By Garry White
Well, I’ve worked you to the bone, made you traipse all over the countryside, coerced you into standing up for your rights… now it’s time to relax and have some fun! We’ll begin with this premise: At home and in the absence of a doctor, you are the doctor’s eyes and ears, and a good vet will not only encourage this; he’ll expect it. And for very good reason: Doc sees Fluffy once or twice a year for a few minutes, but you see Fluffy 24-hours a day. He knows more about internal medicine than you do, but you know more about Fluffy than he does…now do you see why it’s so important to have good, solid working relationship with Fluffy’s vet?
Here are the two major subjects we’ll focus on today, and we’ll outline them in reverse order.
Imagine this: You’re suing a contractor because he sold you Tom Hanks’ house from “Money Pit”. Would you walk into court armed only with a useless comment “The place is just awful, your Honor!” and expect to win? Of course not, and neither should you go to the vet with “Sumpin’s wrong with Fluffy, I think”. You’ll be accumulating information that’s critical to Fluffy’s long-term wellness, and if this information is organized properly, you’ll be ready for your “day in court”. Which is every visit to the vet, by the way. Also, you’ll be able to see a potential problem that may be developing between visits…which is our primary goal, right?
3-Ring Binder Setup for Keeping Records
First thing: We’re going to establish Fluffy’s life-portfolio in a 3-ring binder, and here’s the setup that worked for me:
Section-1: Contact information. And I mean a-la-complete, baby! Not just for the clinic itself, but for the vet personally… it may take a little wheedling to get a pager or cellular number, but I’m guessing you’re a world-class wheedler anyway. If the vet has some of the work done in outside labs, or consults with another vet, insist on that contact information, as well.
Section-2: Blood test results. Organize these in chronological order, latest on the top. I put these values onto a spreadsheet so I could follow the “trend” of the values over a long period of time, and that spreadsheet was kept in this section as well.
Section-3: Urine tests and reports. Same as above…latest on the top.
Section-4: Other test results/reports. Ultrasound, thyroid, heart, etc.
Section-5: Medical conditions, ailments. Brief explanation of a condition that may occur: Date, vet comments, initial treatment protocols, and follow-up notes. If Fluffy develops more than one condition, keep a separate section for each condition.
Section-6: Vet notes. After each visit, the vet will make an entry into Fluffy’s medical records; put those notes here. You may have to wait a few extra minutes after the visit to get these (or maybe even have the front-desk fax them to you the next day), but it’s well worth the effort; these are Doc’s very own words about what he observed during the visit.
Section-7: Medications. Any med’s prescribed: Date, reason, duration, and results.
Section-8: Nutrition. Cat foods are as diverse as your imagination. Collect and store food information here.
Section-9: References. Internet links to pertinent articles or information, emergency clinics, specialty hospitals, anything you gather along the way and feel you might need some day.
Section-10: Common ailments and symptoms. Information you gather along the way about conditions you might have to deal with later on.
Section-11: Questions/comments for the vet. This one is very important! As the weeks and months go by, you’ll observe things with Fluffy that will generate a question or comment for Doc when you see him next. Write them down as they pop into your head; don’t assume you’ll remember it six months later!
Section-11: Diary. Your own periodic comments about Fluffy’s performance and behavior at home; specifically if you observe a significant change. NOTE: Cats are like people; they change their little daily routines just as we do. Lewie would switch his “favorite places” regularly, and these are not significant changes. Significant things to watch for might be: Severe mood changes, unexplained lethargy, appetite loss, eating habit changes, litter-box difficulties, grooming habits, licking things like concrete. These are just a few examples, but they may indicate a problem; record them!
That was Lewie’s binder, and it served me well. Remember to ALWAYS bring this with you on each vet-visit; it’s Fluffy’s bible!
Fluffy is a complex, exciting, fragile, wonderful little being who is filled with love and mystery beyond anything you could imagine! Get to know her in every way. Observe and learn her moods and facial expressions; they are her only means of communicating with you. The Internet is a vast, open source for kitty information: Type the word “CAT” or “FELINE” into virtually any search engine, and watch what happens! I cannot tell you how many enjoyable hours I’ve spent “discovering” cats. Take the time to discover Fluffy.
Click here to see few of my favorite links for general, informative, (and fun) info about kitties.
Okay, now for some not-so-fun (but oh-so-necessary) stuff. Fluffy is a living being, and as such she is subject to ailments just the same as you and I. Of course we hope not to encounter problems until later on in her life, if ever, and it’s uncomfortable to think of such things when she’s young, healthy, and chock full of P&V. But the reality is that illnesses bear no consideration to age. So while Fluffy is healthy enough to teach the Tasmanian Devil a thing or two, now is the time to learn about situations you may have to deal with later on; various common feline ailments, treatments, options, and so on. No, this part of it isn’t fun, but it IS necessary. Or… I suppose you can just hope nothing will ever happen to Fluffy. Nah, that’s not a good idea.
NOTE: Please don’t bog yourself down with this, okay? You’re not a vet and never will be, so don’t try to absorb everything as a doctor would have to know it. Just learn the cursory information about a given ailment, and put it on it’s own page in Section-10 of Fluffy’s new binder.
Below is an example of what I do, and we’ll use ANEMIA for this exercise:
ANEMIA is actually a sign of a disease process rather than a disease itself. Anemia is a condition characterized by insufficient red blood cells (RBC’s). RBC’s are produced in the bone marrow, and carry oxygen to the body. Many conditions/diseases can cause anemia, and there are a number of classifications. The two types of anemia are: Regenerative anemia, where the bone marrow is reproducing RBC’s but she’s anemic because they (RBC’s) are being destroyed by some other condition. Non-regenerative is where the bone marrow is not producing an adequate supply of RBC’s.
Symptoms: Lethargy, weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscular instability.
Dangers: Treat immediately.
Treatments: Fix the cause, transfusions, RBC stimulants (Epogen, Procrit).
-Also… my ANEMIA page shows the Internet links where I gathered information.-
See what I’ve done here? First of all, I only know a dozen words or so, and papillomatosis isn’t one of them, so I convert the doctor-speak into words I can understand. Secondly, there are mountains of information available about any given topic but, try as a I might, I cannot squeeze a mountain into Fluffy’s binder…so I extract enough to make sense and reduce it to something smaller than the volumes of War And Peace. It’s an abbreviated explanation, but that’s okay: I’m not going to be a doctor, and I’m not going to teach a seminar on anemia at Cornell University.
Most importantly, though: I don’t wait for a crisis so that I have to go scrambling for a definition when I can least afford the time to do so. I do my research BEFORE I need the answers! Hopefully I’ll never need this information at all, but if I do… I can have it at my fingertips in seconds!
This is what I want you start doing: As time allows, begin to learn something about the common ailments that Fluffy may encounter one day, and I’ve made it easy for you. The link below will take you to a web page that lists many of the common ailments we see in felines, and with each ailment I’ve given you several links that are specific to that ailment. You may want to print the AILMENTS pages and store them in the binder, but the most important thing is to GET STARTED! Click on the link below to view the ailments, and then go to some of the specific sites. Spend some time learning about the intricate systems that are Fluffy, and you’ll soon discover that she’s so much more than just another pretty face. Fluffy agrees with me, so… SCAT!
Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.