Congestive Heart Failure can occur if your cat’s heart isn’t pumping enough blood to other parts of their body, causing fluid to back up in the lungs. In later stages, your cat will show obvious difficulty with breathing due to this excess fluid.
Some cats with heart disease can develop a painful, paralyzing condition called saddle thrombus if a blood clot develops in the heart and moves out of the aorta. The clot blocks blood flow to a cat’s hind legs, making them cold to the touch or even bluish under the fur.
Most cats with congestive heart failure have a life expectancy of a few weeks to 18 months, tops.
THE HEARTBREAKING NEWS
On the afternoon of 28th September 2018, I felt a crazy pang of weirdness looking at the awkward way Zeus was breathing. His shortness of breath was so apparent and you could almost see that he was using his stomach to breathe hard because it was inflating and deflating so rapidly.
Others thought he was just hot or tired, but I knew something was up. There was a look of desperation in his eyes.
It was lunch time and many vets were closed. I remember vividly how I was panic-calling every vet around the area. And I had to wait for another 45mins before lunch was over. While waiting, I posted a video of Zeus and I was eternally grateful for the many prayers received. Many cited that he could be just be having an asthma attack.
Mind you, I wish. I wish it was only asthma.
I wish that was all it was.
Zeus was immediately transferred from the vet to the hospital. In the midst of the transfer, right out of the oxygen chamber, Zeus started vomiting watery blood.
They suspected Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) right then. Zeus’ heart was not pumping hard enough, which led to fluids rising up in his lungs and blocking it from functioning regularly.
The vet called us many times to update on Zeus’ situation and deemed it extremely critical. And just like that, they gave Zeus 2 weeks to live.
The first X-ray shows a healthier Zeus after being hospitalised for 2 days, his lungs are darkened and black in the photo meaning it was all good.
The second X-ray is of his lungs filled with fluids. The supposedly darkened/black lungs are filled with white, cotton wools in the photo – indicating fluids in the lungs which caused his breathing difficulties.
There are many causes for congestive heart failure in cats. Most commonly it results from a condition that causes the walls of the heart to thicken – which is exactly what Zeusy had after the results of the heart scan was out (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), but it can also be brought on by thyroid disease, high blood pressure, or birth defects, among other possibilities. The doctor believed that Zeus’ case might’ve been a birth defect, yes, because being only 2 years old, Zeus was just too young.
A cat with congestive heart failure may have trouble breathing, may be weak or tired, might refuse to eat, get paralysed on their hind legs and could die suddenly. Depending on the underlying problem, treatment may help reverse congestive heart failure, and there are medications to reduce symptoms. However, a cure is inevitable.
The doctor shared that Zeus being in an oxygen chamber would help him with his breathing and, accompanied with Diuretics (a drug to assist him with peeing off the built-up fluid), it could lower the need of rushing Zeus to the hospital every time there was an emergency.
I remember by that time; funds were getting majorly depleted.
My husband and I agreed to get a Credit Card just for the sole purpose of Zeus’ medical bills. We had to, we must.
We went on renting an oxygen tank from a nearby Nursing Home facility and creating a makeshift oxygen chamber for Zeus at home, in an aircon room coupled with snuggly blankets and his favourite toy.
Despite it all, his next attack frightened me. I could not bring myself to believe in the makeshift oxygen chamber.
Through my husband’s extensive researches via Google, we realised that we desperately needed an alternative, a 2nd opinion for Zeus’ illness. With that, we took a leap of faith & called Animal Ark (Tampines). Doctor Oh does animal acupuncture and while we were extremely sceptical of it, we went ahead.
I remembered bursting into uncontrollable tears when I saw Zeus going through his first acupuncture session. I was assured that it was not painful for him but I could not bare to watch my son having to go through all those needles.
Acupuncture is done to improve on Zeus’ blood flow, thus expanding his lungs & the intake of his oxygen. Over time – it lessens his discomfort in breathing.
Acupuncture did not miraculously cure Zeus but right at that instant, his shortness of breath stopped and you could vividly see his whole body stopped thumping and he was not grasping for air anymore.
Zeus was then given powdered medication & it’s equivalent to 8 tablets (we actually ordered organic empty capsules so that we could pop it in his throat easily during medicine time!), and that was only for the Chinese medications, excluding his supplements and Western meds!
Through it all, the expenses were crazy hefty.
Almost 2 years on, we’re just going to settle the last few bills. It has taken a toll on our monthly expenses but we wouldn’t have done it any other way.
Owning a cat, or a pet in general, is cute. The idea is cute. Their antics are cute.
However, after this whole ordeal, I plead for everyone to understand that a sick pet’s bills are not cute.
A year ago, I’d be so embarrassed and hurt to share how much all these costed because it makes me sound like I am complaining. But no, I realised that by sharing our ordeal and the costs involved, I am actually creating awareness for everyone out there who might be in my predicament.
On an average:
$1,000 per night spent in the hospital (equipped with being in an oxygen chamber)
$3,000 plus for tests/follow-up tests
$500-$700 for medications and supplements
$198 deposit for an oxygen tank, $99 monthly fees
$600 for the first visit to the acupuncture doctor
$120 for subsequent visits
And finally, $460 for resuscitation
We defeated the initial 2 weeks’ timeline, but lost Zeus 3 months on.
In a matter of 3 months of war, we choked up to $13,000 of medical bills just to combat against this heart failure.
FOREVER OUR PRIDE & JOY
We did everything we could together to ensure his greatest quality of life, from the best medicinal alternatives to ensuring the yummiest and easiest medications for him, we charged on – side by side. If it was a war, we would be a family walking hand in hand from an explosion in the background, just like in the movies that we’d have watched together.
We did so much for Zeus.
I have said it before and I will say it again – I can hold on to so boldly knowing that we did everything within our powers for Zeus. We have no regrets. There was no “what ifs” left within our sadness.
We loved hard. And we fought even harder.
We lost our dear boy on 20th December 2018, picked up our new girl, Rhea, 4 months on and I birthed to a healthy baby boy a year later on Christmas 2019.
Many believed that it is Zeus reincarnated, but I shall leave that to each’s opinions and wander 🙂
As a pet owner, in our pet’s moment of darkness, be their light.
Have a heart, and please, never ever abandon them.
Of everything that we went through, the hardest was looking directly into Zeus’ eyes and trying my best to assure him that everything was going to be okay.
How could anyone, abandon their pet at such dire moments, I’d never understand.
My 2 cents, some form of financial assurance to care for your pets at a time which they need it the most because it could happen to just about anyone.
Remember, these pets are family. And families stick together.
To my boy –
You’ve seen the tears I’ve cried and embraced me to be selfless.
You’ve touched your dad’s heart and taught him love, patience and acceptance.
You’ve been the best companion to your Nenek [grandma] in sickness and in health.
You’re a hero baby. You fought ever so bravely.
I thank you Zeusy.
I thank you, my angel.
You came into our lives, teaching your dad and I to be the best parents to you, and now to Rhea and baby Aryyan.
You taught me to love so fiercely.
I love you with no questions, no boundaries, no expectations.
You’re forever my pride & joy. You’re forever my son.