12 February 2014

I'd like to thank Jeanette Breedt, of South Africa, and Adrie Jousma van Gils, of the Netherlands, for inviting me to write an article for All About Rex Cats, a magazine for Devon Rex and Sphynx owners that's based in Europe.
I was asked to write an article about my experience with Ketamine which resulted in Gimmie's death. I appreciate the opportunity to spread the word.
Please take a look at this interesting magazine from our friends across the pond. My article is on page 11. Please give the PDF time to load.

06 April 2012

Four Years, Four Years of Tears-- and regrets --

My dear Gimli, I am already thinking of you. If things had been different you would have been about to celebrate your 7th birthday on 07 April. As it is, you died the day after your 3rd birthday at the hands of a trusted vet. I dreamed of you the other night. It was so real ....so tangible. I felt you near me; your warmth and the way you loved being close to your mommy. I wish I could celebrate you without thinking of the negative -- but I will always feel traumatized by the way you died. So unnecessary, so preventable ---- IF the vet I trusted had actually cared enough to make sure you'd be safe.. It's up to US... as pet owners ... to be aware of our options. I can guarantee you this; the majority of vets WILL NOT offer you options nor will they know the potential dangers of using Ketamine on Sphynx or on an HCM kitty. It's up to us to educate ourselves. I hope some of the information here will help you in your decisions in anesthesia. I wish there had been something...anything... to consider before I allowed, out of ignorance,that Ketamine be used on Gimli. I hope he knows that mommy never wanted harm to come to him and that she -- and daddy -- will consider him a hero for others.

04 October 2011

Pondering the subject of... What do people learn from their pets.

Recently I was asked to possibly contribute to an article being composed on the subject of What do people learn from their pets?.... Great topic, hmm? It's a pertinent topic as well.

As the article may be geared more toward shelter rescues I'm not sure that a response from an owner of  pedigreed cats would be something they'd want to include, but here my thoughts on that question.

I can't begin to relate all that my husband and I have "learned" from our pets. We have, as you know if you have read any of this blog, four pedigreed Sphynx cats, Bilbo, Rose, Lily and Sigmund. We treat them as our children. They have board certified vet cardiologist, vet ophthalmologist and very caring general vets that have adopted the use of Isoflourane or Sevoflourine over Ketamine at their clinics. None of the vets we use for our cats use the anesthetic Ketamine or the common knock-em-out cocktail of Ket/Val (Ketamine + Valium).
I, of course, would mention this drug because it has been a huge focal point in the relationship with our cats and in the vetting of our cats. I've learned to not blindly trust my beloved pets to a vet's care. I've learned to ask more questions, demand more answers and do more research. I've learned this from being heartbroken over an unnecessary death of our Sphynx boy, Gimli, the impetus behind this blog. Gimli died from the drug, Ketamine, during a routine dental cleaning in April of 2008, only one day after his 3rd birthday. Ketamine, which can act as a trigger in some breeds for an underlying disease, HCM, is the cheapest anesthetic and the most commonly used. However, it is not always the safest choice and should not be the only choice offered to a pet owner.

I've learned that we, as pet owners, have a duty to our pets. It is our responsibility to make sure that anyone dealing with them has the knowledge and care that we want. I've learned that life is meaningless to some vets and ultra-important to others. These may not be the lessons most people want to hear. But, if we love our pets -pedigreed or not- then we, as pet parents/adoptees, must do our part. We must advocate for them. We must be their voice.

The experience with Gimli made an impact on many people the world over and for that I am glad. Perhaps his tragedy has averted the tragedy of another. I have had countless emails, personal encounters and shared grief over similar losses from others have meant so very much and have aided in my own personal healing, grief and guilt. I spent two years researching Ketamine and have been blogging about it and offering the information I have gathered in the hope that other people may have information that I could not find when I was looking up anesthesia's in 2008.
When Gimli was killed we had him necropsied (an autopsy for animals) at the University of MS Vet School, in Starkville. They found that he was in advanced stages of HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), which was very likely brought on due to the use of Ketamine during neutering, a medical procedure (he burned his paw and the vet tech told us he was only using Valium... he did not, he used Ketamine), and of course the final whammy... the dental cleaning. Ketamine affected our lives. I believe it caused Gimli's case of HCM to be switched on and then, on the fateful day, he was given too large a dose and his death was swept under the covers and out the door of conscientiousness by the vet to which we entrusted our cats.
I learned about HCM through Gimli's death and became an advocate for scanning and am the co-chair of a non-profit organization called Hairless Hearts, Inc.,(http://www.hairlesshearts.org). Hairless Hearts helps owners afford to scan the hearts of the Sphynx that they care for and love. We also submit the scan results to the three major HCM directories and to PawPeds. We try to advance the knowledge of the disease and to negotiate lower board certified vet echo cardiogram pricing for pet owners wishing to scan or recheck their pet's heart.

My husband and I have travelled over five hours (one way) to Georgia Vet Services in Atlanta, GA for board certified heart screens with Dr. Darlene Blischok.We have done had three series of heart scans since last October. In 2010 all of our cats were scanned in Birmingham, AL. We had the two that received bad scan results rechecked with Dr. Blischok on 11 April 2011. She found that Siggy nor Rose had signs of HCM but requested to see Siggy again w/in a six-month window. So our most recent scan, with Dr. Blischok, was on 20 October 2011 and yielded good results and no more medications for our youngest.
Yes, I have learned the hard way that our responsibilities are much greater than merely taking them to a vet. We must be interactive with our vets, question them, do research, learn and... share with others.
Our veterinarians should be more involved in their patients care as, for many pet owners, they are a vital first-response agent in helping people make the best decision for their pets. Today I only use veterinarians who feel as I do about the health care of our pets.
What our pets give us, daily, is worth any effort made on their behalf. I can't even begin to speak of the joys of pet ownership - be it cat, dog or iguana. They give to us every moment of every day. They give unselfishly and they give with joy. They love us regardless of what we do for a living, how we look, our educational background or how much money we make. They should be rewarded for this unbiased love and it is our duty to learn to give back to them in a way that benefits their lives and their longevity.

24 September 2011

HCM recheck in Atlanta for Siggy

I am happy to announce the result of the 3rd heart check on our Sphynx boy, Siggy.

On 20 September 2011 Dr. Darlene Blishchok found that Siggy's heart was stable but had a slight defect that did not affect his hear's ability to function.
We went with hope and left with joy.

They had to use Isoflurine on Siggy during his first visit (he is cantankerous) but this visit they were able to do the echocardiogram without the use of any sedation. I am overjoyed about that as well.

To note: This wonderful clinic has also banned Ketamine. As a caring pet owner I believe that it is important to note that knowledgable vets are now prohibiting the use of this dangerous drug.

15 April 2011

HCM scan in Atlanta - April 2011

We visited Dr. Darlene Blishchok, at Georgia Vetinary Services, in Atlanta, GA, on 11 April 2011. We went thinking that both Siggy (GoNaked FreudianSlip of RmplSlkSknz and Godz Rose of Sharron) had HCM.
Thankfully the result from Dr. Blishchok (a board-certified vet cardiologist) showed that their diagnosis was clear.
Siggy was taken off Atenonol and is to be rechecked in October 2011. Rose was dismissed until at least one year. We are... overjoyed.

08 April 2011

Ketamine... is your time almost up? Are people finally learning they have options?

Today marks the 3rd anniversary of the day we lost Gimli. We lost him during a routine dental cleaning due to the use of Ketamine. Gimmie suffered a heart attack on the table, not twenty minutes after we left him in their "care". As stated in this blog previously, I asked questions, we did a blood panel, I specifically asked about the anesthesia, I thought I had covered all bases and left both Gimli and his brother, Bilbo, with our vets thinking they were in good hands. It didn't turn out that way. We lost him there in his physical form but he is with us and fighting for others in his "spiritual" form. I do not mean that in a religious way. But his spirit lives on in my determination to share his story with others through this blog. I thank those of you who have stopped for a while to read and consider - or better yet - reconsider the use of Ketamine. For three years I have tried, in a very small way, to bring attention to the potential dangers of the drug, Ketamine, used to anesthetize Sphynx. This drug is of potential danger to all pets but my platform is not *all* pets, it is all Sphynx. Even the heart healthy ones could be at risk, why? Because even confirmed clear hearts - free from HCM - can become at risk for HCM. Your Sphynx that scanned clear this year at age x,y,z could scan positive the next year or year after, etc. Until the genetic marker is found (Sphynx Research through Dr. Kate Meurs) all of our breed is at risk for the disease. But, we all understand that. We scan, or most of us do, now. We monitor them, we medicate them if they have scanned positive, we rescan them .. yearly for breeders (reputable ones, I should say) ..or at intervals that our vet cardiologist suggest, if we are pet owners. Scanning is a must. Ketamine, in our breed in particularly, can prove fatal. It may not happen the first, second or even third time used, but if your Sphynx has an undiagnosed case of HCM then this drug can kill. It can also kill for other reasons as well. On a public Sphynx forum one member, who is also a breeder of cats, writes:
"An injectable like Ketamine is far slower and harder to quickly reverse than gas. That has been confirmed by every vet I have spoken to that uses either/or both drugs. Being in the bloodstream, vs. an inhalant is an obvious difference. An example is that different people taking Ketamine often have very different reactions. One person may tolerate Ketamine well but not get the desired effect, another may have side effects or adverse reactions that make Ketamine intolerable, and yet another may get the desired effect with no side effects. These variations in response and side effects are caused by many variables, but genetic variation and metabolism-based drug, herbal, and food interactions are among the most common Drugs are metabolized by the body in much the same way as food, herbals, and environmental pollutants; they are broken down by liver, kidney and gut enzymes or other mechanisms so they can be absorbed and eliminated in the bile and urine. Enzymes are available to metabolize specific substances- a medication is referred to as a substrate of the enzyme that can metabolize it. Often an enzyme will be capable of breaking down more than one substance, but sometimes if two or more drugs that use the same enzyme are taken (and metabolized) at the same time, an interaction can occur. Enzyme-related drug interactions can be brought about because some drugs, called inducers, increase the activity of an enzyme and others, called inhibitors, reduce it. Additionally, genetics can determine your inborn ability to create many of the enzymes in the liver or gut, and the amount of an enzyme that is available can dramatically alter how you process medication. In humans (so it seems likely in pets too) approximately 50% of individuals have inherited DNA alterations that can affect how they process the majority of the most commonly prescribed medications. Don’t forget that Ketamine is a respiratory depressant (though can also act as a stimulant) Also its psychotropic properties must be taken into account. People have reported vivid hallucinations, "going into other worlds" or "seeing God" while anesthetized, and these unwanted psychological side-effects have reduced the use of Ketamine in human medicine. All drugs are metabolize through the kidney, and one of the things a vet wants to do a blood test for is current kidney function, and, from what I understand, if it is compromised they choose a different med. This tells me that there are clear issues/risks in using Ketamine. Gas is, from every source I have seen, a much preferred choice of forward thinking, current vet practices. The reasons for this as I have been told by vets and have read from AVMA sources, are the reasons I have questioned." The following is the warning from the manufacturer: Adverse Effects/Warnings - In approved species the following adverse reactions are listed by the manufacturer: “respiratory depression....following high doses, emesis, vocalization, erratic and prolonged recovery, dyspnea, spastic jerking movements, convulsions, muscular tremors, hypertonicity, opisthotonos and cardiac arrest. In the cat, myoclonic jerking and/or tonic/clonic convulsions can be controlled by ultrashortacting barbiturates or acepromazine. These latter drugs must be given intravenously, cautiously, and slowly, to effect (approximately 1/6 to 1/4 the normal dose may be required).” (Package Insert; Ketaset® - Bristol) Seizures have been reported to occur in up to 20% of cats that receive ketamine at thera­peutic dosages. Diazepam is suggested to be been used for treatment if necessary. Pain after IM injection may occur. To reduce the incidence of hypersalivation and other autonomic signs, atropine or glycopyrrolate is often administered. Interesting reading: Vet Anesthesiology - an except on Ketamine WebMD - Risks or Complications No one wants to lose their pets. No breeder wants to put their cats or kittens at risk? Why do so because a vet caters to the use of the cheapest anesthetic? They're watching their bottom line. They already have vet techs trained to assist with Ket/Val. Iso and Sevo are more expensive and involves more training time and equipment. They don't want pet owners or breeders to "shop around" for a better price. So many reasons that this drug is still used in many vet clinics. BUT... the tide is changing. People are taking note, educating themselves, networking on forums to share experiences they've had. While there still is not sufficient documented research on Ketamine deaths in Sphynx there are sufficient anecdotal instances that are known and shared. Many breeders and owners now have their vet denote that Ketamine will not be used on their pet. If their vet balks about offering options many are leaving and finding another clinic with progressive and up to date practices. Leave the archaic behind and do so now, for the benefit of your "Gimli". Much love, my little boy.

07 April 2011