This is Meli.
Sweet, "Muffin-paw Meli" as I loved to call her (just look at those mitts!!!), and she was one of my first hospice patients when I started our practice 7 years ago.
She was also one of the first patients who taught me the
of recognizing pain, and that
pain could be the cause of changes (and perceived decline) in our senior pets.
I initially went to see Meli for an in-home euthanasia; she was nineteen and a half years old (that's like almost 140 human years!) and her family was concerned she was no longer enjoying life.
When I asked just what that meant, mom shared that Meli was her constant shadow and what "made her day" was being in the home office, overseeing the workday from wherever the sun happened to be hitting. She was concerned that Meli no longer wanted to join her and thought the loss of one of her biggest joys in life was an indication she "was ready."
One of the benefits of seeing a pet in their home environment was the fact that I got to ask her mom to show me where the office was.
We then climbed 12 steps to get there...
As it turns out, Meli was still loving -
- all those things in life, she was just having difficulty
them because arthritis made her hurt.
Did you know: 90% of cats over the age of 10 have a noticeable degree of arthritis and degenerative joint disease on X-ray?!
And of those 90% of cats with arthritis disease, only
had mention of problems with mobility in their medical records!
Because unlike dogs, lameness is NOT a common sign of arthritis pain in cats; instead, they show outward behaviors like not wanting to use the stairs. And because of this, arthritis pain often goes undiagnosed (and therefore untreated) and is something to keep in mind for any kitty over 10 who is showing a change in their normal behaviors.
For Meli, we started a pain management plan using what we call a "multi-modal" approach, meaning, we target multiple pain pathways in order to "do a better job" at managing pain all while allowing us to use lower doses of each medication. While there are many options to reach for when it comes to managing pain, for her we used buprenorphine (a mild pain medication), a very low dose of an anti-inflammatory, Gabapentin (a pain modifier that regulates signals at the spinal cord level) and Adequan (another pain modifier given as a monthly under-the-skin injection to reduce inflammation and improve joint fluid health). All 3 oral medications were liquids, and with only a small amount needed, they were easy to both give and receive.
Mom called me 3 days later to say Meli was
up the stairs and acting almost kitten-like. My heart literally soared.
And this was a pivotal moment for me as a veterinarian.
I could see first-hand just how vital proper pain management was in our senior pets and the importance of helping families to recognize that slowing down isn't "just due to old age."
It was shortly after Melli's
that I returned to her home to help her pass. Proper pain management gave the gift of an additional
one and a half years
. To this day, Meli remains one of my favorite patients, and I thank her for the lessons she taught me early in my hospice career.
If you have a senior pet that is showing signs of slowing down or is having changes in their behavior,
talk to your vet about pain management
. It could really make the world of difference in your pet's quality of life and comfort!