“Let’s go take a look at that cat,” my husband says to me. My reaction … skepticism.
Don’t get me wrong, my husband is an avid animal lover, but he usually needs a little more persuading before adding another “kid” to our furry family. But on this day, looking through our local want ads, Gizmoto was destined to become part of our lives.
When we brought Gizmoto home, he was skinny and filthy. Anyone who knows hairless breeds understands they need routine bathing, and he needed it! One of our most endearing memories was the day we brought Gizmoto home. This little 4-month-old kitty was moved to a new house and given a good meal and tolerated a bath (that’s an understatement). Even though he only knew us for 6 hours, he crawled into our bed, flopped on his side and slept all night like he had known us forever. It was love at first sight.
One day, at the age of 6, Gizmoto was breathing a little hard. We scheduled an appointment with our veterinarian where he was diagnosed with asthma. He was treated with steroids, and we monitored his condition at home. The following day, Gizmoto was not responding to the steroids, so I called our veterinarian. She recommended I bring him to our local emergency/specialty clinic. After his evaluation, the emergency veterinarian came in and told me, “Your cat is in heart failure.”
Gizmoto was admitted to the ICU and administered supplemental oxygen, intravenous furosemide and topical nitroglycerin. The first 24 hours were critical, but he pulled through. The following day he received a complete cardiac workup including a cardiopulmonary exam, electrocardiogram and echocardiogram. After a diagnosis of advanced hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), Gizmoto was able to come home with four different medications (furosemide, pimobendan, clopidogrel and potassium gluconate) and a list of low sodium foods.
Being a licensed veterinary technician, I felt pretty adept being able to manage this and optimistic for a realistic lifespan of only another six-18 months given his guarded prognosis. We had our strict daily routine of meds and diet. After relapsing and another trip to the ER, his medications were adjusted, and he was also prescribed benazepril.
Sadly, Gizmoto lost his courageous battle with HCM in October 2019, three months after his initial diagnosis. We certainly had some ups and downs, but Gizmoto was happy and home. Our short time together was priceless.
Our experience with Gizmoto prompted us to explore proactive ways to monitor Widget’s (now 9) cardiac health. We talked to our veterinarian about adding the proBNP test to his annual exam. ProBNT is a blood test, also used in humans, to assist in the diagnosis of heart failure. This test will allow us to be more informed about his future heart health.
In recognition of American Heart Month, Gizmoto’s story is a great example of comparative medicine. Comparative medicine studies diseases that occur in both humans and animals and looks for factors that are similar and different. Studies like these can help researchers find novel ways to diagnose, prevent and treat disease in all species.
Because HCM in cats is very similar to HCM in humans, Gizmoto’s medications and treatment plans were comparable to what humans would also receive, and that is all because of biomedical research. Continued research on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy not only holds promise for helping countless people but also for improving the quality of life of many animals.
E P I L O G U E
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Amy E. Sanderson is an IACUC coordinator at Taconic Biosciences. She provided the photos of Gizmoto and Widget.