Squirrel's Story

Squirrel, a white cat in her owner's lap.
Squirrel was only four months old when I adopted her on September 15th, 2011. That November, almost two months later on Thanksgiving weekend, Squirrel, began showing signs of anemia.

After multiple visits to the University of Minnesota's Vet Medicine center, we learned that Squirrel was most likely battling an immune-mediated disease. Basically, for no particular reason... at all, Squirrel's immune system began attacking her bone marrow and stopped it from producing red blood cells.

Squirrel got so anemic, that I mostly carried her around, and at one point she couldn't bring herself to the bathroom on time. Squirrel was on steroids, but her blood cells were dying off too fast and there wasn't enough time for the medicine to have a chance.

She collapsed on November 28th, after I came home from work. Without hesitation, and somewhat frantically, we administered her first blood transfusion. After a week or so, Squirrel's blood tests still weren't producing signs of her producing own red blood cells, and she was becoming lethargic again.

A few days after her blood transfusion, Squirrel ended up having an unfortunate reaction--the potassium levels in her blood fell, and she was unable to lift her head. Instead, her head hung limply from her shoulders. Not having any idea what was going on, I rushed her back into ICU. They took awesome care of her [as always, she had lots of fans at the U of M!] but I was set back another unexpected $1,000, and my stress levels had hit the roof.

Squirrel's recovery became more unlikely each day that passed where she did not began producing her own red blood cells.

Within a week and a half, her transfused Red blood cells began dying out and I was faced with the decision of another costly blood transfusion, a blood transfusion & ICU visit ran around $1,000-1,500. Let's just say, I blew *WAY* past my "$2,000 absolute max." I couldn't stop, with each vet visit and each new medicine-regime I became more determined to "save Squirrel."

I began to wonder if I was still fighting for Squirrel, or just fighting for my own selfish needs--I wasn't ready to say goodbye. She was only a couple of months old, she wasn't supposed to be having "complications" and fatal-diseases.

My doctor assured me Squirrel wasn't suffering and that if we crossed that line--where I was no longer fighting for Squirrel's-sake--he would let me know.

We decided to administer a second blood transfusion for Squirrel. At this point, even with help from my family, I began digging into debt to try and save Squirrel.

After her second transfusion, we started her on even stronger medicine. Now Squirrel was on a schedule of steroids and a chemotherapy pill: both working to drastically suppress her immune system in hopes that it would stop attacking her bone marrow.

Every couple of days we would recheck Squirrel's blood work. Fifteen days later, there was still no sign Squirrel was producing her own red blood cells. I was at my wits end, I was in debt and I still couldn't save my kitten. To make matters worse, Squirrel and my adult cat [Zorro] had finally started bonding [she was breaking down his big-scary-cat-walls!]

Even though we weren't seeing signs of new red blood cells, this second transfusion was holding better. At best, her transfusions would only hold 15-30 days. Red blood cells have a lifespan of 60 days, but we had only transfused her up to 50% normal [in hopes to trigger reproduction in her bone marrow.]

I began counting the days after fifteen... suddenly we were at twenty days, twenty two, twenty three... twenty seven...

It was the Holiday season, shortly after Christmas. I brought Squirrel in to get rechecked, we were all so hopeful, twenty-seven days would've been pretty unheard of if she wasn't producing her own Red blood cells.

And finally--the news we all needed--Squirrel was producing her OWN red blood cells.

Now, Squirrel is in remission. We are slowly weaning her off of the drugs and she's almost weaned off the steroids!

She was treated by many awesome doctors, vet techs & students at the University of Minnesota! Without some awesome doctors and great advice/treatment plans…my little Squirrel would most definitely not be with me today.

Thank you.

Share your story

Have we helped your pet? We'd love to hear from you. Share your VMC story by emailing vmccomm@umn.edu. Don't forget to include a photo of your pet!