Aside from the random sniffle or cough, boat life has been good to us. Up until this point, our health has faired pretty well (touch wood). Darby has been no exception either. He’s only been sea sick two or three times over the past year and I think he may have the strongest stomach out of us all! Since he’s the unshakeable one around the boat, it came as a shock to us last week when we noticed he wasn’t feeling well.
One morning, I woke up to make some coffee and noticed cat litter scattered all over the floor. This came as a bit of a surprise considering Darby is by FAR the cleanest crew on the boat (I’d like to think I’m 2nd). Within moments of being awake I saw him scamper over to his to his box for a quick pit stop and then about 15 minutes later he was back in. I suddenly realized why there was litter all over the place. The poor guy had been in and out of his box all night.
Upon further inspection, we realized that there wasn’t much inside of the box to show for all of his efforts. It seemed like he was showing symptoms of a urinary tract infection. We watched him over the course of 36 hours and nothing had changed except for our heightening anxiety.
In addition to this stress, I was supposed to travel back to Pennsylvania to visit family and had a flight to catch the next day. I didn’t want to leave without talking to a doctor. Otherwise, I’d just be a nervous wreck the entire time I was away. We had to take him to the vet.
To the clinic we go
A noisy, bumpy dinghy and bus ride aren’t the greatest way to get a sick animal to the vet. In order to minimize stress on Darby, we wanted to limit his transit time as much as possible. We decided the best way to do this was to move Alli Oop over to Prickly Bay which is the closest anchorage to the St. George’s University Small Animal Clinic. Even though we’d still have to get in the dinghy and a bus, it’d be a much shorter ride.
If you did’t know, St. George is an international university where many medical students from the States come to study. They have a great veterinary medicine program there as well. The university is very close to most of the anchorages on the south side of the island which is an added bonus for us.
We motored around the corner and dropped the hook. Once we were settled, we popped Darby in his carrier, took a quick dinghy ride to the dock and a five minute cab ride to the clinic. It all happened so fast he didn’t even have time to complain. Surprisingly he didn’t make a peep the whole way to the clinic.
FLUTD… say what?
Once we arrived, we were quickly seen and taken care of by the friendly staff of St. George’s Small Animal Clinic. One of the vets, Dr. Kalasi, examined Darby and confirmed our suspicions of a possible UTI. He however, called it FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease). This a fairly broad term that can include a variety of problems: UTI, urethral blockage, urinary stones or cystitis.
Darby showed no signs of inflammation or discomfort, so he was only in the early stages of having a potential development. Apparently FLUTD is most common in male cats who are overweight. It is also brought on by stress, a change in routine, diet and lack of exercise.
As Dr. Kalasi explained the situation, I started to feel like a really terrible mom. I made my baby fat, stressed out and sick. What kind of mother am I?
Sailing the boat can be stressful (I get that), but we’ve been still for nearly two months. Did all that travel time just catch up with him? He’s been eating the same food since we adopted him three years ago and we’ve never had any issues. We try to make a point to play with him everyday, otherwise he just sleeps all day. Was this just an inevitable development or did we do something to cause this?
A new diet
Luckily we brought Darby in before he got any kind of infection or blockage. At least we get a gold star for being observant! Since there was nothing seriously wrong, Dr. Kalasi suggested we take the least invasive form of treatment, which was a change of diet.
There is cat food specially formulated to treat FLUTD and although it may take some time for the full effects to take place, it’s a step in the right direction. Darby has to eat this for the remainder of his fuzzy life and he is not very excited about it. No more Friskey’s Seafood Feast for breakfast and dinner. It’s Hill’s Prescription Diet, Urinary Care from now on. Yum.
In addition to the new diet, we also had to give Darby some mild pain medication every 8 hours to help him relax. This eased him to sleep and kept him from running to the box every 15 minutes. Within an hour of giving him medication we noticed a huge difference. It made him pretty groggy and spaced out the first couple of days, but soon he seemed to tolerate it much better. By day three he seemed to be completely back to normal.
After a week of seemingly typical behavior, and with Dr. Kalasi’s permission, we decided to cut back his medication all together. He’s been doing great and we hope that the change in diet will be enough to keep any symptoms from developing in the future.