A Miracle for Dunkin'
By Chaney, SVVH Veterinary Technician
On December 12, 2020, my family enjoyed a Christmas party with a Secret Santa Gift Exchange. We take games very seriously, so we truly had no idea of "who had who" until it was time for the big reveal. My younger sister, Eddi, and I talked nearly every day leading up to the exchange. Being the impulsive person that I am, I randomly said one day that I wanted a new cat—because I always need more animals in my life. She jokingly told me to add it to my wish list. That's exactly what I did.
The week of the party, Eddi took a flight from Arizona and eventually arrived to stay at my place. That same day, she went off to purchase her Secret Santa gift. On the day of the party, she again decided to shopping. That was two hours before we were supposed to be there! Those two hours go by, and she still wasn't back. Eddi claimed that she was at my brother’s house dropping off her gift, because it was "too big" to fit in the car with us.
After she returned, we finally made our way to the gift exchange. My eight siblings chose me to receive a gift last. I was very eager to open it! When I opened the small box, it was just a card from Eddi that only consisted of two pictures. “You gave me pictures of your cats?” I yelled. However, these weren't pictures of her cat. They were pictures of an 8-month-old kitten! She managed to sneak him into the house and hid him in a room. I decided to name him Dunkin', a nod to the donut chain!
Here's a bit of history on Dunkin’: he experienced some trauma before arriving at a shelter, where his lip got ripped off and healed lower than normal. The shelter's veterinarian eventually cleared him and said everything healed, but he would just have a weird lower lip. It made him that much cuter.
Two weeks later, I introduced him to my older cat, Ramen, and my dog, Eggo. He was great. On Saturday, December 26th, he vomited twice and had diarrhea. He was also lethargic; that night he just laid on my chest. The next morning, he didn’t eat. I called Dr. Corey and took him to Stream Valley, despite being closed on Sundays. Shannon, one of the kennel attendants, helped draw blood and take x-rays while we waited for Dr. Corey. The results showed that his liver was failing, at only eight months old!
From his radiographs, one of the sternal lymph nodes in his chest was enlarged. I instantly went from a focused veterinary technician, straight to a concerned, frantic parent. That same night, we hospitalized him and put him on an IV. We also started three antibiotics (Enrofloxacin, Ampicillin, and Metronidazole) to treat infection and pain medication (Buprenorphine). We were very concerned that he either had Feline Leukemia which caused Lymphoma or Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), both of which are known to be lethal.
The next day, Monday, our board-certified mobile ultrasonographer (MiVu) came in and performed an ultrasound on him. They observed that his liver was enlarged along with his other lymph nodes. They also found a slight amount of fluid behind his gallbladder. This is consistent with both Lymphoma and FIP which were the two conditions they were looking at, a process otherwise known as a differential diagnosis. Next, MiVu performed a fine needle aspiration biopsy of his lymph nodes to collect a sample for lymphoma testing. If that sample came back negative, they could send it out for FIP testing.
I was a wreck. I was spending most of my time at the hospital, early mornings and late nights, even when I was not working. That night, we sent out multiple blood tests hoping for a different answer. His feline leukemia test came back negative, making lymphoma less likely but still possible. The rest of the bloodwork came back negative, including his FIP blood test.
The next day, we received the results from the biopsy. It was negative for lymphoma; therefore, we sent it out to a lab for more FIP testing. The biopsy is typically more accurate than a blood test. I called the lab every day to check for results. Dunkin’s health was declining. He had signs of jaundice: yellow eyes, yellow gums, yellow ears, and mustard yellow urine. Thus, Dr. Corey and I started on some research.
Oddly enough, FIP is also known as, surprise surprise, Feline Coronavirus. Don't worry, it’s not the same strain as COVID-19 and cannot be transmitted to humans. I couldn't accept this diagnosis. I could not bear putting my 8-month-old kitten who was perfectly fine a week ago to sleep. My big snuggle bug, Ramen’s best friend, and Eggo’s constant competition for attention would be gone in a blink of an eye?
Dr. Corey saw how this was affecting me. She believed there must be some kind of trial or medication out there for him. Dr. Corey made more calls, sent emails, and stayed up late to research. Finally, she found something promising.
A drug used on FIP cats was working! We reached out to a doctor who had experience with this firsthand. She was certain that Dunkin’ had FIP even before we received confirmation from the biopsy results. I rushed Dunkin’ over to start him on the medication. She even stayed open late until I was able to get there. This medication is an injection that must be given once a day for 12 weeks—84 days!
On December 31, 2020, we gave him his first injection. Roughly 8-12 hours later, my baby boy was bouncing off the walls again. I could not believe my eyes. He was eating and drinking, and of course, causing chaos! I gave Dunkin' the injection every night at 11 pm, but it was very painful. I would have quit after day two if it weren't for him finally feeling better. Instead, I started training him by using several Fear Free methods. He would eventually come right into my lap when it was injection time.
We monitored Dunkin's bloodwork once every 30 days on this treatment, noticing an improvement every time. On March 20th (day 79) we conducted his last bloodwork, which showed nearly all normal values! Dunkin’s last injection was March 25th and then he went into 12 weeks of observation.
After 12 weeks, June 17th finally arrived. The last day of observation. Dunkin’ was once again crazy and energetic, a food hogging brother to Eggo and Ramen, and the best "cuddler" the world has to offer. We drew bloods one last time and all of the results came back within normal limits.
On June 18th, I was given the best birthday present I could receive: Dunkin was considered CURED! Finally, after months of worry, pain, and crying, the light at the end of the awfully long tunnel was here. Dunkin’ and I cannot thank Dr. Corey enough for everything she had done for us. If it weren’t for her, Dunkin’ would have been put to sleep months ago instead of living a spoiled cat life with his brothers!