Sunday, 18 December 2016

An Eye For Trouble

Oatmeal, he of the peeing response to medical intervention, has eye trouble again. It seems like no time at all since he was urinating on every piece of clothing to avoid the eye-drops, and now he wants another round.
As always with cats, trouble comes when you are busy, or after office hours when the call-out charges on the vet are so much higher. This time was Friday evening – I had just got in from two days away, clutching a bag of high-calorie, low-health snacking options to wind down after a busy week. Our poorly cockerel, Wobbly, was very much on the mend, all cats present and correct... except Oatmeal. He was behaving strangely, but as always with cats, they suddenly do that just to confuse people.
I went and said hello anyway, because Oatmeal likes that. Normally, he doesn’t wait for his retarded people to initiate a greeting. He is there, in the way, around your ankles, just exuding hello. A black-hole is a gravitational well that even sucks light in; Oatmeal is a beige-hole, an attention-deficit well that sucks in every scrap of loving and fussing in the immediate vicinity.
Instead, he was huddled, with both eyes shut. In fact, tightly shut, and when we carried him into the lounge, he wailed in response to the brighter light. Cue a call to the vet. A brief debate over the after-hours costs...
So, we had a half-hour drive to the main branch of the vet, which I completed in twenty-five minutes. Not actually unsafe, but my partner who has been known to experience motion sickness, did indicate loudly, several times, that Oatmeal would be much happier if I took the corners more slowly.
Oatmeal hadn’t met this vet before, but he knew the drill. When the door of the carry-cage opens, do not, under any circumstances, step out. If someone unkindly removes the lid, brace for trouble... maybe this one is OK... hasn’t done anything bad... hey leave my tail alone... put my tail down... yikes... not that again... it can’t be sanitary... I have to lick that clean later.
Now that the full veterinary credentials were established, and Oatmeal’s temperature confirmed as normal, it was time to inspect troubled eyes, so Oatmeal tried a new tactic: reverse. Just keep going backwards and never mind the edge of the examination table. And when the ground suddenly angles up, just keep reversing.
In fact, he reversed most of the way up my front, a bit of a tail-to-beard moment. My thoughts were evenly divided: catch him if he goes sideways and that can’t be sanitary, he hasn’t licked it clean yet.
Eventually we found a combination of steadying hands that defeated the reversing strategy, stopped the slo-mo somersaults and let the vet get a good look at Oatmeal’s eyes. Fortunately, this time, there was no obvious infection but clearly something wrong. We were facing the dreaded eye-drops again. After a discussion with the vet, with perhaps excessive emphasis on my issue with wet ankles and an increased usage of the washing machine, we had a treatment strategy – a shot of long-lasting antibiotic that would be excreted through Oatmeal’s tear-ducts to bathe his eyeball in antibiotic as a precaution, and an anti-inflammatory for the pain.
We drove home more sedately, but really, it didn’t seem to make Oatmeal any happier. Although within a few hours the drugs clearly did.

Oatmeal has recovered, but he still has an eye for trouble: carry-cages, towels brandished in a menacing way, or the sort of wet-weather gear that primarily protects ankles from cat pee.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

A Blessing From The Poop

It turns out that a sick chicken employs the same sort of tactics against medical intervention as a sick cat. We have two Light Sussex cockerels who had a bad start in life when their broodyhen died just after they hatched. In spite of that, Wibbly and Wobbly have done well and fathered a few chicks of their own, but Wobbly does have an ongoing issue with balance and walking in a straight line.
Wibbly, Wobbly and a reluctant date

In the last month or so he has spent some time living in the greenhouse because he just didn’t look well. Each time, he perked up after getting out of the Autumn chill for a few days, and then went back down again once we let him out. So, at the weekend, we took him to see our neighbour, the sick chicken guru. She couldn’t spot any specific single cause, but gave us some recommendations on things to try to make him feel better.
Twenty-four hours later, and Wobbly was worse and our neighbour took another look. It was now obvious that Wobbly had a blocked crop – for the non-chicken-savvy, the crop is where the bird stores food before it goes into the gizzard to be ground down. So, Epsom Salts drenches and massaging the crop every few hours – this already has echoes of antibiotic drops in the cat’s eye four times a day.
Wobbly took it like a chicken. Or a sewer. My partner held him so that I could dribble drench into his beak from a syringe. Wobbly did a small, viscous trail of poop over my partner’s sleeve, so I reached for the toilet roll before it could drip on the bathroom floor. (The bathroom is our venue of choice for sick chickens – warm, dry, washable surfaces...)
The thing is, that was just a warning shot. Then Wobbly let rip with the real thing – hot and smelly, over my partners sleeve, down her trousers, over her socks – Oatmeal and the power of cat pee fade into insignificance.
On the positive side, it takes time for a chicken to reload, but medical treatment had to be suspended for general clean-up, and donning a rain coat. Then, back to the drench... wait, you stand there... and twist a bit... and hold the back end over the bath... is that just Epsom Salt solution running up my arm?
Wobbly resolutely refused to get better. We drenched and massaged for a couple of days, then my partner had to be away for a few days. So... one hand there to hold Wobbly... and another to steady him like so... then stand there to avoid any further poop shots... now, if I hold the syringe with my third hand...
Eventually I got some drench in his beak long enough for him to swallow, but after another day I still saw no improvement. So, back to the neighbour, a bit of reassurance that in fact his crop was emptying slowly. Now maybe it was just coincidence, but within hours of our chicken guru examining Wobbly, he was visibly improving, standing up properly for the first time in days, and hinting that it was time for food... and then more food...

Now, Wobbly is eating well, and during a momentary balance failure he apparently kept himself upright with a stream of explosive diarrhoea. Through the bars of the cage, up the wall, down into the bath... Just to recap, this is why we put sick chickens in the bathroom – washable surfaces. And an extract fan. The important point is that high-pressure power-pooping is a perfectly normal aspect of a healthy chicken’s digestive system, so we take it as a blessing in disguise. Very heavy disguise.