Blindness and laser therapy

We spent almost the entire day Thursday at the vet clinic with Piccolo, our (now) eldest cat. He was recently (last month) diagnosed with spondyloarthrosis, a joint disease of the vertebral column. It’s a very painful, degenerative condition…

Thanks to my research online, however, for the past two weeks he has been having laser therapy at the vet clinic, three times a week. These sessions have proven to be extremely beneficial: he’s no longer in pain, which means he’s able to walk around the house, stairs included.

I’ve also been giving him a daily dose of cortisone and, until a couple of days ago (when all hell broke loose, as you will read below), a bit of curcumin, the same C3 Complex that I take, mixed in with his food. I will resume the curcumin this evening, now that things have settled down a bit…

Okay, so here’s what happened: about a week ago, perhaps a bit longer (it seems like a century ago to me!), I noticed that he didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything. He wouldn’t look into my eyes, for example, not even when I was at eye level. In short, he didn’t seem all there. In the beginning, I thought it might be because of the pain from his spondylosis…but when this “space cadet” condition persisted, I asked the vets to check his eyesight.

A few days ago the vet ophthalmologist confirmed my suspicions, unfortunately: Piccolo is completely blind in one eye, his right one, and almost completely blind in his left eye; he sees just enough to avoid obstacles.

But that isn’t it. The following occurred just a few nights ago, Wednesday night to be precise: Piccolo began walking in circles. Stefano and I knew something was terribly wrong, so we took him to the vet clinic first thing in the morning. Our vet did a few tests and confirmed that it must have been caused by some sort of neurological problem and set up a CAT scan for the following afternoon.

The good news is that the scan was negative for brain tumors or anything life-threatening. In fact, the vets found very little that would explain Piccolo’s sudden (and almost complete) blindness. They suspect it was caused by something like a TIA or mild stroke that might heal a bit in time, and that is definitely good news, of course. Since there is really nothing wrong with his eyes, nothing that would explain the blindness, according to the ophthalmologist, it is in fact possible that some day he might be able to regain a bit of his sight. Or not.

His blood tests have also improved since July. Definitely good news, there.

An aside: we spent so much time in the vet clinic on Thursday (eye tests and blood tests in the morning, and then the CAT scan and his laser therapy in the afternoon/evening) that we came to know some of the furry or feathery patients…and their humans, too, of course.

And some of the stories we heard on Thursday made me realize that, in spite of these difficult furry times, we have been very, indeed VERY lucky. Unlike other folks, in fact, we’ve never really had to deal with any major health problems with our cats until recently. Well, come to think of it, there have been a couple of things in the past (mainly with Piccolo, as it were), but we managed to get past them without too much heartbreak.

Anyway, case in point: on Thursday afternoon, at one point, a distraught young man came out of one of the examining rooms holding his adorable 11-month-old kitty. I heard him utter the words “chemo…useless…transfusions haven’t worked…” After he’d left, we learned that this poor little kitty had a fulminating type of cancer (blood cancer, I daresay) with a dire prognosis. The kitty had already had three blood transfusions…I forget now if she’d had some chemo, too, but at any rate, nothing had worked. But since she was still so young and alert, and in fact she looked just fine to me, poor dear, her human had made the decision not to have her euthanized. He took her home…to die. I asked the clinic’s secretary if the kitty would suffer. She said, no, that wouldn’t happen.

So sad…

Unlike this young man, at least we’ve had many happy years with our beloved cats. No cancer, no horrible deaths at a young age, blablabla. And, as I said, Piccolo, who is now more than 14 years old, will probably get a bit better, in time, with curcumin, cortisone, and a specific brain neuron-healing product that contains, among other things, fish oil and resveratrol…eh.

I’d like to end my post with a positive note. Early this morning I woke up and found all the cats on alert because of a thunderstorm. Piccolo was restless and wandering around, too.  Well, to my surprise, he walked up to me, resting his head against my leg, for the first time in days and then followed me around as I checked the windows to make sure it wasn’t raining in. I reached down to pet him and then spent several minutes rubbing and scratching him…He didn’t purr (he hasn’t purred for days, unfortunately), but he seemed content enough. And that is when I began feeling that we’d turned a corner. Finally.

He also slept a lot today, for the first time since we brought him home on Thursday evening.

One last, obvious thing: the world is full of blind cats, and Piccolo is not even completely blind. So I’m sure he will figure it out, and we will do our best to help him.

Everything is going to be fine…

More on healthful purring

A blog reader (thank you soooo soooo much!) translated the cat-relevant part of the 2003 Swedish study, Purr as a cat–and avoid osteoporosis, which I mentioned in my recent cat purring/bone healing post. Fabulous! So today I am going to post a quick update containing most of his translation. I have highlighted (in bold) a few of the more important, in my opinion, passages:

 

WHY do cats have such strong bones and so rarely bone defects and fractures compared with dogs? According to new evidence and theories, it is their purring which seems to be healing and strengthening for bone tissue. Purring provides vibrations which stimulate bone cells.

 

The cat achieves its purring via nerve pulses to the musculature of the throat and abdomen, according to A. L. Lyons, veterinarian at the University of California, Davis. In doing so, it sets an elastic sinew, between the clavicle and the windpipe, in vibration. The sinew vibrates at both inhalation and exhalation of the domestic cats according to a fixed pattern and frequency. Variations in frequency range between 25-150 hertz, and cats can vary the strength of their purr. Among big cats, however, the vibrations are limited to exhalation. The frequency range is especially interesting because it corresponds well with the frequencies that researchers in animal experiments have found can stimulate bone density and the healing of fractures.

 

Cats are hunters and strongly dependent on speed and strength of muscles and skeleton.  The cheetah, the fastest land animal on Earth, creeps up slowly on its prey and then accelerates lightning-fast to speeds that can approach 100 km per hour, then it strikes down its quarry within about 20 seconds. The final hunting phase rarely lasts more than a minute.

 

An animal weighing between 40 and 65 kg can make bring down a catch of up to 40 kg. But it eats an average of under 3 kg of meat a day. Therefore, its life on the savannah consists largely of lying still – the greatest risk factor for osteoporosis and muscle atrophy! The small amount of physical activity these quadrupeds normally expose their bones and muscles to in their survival on the savannah is hardly sufficient for them to be in the highest trim.

 

But purring is a mechanism that requires small amounts of energy and yet can still stimulate muscles and bone to strength and explains the cat’s performance ability despite the low level of exercise [=my Puzzola in this recent photo]. Perhaps it can also provide the background to the proverb that the cat has nine lives, as the purr vibrations should facilitate the healing of fractures and other tissue damage in reference to what has been shown in animal experiments in the laboratory environment.

 

Obviously, it is tempting to argue that cats purr for them to feel satisfied, but it’s more likely that their purring is partly a way for them to communicate and that it is also a potential source of self-healing and strengthening of the muscles and skeleton.

 

[…] Maria Sääf at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, who has long studied the issues surrounding osteoporosis, […] was very enthusiastic about the possibility that vibration could also be beneficial for people with osteoporosis. A couple of pieces fell into place when she told me how vibrations are already being used in sports medicine to stimulate healing processes for injured elite athletes and that there is a new prototype machine at a school for children with limited movement which actually works with vibration technology. Her database search gave many hits of studies of the effects of vibrations on bone strength in animal experiments. But unfortunately there was a lack of work with results from human trials.

 

My reader/Swedish translator told me about a purring 2003 “Scientific American” article. I looked it up: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=why-do-cats-purr And, while reading it, I remembered that all of my cats purred like mad after they had been “fixed.” At the time, I thought that they were simply happy to be home. How silly of me! Now their purring makes more sense: they were healing themselves, and, in fact, I bet that their purring helped alleviate the pain that they must have been feeling, poor dears.

 

The SciAm article confirms that purring corresponds to sound frequencies that have been shown to improve bone density and promote healing. And, interestingly, both the Swedish study and the SciAm article discuss the fact that cats do not display as many muscle and bone abnormalities as their more strongly selected carnivore relative, the domestic dog. Perhaps cats’ purring helps alleviate the dysplasia or osteoporotic conditions that are more common in their canid cousins.

 

So snuggle up to your cat or cats, as I have been doing more and more lately. Let me warn you that snuggling could have unfortunate consequences. You see, now, every time I sit or lie down during the day, Priscilla demands in no uncertain terms to get under my sweater (see photo: so far, this is the best shot I have been able to get of her under my sweatshirt). Ignoring her is not an option. And her insistence can get to be a real drag when I am busily typing or reading. But then I think about my bones and how her purring may prevent future problems for me…

Purring against myeloma

As many of you already know, I adore cats, the most wonderful creatures in the world. I have four cats now, two years apart in age…even though years ago I found out that I am allergic to them (just my luck!!!), which forces me to use a cortisone inhaler once a day. I don’t mind, though, it’s a small price to pay for all the joy they bring to me and Stefano (who is also probably allergic to our darlings, by the way). Our friends think we’re nuts. That may well be true, but at least we are happy nuts.

 

Well, after what I read this morning, I am beginning to suspect that they might be giving us more than (allergies and) joy…but let me proceed by degrees.

 

Priscilla, my second youngest, now 3+ years old, is our “wild” cat. I posted her story on my blog a while ago, but, in a nutshell, I found her abandoned as a tiny kitten on our street and saved her from certain death. Even though we have tamed her to some extent, she still hisses and spits and even growls (sometimes) if you try to pick her up. But she also has a very sweet affectionate side, as my parents well know (she worships them). For instance, whenever we lie down, she nestles next to us or on top of us and purrs and purrs and purrs. She loves to get under blankets (see photo). When I am sitting at my desk, she frequently gets into my lap or tries to perch on my shoulder (well, when she was a baby, she fit right on my shoulder, but now she hooks her claws into me to hold on, ouch!). Or she gets under my sweater. That is her favourite place.

 

Well, I am no longer going to try to discourage her sweater retreat, even though most of my turtlenecks are full of tiny claw-made holes.

 

The reason. A blog reader (thanks, Sue!) recently left a blog comment with a link to a page about the healing effect of a cat’s purring: http://tinyurl.com/5j95ne An extraordinary read, I must say. So I decided to have a closer look at this purring business today, even though I really should be working on my more serious piece.

 

We all know that pets in general (not just cats) have a soothing effect on their “owners,” in terms of reducing blood pressure etc. Indeed, some time ago I think I posted about a study in which folks who do not have cats in their lives had a much higher risk, 30-40% as I recall, of dying from heart attacks or strokes compared to cat “owners.”

 

At any rate, this morning I did a bit of research on PubMed and came across a few scientific studies that discussed the purring/healing phenomenon. But these studies had no abstracts and were a bit dated, so I won’t even bother asking Sherlock to retrieve them for me. However, I would like to highlight the title of a 2003 Swedish study: Purr as a cat—and avoid osteoporosis. Too bad I don’t know a word of Swedish. Still, an intriguing title, no? 

 

I did find an article in English addressing the issue of bone healing: http://tinyurl.com/5zly2u The author writes that Consistent vibrational sound frequencies of 25-150 Hz, which is the range of a cat’s purr, aid in the healing of bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles, as well as providing pain relief. Cat lovers, please go have a peek at this article.

 

Another interesting titbit is that cats purr when frightened or injured or giving birth. Ah, in fact, I have noticed that all of my cats (except for Peekaboo, who is fearless), Priscilla in particular, howl but also purr when I take them to the vet. The purring never made sense until now. So, as the author points out, in addition to expressing contentment, purring must be some sort of survival strategy.

 

And read this: Cats’ bones heal faster and more easily after fractures than those of dogs. Veterinary medicine researchers note that 90% of cats that plummet from extraordinary heights survive despite serious injuries. There is also evidence that cats are less likely to suffer postoperative complications after surgery than dogs. This rapid healing ability may be attributable to purring. Of course, the conditional tense is used here.

 

Then we read that Dr. Clinton Rubin [for info on Dr. Rubin, check out: http://tinyurl.com/6yqxph, love that turkey photo, hehe] and his colleagues have discovered that sound frequencies of 20-50 Hz can increase bone density. From what I gather (but I could not find the original study), these researchers performed two tests, one on chickens, the other on rabbits. Both chickens and rabbits had stronger bones after exposure to 20-50 Hz, which also stimulated the healing of broken bones as well as the speed of bone regeneration. Healing of broken bones? Increased speed of bone generation? How much is two plus two?

 

And here is the clincher:

 

Cats are also less likely to suffer from osteosarcoma, osteoarthritis and myeloma (a tumor of the bone marrow’s plasma cells). Oh boy!

 

The rest of the article (the effect of purring on pain relief, tendons and muscles, etc.) is interesting, too. This morning I read online that people suffering from migraines get some relief when purring cats are placed next to their heads. Well, well. And hey, it occurs to me that my cats lie next to me or on me whenever I am ill. When I had pleurisy (and almost kicked the bucket), they were with me all the time. Now I know why. And hey, even if this purring business is an old wives’ tale, isn’t it a good one? I, for one, like to believe it’s true.

 

Well, heck, now I guess I am going to have to learn how to purr, perhaps while sipping a dark hoppy beer. For the moment, though, I will continue to cuddle my little tiger under my sweater as often as she wants.

Qigong moves

Well, Stefano and I are leaving tomorrow (early afternoon) for Northumberland. Ooooh, I am sooooo excited!!! Puffins, here we come!  No Internet until we get back, probably. That will be hard!

Last night Peekaboo entertained us with a series of qigong moves of her own invention. I thought I would share some of the photos I took (when will I learn to take a video with my digital camera???).

First though, a couple of words on the meaning of qigong (which I practice, by the way). 

From Wikipedia:

Qigong (or ch’i kung) refers to a wide variety of traditional “cultivation” practices that involve movement and/or regulated breathing designed to be therapeutic. Qigong is practiced for health maintenance purposes, as a therapeutic intervention, as a medical profession, a spiritual path and/or component of Chinese martial arts.

The ‘qi’ in ‘qigong’ means breath or gas in Chinese, and, by extension, ‘life force’, ‘energy’ or even ‘cosmic breath’. ‘Gong’ means work applied to a discipline or the resultant level of skill, so ‘qigong’ is thus ‘breath work’ or ‘energy work’.

The first (above, left) depicts her meditation pose. Before doing any qigong exercises, she indictates, it is important to relax and meditate for a little while. 

So do some deep abdominal breathing exercises and push the negative energy downwards and away from your body, as she demonstrates with her paws in photo number one.

Then shift slowly to one side, then to the other (see photo number two, above, right) in order to relax your paws…or arms…thereby increasing your life force.

Photo number three (above, left) gives a demonstration of just how far to the side you can go with this particular qigong exercise. By the way, I would not recommend it to those who suffer from sore backs… 

Photo number four (on the right) is Peekaboo’s final move, which provides instant relaxation: 

stand on the tip of your toes, pull your paws/arms up, focus on an invisible adversary, whatever that may be (an evil cancer stem cell, perchance?) and…POUNCE!!! 

Cats and beer…

We spent the morning in the front and back gardens (we live in a row house) preparing for spring: pruning, weeding, cutting, raking leaves…we are sooooo exhausted right now. It’s on days like these that I wish we didn’t have a garden at all. Ouch, my back hurts! But then I look fondly at my pruned raspberry patch, my pomegranate tree, my herbs and all the flowers, mainly daffodils and crocuses, that are popping up everywhere, and change my mind. It really is pretty.

Anyway, I thought I would post these photos I took of Peekaboo last night at the dinner table. Or rather, on the dinner table!

Dinner is always a bit of a struggle, especially with this curious little one. She likes to jump up on the table and watch us while we eat. Theoretically, that would be okay (we have a very big country dining table), but she begins edging very close to the food, the way cats do, inch by inch, as if they didn’t care…then all of a sudden her nose is in your plate, or she is dipping one of her paws into your glass of water. She’s a pest, but such an adorable one…

Irresistible.

And wouldn’t this have made a great beer ad?

(P.S. In case you were wondering, I don’t drink beer, but Stefano likes a glass with dinner, sometimes).

Flying Squirrel, I mean, CAT!

Last night I stuck the Xmas wand toy (that has a suction cap on one end and a dangling toy on the other) to our bedroom closet, and, as expected, Peekaboo put on quite a show, flying through the air, over and over again. I finally put the toy away so she wouldn’t die of exhaustion, but not before I had taken some very amusing photos.

I really should get a videocamera for these occasions! Photos give but a vague idea of how funny this kitten really is! But this particular jump, caught in the photo, gave me a belly laugh that lasted at least one minute, the kind that gives you a stomach pain. Too funny! So even though I am working on a post of a rather more serious nature this morning, I thought I would post this photo for everyone’s enjoyment.

If you have never seen documentaries on flying squirrels, have a look at a great photo on the Encyclopaedia Britannica website: http://tinyurl.com/yw84sq I wasn’t sure about copyright issues so I didn’t publish it here, but this link will take you right to the photo, which is almost identical to this one, I’d say. Impressive, no? Peekaboo, the flying squirrel/cat!

Blog Comments

We had errands to run today so I didn’t have much time to do research. But I did want to write a quick post to let you all know that sometimes the very efficient anti-spam program here at Healthblogs blocks some of your comments, which are put into a special moderation "box." I then approve or delete the messages. Today, for instance, I had two such messages. I deleted one, which was clearly spam (nasty stuff!). The other was a blog reader’s comment, which of course I approved. So, if your comments don’t appear immediately on my blog, it could be because they were, for some reason, put into the moderation box. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience. But, to be honest, I would much rather have an overzealous anti-spam program than have to deal with already-published whacky (or worse!) spam comments on my posts. There is so much garbage out there on the Internet! Bleah. Anyway, enough said.  

This is a photo I took of Peekaboo on New Year’s Eve. She’d been playing for hours…and finally crashed on the couch. Such a party gal!

Drinking Water

   After dinner last night, Stefano and I were sitting at the table, chatting, when Peekaboo decided she had to check out the contents of my glass (water, what else?). I dashed to get my camera.

This sequence gives a good idea of what happened (over and over…). Dipping her paw into my glass and shaking water all over the table wasn’t enough. She finally stuffed her silly little head into the glass. The third photo shows how much she appreciated my letting her have a drink (I should mention that our cats always have plenty of drinking water, the same water that we humans drink…). Needless to say, I got myself a new glass …We have never had such a mischievous kitten. Every year I decorate a small (fake but cute) Xmas tree. But now that we have Peekaboo, even having such a small tree has become a bit of a chore. In spite of my efforts to camouflage it, she has managed to knock it over several times by now, and I seriously doubt the ornaments will make it to next week. No matter, though, we don’t mind: Peekaboo is THE cutest!

Xmas Shopping

Today Stefano and I drove to Monsummano Terme, not too far from Florence, in the heart of what has been called "Tuscan Chocolate Valley" thanks to all the award-winning maitre chocolatiers who live and work there. Ah yes, you guessed it. We were on a serious quest for chocolate. Xmas is around the corner, and we have decided to give chocolate as presents this year. We went to "Slitti," a well-known artisanal chocolate shop. Andrea Slitti, the owner, has won all sorts of prestigious Italian and European prizes for his creations. He is famous for his chocolate and coffee combinations. "Slitti" has its own website, which has been translated into English, too: www.slitti.it

The shop was packed with people buying everything in sight, so I didn’t get any good photos. Too bad. But you can get an idea of what the shop looks like on the website. Anyway, after we had chosen gifts for friends and colleagues, we sat down and drank some hot Slitti chocolate.

Sublime.

Once we got home, I took a photo of our purchases. Some of this chocolate is for us, of course. You know, for emergencies and whatnot. 😉 I found some 100% cocoa mass, by the way, which made me very happy. This photo shows my boy Piccolo peeking at me from behind a Xmas bow. You can (sort of) make out the dark and milk chocolate "cakes" containing hazelnuts and almonds, the dark chocolate hazelnut spreads, various types of dragées and chocolate bars with different cocoa content. A chocolate feast for the eyes today! 🙂