly confused at this point and started to prepare Charlie for a video conference call, until my boyfriend explained that it would just be a phone call between him and the vet. They both agreed over the phone that it was worth Charlie coming in due to his change in behaviour.
Charlie was then driven to the vets. The new procedure involved handing his cage over to staff in the car park to reduce the likelihood of anyone contracting coronavirus. My boyfriend had to sit in the car park waiting for him. At least it was a sunny day! The vet returned with Charlie and told us he had Stomatitis. She explained that this is where there is severe inflammation in the gums due to an allergic reaction in the plaque around the teeth. She said that if left untreated, it could start to affect Charlie’s immune system.
Although Stomatitis can never be completely gotten rid of, the vet explained that we had a couple of options to manage it. One option would be to keep Charlie on steroids for the rest of his life which, although works for most cats, can lead to an earlier onset of diabetes. The other option would be to remove all the teeth in infected areas. The vet said this would give a cat the best possible chance of recovery and was what she would do in our position.
Although I had been expecting a far worse diagnosis, I was still shocked that Charlie was so ill and how rapidly it had all seemed to happen. It got me thinking back to see if I could remember any other unusual behaviour that indicated this was about to happen. Annoyingly, cats are masters of covering up pain. This is due to their natural instinct that they will be vulnerable to predators if they show weakness. Thinking back though, I had remembered that Socks’s play fighting in the mornings had become much more aggressive over the past few weeks. She was becoming particularly confident and jabbing him in the face with her paws. Perhaps she thought she could get away with more while Charlie was in pain!
Charlie had also stopped meowing so much and stopped accepting ‘mega head fusses’, preferring his back being done instead. My sister had also noticed he didn’t act as much like the usual ambassador of the house when visitors arrived and had taken himself away from everyone upstairs on her last few visits, which was unusual for him. With these signs being so subtle, no wonder we didn’t have a clue he was in pain!
We chose option 2 and booked him in for the operation to have his teeth removed. We were given an estimate of £500 for the surgery but it could be more if additional teeth were taken out. It was a horrible decision to make and a date was set for four days later. And so it happened that whilst everyone else was thinking about the virus, our thoughts were only on Charlie.
Find out what happened to Charlie next here.
P.S. thank you to everyone who is working hard during the coronavirus outbreak to ensure essential services can continue.
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