Addie’s Feline Gastrointestinal Eosinophilic Sclerosing Fibroplasia Discovery Story written by Amy Dean (her owner)
August 2nd was like any other normal day for me. I went to work, came home for a bit and was about to leave to go to my yoga class when I came downstairs to rather large piles of watery-vomit (full of cat food). I have two cats– Ash and Addie (both 2 years old) — so process of elimination, Ash was fine and Addie was foaming at the mouth. I thought she might’ve eaten something bad and just needed to get it out of her system. I went to yoga for an hour, came back to more throw up.
I decided to wait about another hour, and Addie was really pissy and curled up in a ball. (Her normal behavior is very bossy, center of attention and quite vocal) I called members of my family to ask for their advice and see if they had experienced anything similar with their cats. Majority of them suggested to take Addie in if her condition didn’t improve. At that time, it was nearing 9:30/10pm and I just said to myself, “I can’t go to bed like this.” I called my sister, Jenny, and told her I was bringing Addie in, and she kindly offered to go with me. We went to a VCA Mission Animal Referral and Emergency Center, and they immediately took an x-ray and saw a mass and could palpitate the mass and Addie reacted unfavorably. VCA sent Addie’s x-ray images to veterinary surgeon, Dr. Kurt Hazenfield and he came in around 11:30pm. Dr. Hazenfield explained to us that something just didn’t seem right about the images, and they were too unclear to wait until the morning. Addie went under around 12:30am. Her surgery finished around 3:45am.
I’m not going to lie, the waiting process was pure and utter hell. VCA gave us the option of waiting until Addie was out of surgery or we could go home, and they would give us a call with an update. We chose to wait and ended up taking a walk around the area of where VCA is located. During that walk, VCA called and told us that it was a mass and potentially cancer. Our hearts sank. (In February 2016, we lost our Napa, a 10 year old German Shepherd to cancer.) The mass had ruptured and fecal matter was floating around in her abdominal cavity. He flushed her abdominal cavity with a liter of fluid to clean it out. Dr. Hazenfield said that her lymph nodes were inflamed, but thought it may have been from the irritation of the bowel liquids in her abdomen. Lab results came back verifying that it was FGESF (Feline Gastrointestinal Eosinophilic Sclerosing Fibroplasia) and NOT cancer. Dr. Hazenfield had never seen a cat with FGESF and needed to read up on the disease.
He said Addie was a lucky kitty–as she would’ve either died overnight because of the inner poisoning or would have been a VERY sick kitty in the morning. I am glad I listened to my instincts. Addie was a champ in recovery. She ended up staying nearly 3 full days at VCA. The vet techs and the doctors were really impressed with her quick progress of eating, movement and using the litterbox. I was so pleased to see her personality was back (even though it was slightly masked because of all the medications), but her bossy and sweet personality was shining through again—quite the difference from a few days prior.
I was really nervous to bring Addie home. How would Ash react? How do I take care of a sick cat? She had a cone around her head and a very lightweight gauze suit on her body. Jenny went and bought infant onesies at Old Nacy and those kind of worked. Addie was not supposed to lick her incision, not supposed to jump, go up or down stairs and be confined to one room. UM?! Have you ever tried to restrain a cat from doing said activities?!?
Bringing Addie Home After Surgery
The thought of preventing a 2-year old cat of jumping and licking was daunting. I hauled the litterbox upstairs to my bedroom, along with food and water. Addie could not have free range of the house, so that meant Ash was with us too. My fears of how Ash would interact with Addie were quickly dismissed with the way he greeted her, as if he missed her. He was so sweet and definitely was curious with the smells. Addie stayed in my room for several weeks until her stitches had sealed up a bit more. This period of time was really stressful. Like I said earlier, preventing a cat from jumping, let alone a regularly active 2 year old cat, was nearly impossible. There was leakage from her stitches at times—sometimes blood and other times more watery-like fluid. There was one night that I completely freaked out and took her in because the fluid just kept on coming out. It turned out to be the fluid surrounding the incision and it was a good thing that it had drained on its own (meanwhile, it made me almost have a heart attack!). There was one lifesaver product during this recovery time (I wish VCA had it for sale) that a couple of Floppycatters on Facebook recommended and I purchased—Suitical. It covered Addie’s incision completely, allowed her to go the bathroom and had extra fabric towards the neck so it restricted movement.
At this point, I was emotionally and physically drained. Working 8+ hours a day at my job, worrying about her at home and hoping she wasn’t going to rip open her stitches somehow, made it for a stressful time. The support I had from Jenny and my family was incredible. She came to the checkup appointments, went to go see her during the day when I was at work and reassured me that Addie was going to be just fine. Also, the Floppycats community was incredible supportive during the crazy time period of the surgery and her recovery – Jenny and I posted updates frequently on Floppycats’ Facebook page. I really appreciated all of their kind words and understanding of the stress that you go through as an owner.
Ultrasounds to Monitor the Disease
Addie has had 3 ultrasounds since her surgery in August. All of the ultrasounds have come out relatively well, only one of them had a little more thickening of her gut than the other two. We have adjusted her diet so she only eats foods that incorporate beef, turkey, duck, goose, rabbit, pigeon, quail and pork. It was suggested by Dr. Pat Perkins that we avoid any food containing fish and chicken because those proteins are known to have inflammatory properties. So far, so good. Ash has followed suit with the diet change like a champ. It has been quite the process narrowing down which foods they enjoy and which ones they won’t touch. I have had the most luck with beef, turkey and pork.
How Much Did Surgery Cost?
Somewhere reading along this… you are probably thinking, “How much did this procedure cost?” It was a solid chunk of money. In total, Addie’s surgery, ultrasounds, appointments, new foods, etc, has been right around $10,000. The silver lining in all of this though… Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. My parents had never had pet insurance when we were growing up (that will be a change with any new animals!); but Ash and Addie’s previous owner had a policy that I decided to take over once I adopted them. I AM SO GLAD I DID. Holy moly, it was a blessing to have pet insurance. (There are so many pet insurances out there that are GREAT, so if you do decide to get pet insurance, make sure to research your options). The policy I have for Addie was a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement rate—I pay around $22 per month. Her policy covered any emergency surgeries, hospital stays, ultrasounds, blood tests, etc. (Like I said earlier, every policy is different, so make sure to explore your options if you are interested in pet insurance.) I feel so incredibly lucky that I kept the insurance. I submitted the multiple hospital bills for Addie and Healthy Paws was prompt in sending me a check. They covered exactly what they told me they would in the plan. There were some things that were not covered, but all in all, I was reimbursed for around 80-90% of her surgery. It is best to register your pets at the earliest possible age because they do not have any “pre-exisiting” conditions. Addie will stay with Healthy Paws insurance for the rest of her life, as now it would not be wise to move her to another carrier because she now has a pre-existing condition/disease (i.e. Feline Gastrointestinal Eosinophilic Sclerosing Fibroplasia). I have since moved Ash over to Nationwide Pet Insurance because they cover one dental per year and cover more routine checkups (something that Healthy Paws does not—again, make sure to research).
The Disease Moving Forward
Addie’s disease will be something I have to monitor the rest of her life, especially because the disease is a relatively new discovery. As always, we will keep you up to date on her progress, but I consider myself very lucky and feel like everything happened for a reason. I can’t imagine my life without her sweet and sassy 9 lb frame. I was so impressed with how she continues to handle her vet visits and has been a great patient. She is such a loved little girl!
Jenny and I had an interview with Dr. Michael Linton of of Eastside Veterinary Emergency and Specialists in Sydney, Australia shortly afterwards. He is known as the world expert on the disease. The audio of our interview can be listened to in the the YouTube video posted below or you can read the interview here: Feline Gastrointestinal Eosinophilic Sclerosing Fibroplasia Interview with Dr. Michael Linton of Eastside Veterinary Emergency and Specialists