Our house is definitely one that loves our kitties, and in July of 2018, we saved Heidi from a local shelter. She was the sweetest, little most loving girl. When I picked her up, she purred and rolled over in my arms, burying her face against me. She just wanted to be held and loved on. The shelter employees suspected that she was a Russian Blue mix, but they had no information about her origins, although they thought her birthday was May 3rd.
Unfortunately, URIs were going around at the time and a few days after going home, she got very sick. For the next few months, she battled respiratory infections. It was tough, but her family loved her and wouldn’t give up. Her spay appointment was delayed because, as her vet, Dr. Ahmed of Hesperia Animal Hospital, said, “She is a very sick kitty” and he worried about her immune system. After several rounds of antibiotics, B12 shots, and immune support, she was cleared to go get her spaying completed, but after spaying, she developed a new URI and was sick again. Back she went on antibiotics for several more weeks before she was finally declared free of it.
Finally, at a year old, she seemed fine. Not so! Some time in mid to late September, she started to cough. It was just a little cough, like a furball, but over a few weeks, it got worse. We realized it was not normal and took her in for a checkup on October 9th. The vet panicked and said she was dehydrated and underweight – she had never been a big “eater,” and being skinny was pretty normal for her, but the extent of her weight loss was hard to determine without regularly scheduled weigh ins (since then, we obtained a baby scale and weigh her regularly). She started coughing and losing weight, getting tired with no appetite.
The vet hospitalized her for two nights, and 3 days, during which she had multiple x-rays, bloodwork, and an urinalysis. It turns out fluid had accumulated within her chest cavity and collapsed one of her lungs. After a fluid draining, cytology on the fluid, and the return of her bloodwork, it was determined that this sweet little girl had FIP on Oct 16th.
She had to have two operations – one to remove fluid, and one to remove air that took its place, keeping the lung collapsed. She was placed on prednisolone, clavamox, and gentamicin sulfate drops for her stuffy nose. Her vets did lots of research and had heard of a cure being studied. They separately wanted to give her GS-441524, but weren’t allowed to – they even reached out to the studies to beg for help, but were denied any further assistance. They were giving some tips for palliative care, but that was it. Her vets told us to give her lots of love – they feared the worse would come sooner, rather than later.
We loved her so much and
posted about her on Instagram. She was
improving on the prednisolone, at least a little bit, and that was certainly good, but we knew it was just a matter of time before the fluid came back. Someone contacted me there and told me about FIP Warriors on Facebook. The admins reached out and gave me lots of information about it, and the costs involved to treat her.
It took a little while to find information and make the decision to go forward, as well as some moving of funds to be able to afford the expensive treatments, but Heidi took her first injection of Shire on Nov. 6th. She didn’t like it, but quickly showed improvement.
If everything works out, her graduation date with be January 28th, 2020. We can’t wait! She gains weight, strength, and energy every day!
As of 11/16/19, she has had 11 shots, and she is doing fantastic! We are so shocked by her improvements. I cannot wait for graduation!
Updates: Heidi has been steadily gaining weight! She has gone all the way up to 8.4 lbs as of 12/8/19! She has had 33 injections, and a few raw spots on the back of her neck, unfortunately. However, she mostly tolerates her shots and is doing extremely well. She is playing, engaging, and curious about the world. She is hanging out with the other kitties and chasing them around the house. She is chatty, snuggly, and incredibly affectionate.
More than all of that, she had her first treatment bloodwork at 4 weeks on 12/2/2019. Her results were phenomenal! Her A/G ratio has gone to 0.8 from 0.5. She is pretty much normal in most ways, just a little high on BUN and potassium, probably from the mild diarrhea she was having – which we treated with a liquid probiotic. This has been improving, and appears to be gone at this point.
Heidi continued to improve over the next several weeks. Her diarrhea went away and she continued to gain weight and strength. Her energy has been amazing! We bought her new toys and a new cat tree to climb and play on. She feels strong enough now to take on her fluffy sister. Her weight climbed from 8.18 on December 4th to 9.04 by December 22nd to 9.6 on January 6th!
She did develop an injection sore around Week 6 that was very large. We took her in for a checkup and she was placed on clavamox and given laser therapy. It has healed nicely. She has gotten a few other smaller injection sores, and now has to wear a shirt for a few hours after her shots, as that is when she is most itchy.
She got her 8 week bloodwork completed on December 30th. It came back with FANTASTIC results! She is now up to 1.1 a/g, and everything else is basically normal. She still has very slightly low MCHD and NA/K Ratio, but so minor, it doesn’t appear to matter. She also had a urinalysis which no longer showed microalbuminuria and is overall normal. She looks on track for her graduation on January 28th.
Some updates… Heidi’s weight kept going up! Wow! She skyrocketed up and finally hit 10.3 lbs in mid January, where she has essentially stayed. It’s a good weight for her – she looks “full” without being too chonky. She had her 11/12 week bloodwork drawn on 1/23/20, as well as some xrays for a comparison. Her xrays were beautiful – not only do they show fully functional, clear lungs and no extra fluid, the also show the level of fat she has gained that she was lacking before.
We received a copy of her bloodwork on Saturday, 1/25/20. There was a note in the labs about the potential future issue of kidney disease – mostly based on an A.I. system predictor using past bloodworks. With 3 days left, we sent this information to Dr. Pederson along with her pictures, bloodwork chart, and x-rays. His response was:
Dear Jenny: Heidi has responded to GS treatment as well as any cat that I have ever observed. Her latest blood tests are normal, but more importantly, she has gained a lot of weight and appears outwardly as a very healthy cats. The worries about kidney problems are overblown. Although GS is mildly toxic to kidneys, we have never seen it cause severe kidney disease. None of our treated cats have developed chronic kidney disease. Moreover, her BUN is still near the high normal range and other signs of kidney disease such as the creatinine and urine specific gravity are normal. I presume that she is not drinking excess amounts of water and urinating more often. According to our protocol, she has reached the end of her treatment after having met all of the goals for success. Finish her treatment. You are now at that “fearsome” stage when you have to wait for 3 months for signs of relapse. There is nothing you can do at this stage, including extending treatment, that will change what happens in the next 12 weeks, so enjoy her and take the odds. The odds are high that she will not relapse and will be cured. -Dr. Pedersen
Amazing news! On the concerns that we don’t want to continue to harass her kidneys, we wanted to alleviate the pain and issues with too thick skin and injections scabs, and we knew that she has met all goals and targets successfully, she graduated from treatment on 01/25/20, with 81 shots under her belt!
UPDATE 9/13/20: Heidi finished her observation phase on April 28th, 2020. During the first two weeks of her observation, we were nervous. We watched every move she made. We worried over her being too quiet some days, sleeping too much some days, or not eating as much as we want. But you know what? SHE SURVIVED. All 12 weeks. They went by faster than we could imagine, and she reached her final cured date on April 28th.
And now? She keeps gaining weight. She plays with her furry siblings. She catches and eats lizards in the catio. She tells me about bugs she finds. She demands I follow her to the bathroom so I can sit down and pet her. She yells at me if I take too long to come to bed because she wants evening snuggles. She meows and curls up next to me when my husband leaves the bed to take a shower, and then jumps up and runs to the shower door when he finishes his shower. She talks to spiders and moths, and demands I open the garage door so she can go explore. She yells at me to open cans of food – not for her, as she has chosen to like dry food more, but for her siblings so that they can have fresh grub. She still loves her Fort Heidi box, and hides from her sister in it when her sister has the zoomies.
She turned 2 years old on May 3rd. We never thought she would make it there, but she did. And we couldn’t be happier. Heidi is a cured FIP warrior!
Update 1/12/2021: Heidi continues to do fantastic! It’s been almost a year since she stopped treatment. She weights just over 11 lbs. She bosses me around like a true queen of the castle – telling me when it’s time for food, when I need to open the door, or when she wants me to just sit down and pet her.
We got a new kitten, Lucy, in October (she was only maybe 3 weeks old when a neighbor found her), and Heidi plays with her quite often, chasing her around and playing games with her. She still wants her naptime snuggles too.
She has a few tiny scars from her treatment – face it, we aren’t veterinarians, but we did the best we could with the daily injections! Two spots on her back are a slightly lighter grey, almost white, which I think was also a result of the injections. Otherwise, she is absolutely perfect – no long term health issues whatsoever. Her appetite is good, but not excessive, she plays regularly, and she has great energy. She is nervous around strangers, but that’s not unheard of in Russian Blue cats (which she is in part).
Honestly, we wouldn’t still have her anymore without the help of http://fipwarriors.com, and I hope they can continue to help many other people. I keep an eye on the current research, and hope for a day when treatment is widely available and known throughout the veterinarian community. In the mean time, my vets refer their FIP pet owners to me so I can direct them to the right places, and I have helped coach two close friends through their own FIP journeys. It is not easy! Nothing about it is easy! But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and once the treatment has taken and observation has ended, the fight is over. Spread the word!
Here is her bloodwork chart: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tsGro99iLEpPzbZnH-dyifDJBqUcAG1tn5kBDsFSgNQ/edit?usp=drivesdk&fbclid=IwAR195b9680H4X8AmAeXeHVjtmTNOUzM1YOOt2IVTmoFFzGjeZGphGMGhr1U
Here is her before and after xrays:
Here are some pictures and her bloodwork:
Her Week 4 Bloodwork:
Her Week 8 Bloodwork:
Her 11/12 Week Bloodwork:
Her story is shared on ZenByCat at: https://www.zenbycat.org/fip-warrior/heidi