Pet Emergency Preparedness

Pet Emergency Preparedness (2)

Ozzy Goes Where Red Goes

Our power went out for a few hours on July 3 after a nasty storm blew through. Because Moose has a heart issue, we decided to leave the house so that he could be in air conditioning. We loaded up Moose and his brother Red for company, and ran some errands with them until the electricity was restored. I knew from experience that power outages are infrequent in our area, and that time without power would be minimal. As for the other fur kids without health issues, the house was comfortable, so we felt safe leaving them at home. Rest assured, had we thought the house was too uncomfortable, we would have left with everybody.

This ordeal had me thinking about pet emergency preparedness. What if we lived in an area prone to natural disasters? If we had to get out fast with the animals, what would we bring? The following is what I would bring for my own pets.

Vaccination Records. My animals are up-to-date on their vaccines, including some that may be considered optional, such as the kennel cough vaccine. That is sometimes required at boarding facilities, and you never know when you may have to put your dog in such a place in an emergency. Cats may also be required to have certain vaccinations.

Carrier/Leash/Identification. Sturdy carriers are a must for cats and small dogs, as well as for small pets like our bunny. Our parakeet Priscilla has a cage that can be lifted out of its stand and be transported. All my fur kids have their own carrier, because even the best of friends can lash out when stressed. (Photo disclaimer: Ozzy voluntarily walked into the crates with the dogs. He was only in them long enough for a quick photo before being ushered out). The dogs have secure collars and leashes, and are microchipped, because identification tags can fall off collars, making it more difficult to be reunited with you should you become separated. Our cats wear breakaway collars and are microchipped, too.

Plastic Bags/Disposable Litter Pan/Litter. I would bring plastic bags for doggie cleanup, and disposable litter pans and litter for the cats. Should we wind up at a hotel, or a family member or friend’s place, they will appreciate our cats having their own spot to eliminate.

Medications. As of now, Red would need his anti-anxiety medication, and Moose needs his heart prescription. I would also bring their chondroitin/glucosamine supplement, and heartworm preventative.

Food/Water/Bowls. I can’t forget the obvious.

Blanket/Toys. If we have the room, my pets would probably enjoy having their favorite blanket or toy with them. They will be stressed, too, and something familiar to them may bring them some comfort. I can count on bringing a stuffed ring, elephant, and platypus for Red.

Everyone’s list will be different, and mine is far from exhaustive, but these are just some items that I would bring for my own animals in the event of an emergency. Use your judgment for your own animals.

Pet Emergency Preparedness (1)

Ozzy Shares Moose’s Crate

Shattered

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I could barely see anything through the stinging haze of my tears, as I slid into the passenger seat of my vehicle. The radio turned on as the engine started, and I didn’t think it was possible to cry any harder than I already was. Slaughter’s “Fly to the Angels” filled my ears, and I switched it off with a trembling hand. How apropos. Now sitting in the shadow of my vet’s office, only moments before, I sent my beloved cat Ozzy to fly to the angels.

Ozzy had been chronically ill 11 of his 14 years. Through it all he stayed the same gentle soul everyone loved; from several medical interventions peppered throughout the years, to his strict medication and prescription food regimen, he was always a happy guy.

Nothing got my boy down. That’s why it was strange in the weeks leading up to his death, that he fought me when I tried to medicate him. I asked him if he was trying to tell me that he was done with it all. He just looked at me with his usual expression, always appearing to smile.

When he showed signs of illness soon after, I didn’t think much about it. Surely it was another setback and he would bounce back from the vet, as good as he could possibly be. As my better half secured him in his carrier for the trip to the doc, I assured my boy he would be home soon. Little did I know one of the last things I told my baby was a lie.

The baby vet called with a diagnosis that I was not expecting. I say baby vet because she was new, and not one of the two senior vets that I normally dealt with. Ozzy had end stage renal failure, with maybe a week left. My heart broke in a million pieces. Is this really the end? Despair turned to anger when baby vet said that his kidney values were normal in December, but now (June) they were awful. Did he get into anything he shouldn’t have? It took every ounce of strength not to scream, “Are you kidding me?” into the phone. Eleven years of enemas, xrays, MRIs, hospitalizations, prescription food, and medication from various places. Again, are you kidding me? Most likely several years of meds took their toll on his kidneys. It was a double-edged sword, if it weren’t for them he would have been euthanized at age 3 at the suggestion of our prior vet. He made it to 14, much longer than was expected.

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We were given the option to bring him home (our regular vet would later tell us that was not possible), or give him another day of fluids to see how he responded. We made the difficult decision to euthanize him.

When the techs brought him to us, one glance at him told us it was time. He looked so tired, he’d had enough, and he had been trying to tell me. It was heart wrenching. My boy needed the gift of peace, but it was painful. I told him how much I loved him, and what a good boy he was, and how I tried for so long to keep this day from coming. I begged his forgiveness, his fur damp with my salty tears. I told him I wanted to stay with him until the end, but I was a coward and could not. (It’s the same with humans, I don’t get the point of viewings. I want to remember the person alive, not dead in a box).

Fortunately my petsitter and dear friend held him as he took his last breath while I sobbed outside the building. She told me he was at peace, and had closed his green eyes. I will be forever grateful to her for staying with him. All I could say between heaving sobs was, “my baby is gone.”

I have to believe that a Rainbow Bridge does exist. I told Ozzy when I get there I will look for him first. My boy was deservedly at rest, but where did that leave me? Shattered.

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To Ozzy, with Love

When we moved into our house with our cranky tabby Annie, it wasn’t long before I wanted to add a second cat to the family. By then Annie was three, and her personality was set. We thought bringing home a kitten would bring out her softer side, assuming she had one. We couldn’t have been more wrong. It turned out that Annie had the maternal instincts of Joan Crawford.

We acquired Ozzy in much the same way we did Annie. It was another unplanned litter, this time the mother cat belonging to someone working temporarily in my office. This person lived on the street behind our house, and one day brought over two kittens for me to choose from. Their mother was a Russian Blue, and their father a tabby. Both kittens were male, with handsome dark gray coats, one solid and the other with marble stripes. I sat on the floor, the solid boy aloof while the other was more curious, climbing on my lap. He was adorable and I was smitten. I chose the tabby-striped kitten, and because the owner had more kittens at home that looked like him, we put a drop of nail polish on his body to be sure I would get the right little guy when they were old enough to go to new homes.

Ozzy as a Kitten

Ozzy as a Kitten

When that day finally arrived, Annie was less than thrilled. She showed him no kindness, the only thing she wanted to show him was the door. She puffed up to twice her size and must have resembled a tiger to tiny Ozzy, who tried his best to puff up and look formidable. Their meeting can be compared to the scene in Jaws when Quint crushes the beer can and Hooper responds by crushing the paper cup. They hissed and cursed each other and with one quick swipe from the aggressive female, Ozzy was down the stairs.

I guess Annie didn’t expect her kid brother to ever grow. Eventually his 18 pounds eclipsed her 14 pounds, and her bullying wasn’t as effective. To this day he will instigate her into a reaction by getting close to her, almost purring, “I’m not touching you.”

Ozzy was a happy, robust cat until he was about three years old. He was having difficulty using the litterbox and appeared to be in distress. The vet took x-rays and saw that he was backed up. The vet performed a procedure to unclog him, but the issue became a chronic condition. He was going to the vet weekly, still unable to use the litterbox with any regularity. Ozzy was finally diagnosed with chronic constipation due to a low-functioning colon. This vet put him on two medications, a stool softener and a motility drug for his colon. We had hope that this would put an end to the problem, but unfortunately, it didn’t. We tried other ideas suggested by our vet, but nothing worked. When holistic methods failed, our vet told us there was nothing that could be done for him. Without saying it, the vet indicated that euthanasia was looking like our only option.

We sought a second opinion with another practice who is now our current vet. They kept our kitty on the same two medications, but added a low residue prescription food. He now had a food that produced less waste, a med to soften what waste he did produce, and other med to help him pass the waste. This combination saved his life, and we follow this regimen 10 years later.

All was well with Ozzy for quite a long time until one day I received a phone call from my mom, who was babysitting our animals. She was very upset, our laidback, loveable boy was howling at her whenever she went near him. Something was very wrong.

Back to the vet we went for more tests. It wasn’t until he had an MRI did we uncover the newest issue—inflammatory bowel disease. We were devastated, this guy has gone through so much, and now another medical problem. We were prescribed prednisone for this condition, which he continues to take.

Ozzy is a lovable lap cat. He is laid back, and never put up a fuss through any of the procedures he endured. From blood draws, enemas, x-rays, and MRIs, he took it all in stride, his sweet personality never changing. It’s a shame such a sweet cat had to suffer so much.

Ozzy has lived with chronic constipation and inflammatory bowel disease for years. He also suffers from arthritis for which we give a supplement, and occasional bouts of vertigo. We had no idea cats could have vertigo, and we were certain that trip to the vet would uncover something horrible like a brain tumor.

Ozzy will turn 14 on December 18, 2015. We have had 11 more years with him than we had expected. His food and medications to keep him with us may cost the equivalent of a car payment, but our little man is more than worth it. I know one day his conditions are likely to take their toll on him, and he may get other problems due to all the long-term medications. We will lose him one day, we’ve come close several times, and we will be devastated. Every day he is still with us as a blessing. I love you, Ozzy.

Ozzy-2015

Ozzy-2015