We'd noticed over the last few days that Munchkin seemed to be having increased vision problems. She's been having some trouble for months, but it seemed relatively minor until this past week.
Just in the last 3 days or so, she got to the point where Shannon would put a treat on the floor in front of her, just an inch or two away, and she would wag her head back and forth, unable to figure out where it was. Or she would go to get a drink of water and jump back with a big startle response when her face touched the edge of the mug, because she clearly hadn't realized that it was so close.
I phoned the vet's office and left a message for Dr. McBride, who won't be in the office until Monday, telling her what's going on. At that point, we had just figured that she was an old cat, and old creatures often develop vision problems. No urgency, right?
We observed Munchkin more closely over the course of Friday afternoon and evening, and noticed that the problem was really quite severe. When you talk to her, she doesn't look right at you, but just sort of in your general direction, so even large objects making noise are difficult for her to locate. And we discussed the suddenness of the problem's drastic change in severity.
Shannon did some online research in the evening, and learned that one complication of feline kidney disease can be dangerously high blood pressure, which can cause blindness. We talked about whether we could wait to talk to Dr. McBride on Monday or whether we should go to the vet's emergency room, and we started talking about Munchkin's pupils, noticing that they have been almost entirely dilated for the past couple days. The freaky dilated pupils and the possibility of out-of-control high blood pressure made us decide to take her in, despite the fact that it was nearly 11 p.m.
We didn't have to wait as long as we'd expected. The vet took her blood pressure, told us that normal cat blood pressure is around 80-120, and then explained that Munchkin's blood pressure was around 170-190. So, apparently, her blood pressure was (and probably still is) close to double what it should be. Yikes!
The emergency vet prescribed a medication to lower Munchkin's blood pressure (now she gets 9 pills a day instead of 8!), and said that M probably wouldn't be able to regain her sight back to what it was, but this statement actually made me very happy, because it implies that she's likely to regain a significant amount of her sight, which I would have guessed was impossible. Also, the online research that Shannon did had indicated that this high blood pressure problem can lead to permanent retinal damage -- and complete blindness -- if it isn't caught quickly enough, so I'm very glad we decided to take her in. The emergency room visit wasn't even very expensive: only $150 total for the visit and the medication.
Apparently, she now weighs 4.7 lbs, which sounds incredibly tiny for an adult cat.
Despite the current vision problems, she's basically the same as she has been for the past couple months: fairly lethargic, ravenously hungry (2 of her pills each day are an appetite stimulant, which seems to be working admirably), preferring to lie on the bathroom rug 90% of the time but willing to walk short distances for water or food, possessing extremely bad breath and disgustingly slimy brown spit (presumably a sign of dehydration), prone to enthusiastic purring when held, and ridiculously trusting and cooperative when we're giving her the various treatments (this has been the case all along and seems a personality thing, not a weakness thing). She's still the same sweet cat, but not as interactive as once upon a time.
So we're giving her the medication for her blood pressure, and we're hoping that it will help and that her vision will improve. I'm not sure how long that might take, but I'll probably talk to Dr. McBride on Monday and ask. Munchkin goes back to get her blood pressure checked in a week, so we can find out whether the pills are helping.
As Shannon and I discussed while walking through the dark to the kitty emergency room last night, 2012 has not been the greatest cat year for us. It's been really really hard, full of worry and pain and the sadness of seeing a loved one suffering, and -- eventually -- death. I think Munchkin is still relatively content, though, even if she is reclusive and lethargic, and so I don't really see her as suffering right now, but the partial blindness can't be easy on her. I hope we're able to help with that.