Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Taking the Cats to the Vet

June 2014

Disclaimer:  This post is a rather long post about taking my cat to the vet over the course of two weeks while he was really sick.  You may be interested to hear about my experiences at a vet in KZ, but you may be quite bored.  If you're not a cat lover or just really interested in vets in KZ, then you probably should just skip this post and read another one.

My cat Tesla was throwing up a lot and acting lethargic, and so I decided to take him into the vet, with my British friend (and cat-lover) as translator. It was the Tuesday after school had let out, and I was supposed to be packing to move apartments, but at least I did have some time.

The vet we use is Zoosfera, located near Orbita-2 shopping center, not too far from Kazakhstan Hockey Arena. One of the school secretaries has a dog and uses this vet, and this is why everyone from our school who has a pet goes to this vet. Everyone I've talked to seems to like them, and so far none of their advice has contradicted what my sister-in-law says (she's in vet school in the US, I always double-check my information with her!)

I was worried that they would overreact, as doctors here tend to do, and since I don't know anything and don't speak the language well, I wouldn't really be able to object.

The disadvantage to this vet is that there are no appointments. You come and you wait. You may get lucky and have no wait, or you may wait 4 hours.

We saw the vet, they took some blood and seemed frustrated that I did not know a lot of details—how often he threw up, how much he ate, did he throw up immediately after eating? I have two cats and I've been working, how can I know all these details?

They gave him some medicine and antibiotics, and they did an ultrasound, which showed nothing. They were concerned because they couldn't figure what had made him sick – he doesn't go outside, and my other cat was fine. So they sent us to an animal hospital to have an x-ray.

A few years ago, a co-worker's cat was sick and needed and x-ray, and they sent this person to a human hospital, where she was yelled at for coming at the wrong time (apparently, there's a time when non-humans can use the x-ray machine). But I was sent to an actual animal hospital, so that was good.

It was about half an hour away, outside of town, past the Metro store, on the road to Karaganda. It was in a non-descript Soviet-style building that was unmarked and obviously not entirely an animal hospital. In the main entrance hallway, there were quite a few people in ball gowns and suits. I don't know what was going on.

But we were sent down one hallway, which had large posters of animals and their insides, which is why I'm guessing it's an animal hospital. The room we went into consisted of two rooms; one resembled a classroom, with desks and a chalkboard. The other was the x-ray room.

Have you ever tried to get a cat to stay still and in correct position for an x-ray? It's not exactly an easy task. At first I tried, since it was my cat, but they had to get a guy to do it, since I just don't have the strength. But he was the only one who knew how to operate the x-ray machine, which seemed simple enough (press a button), but took the girl on the other side a few tries.

Finally, we had an x-ray and they asked if I had a flash drive. Luckily, I did, since they had no internet and no other way of getting the x-ray to the vet.

So we drove back to the vet, gave them the flash drive and they hovered over it. They didn't see anything and so decided to flush out his system. My British friend and I were instructed to help hold my cat as they...  (warning: please stop reading if you're easily grossed out!!!!)

...stuck something up his bottom and squirted his insides with water for 30 minutes. Eventually stuff came out this side and water splashed from his bottom to our faces and it was just incredibly gross.

Not too much came out, since he was so sick he hadn't eaten much. But it was still disgusting, and my cat was miserable, and my friend and I both thought we shouldn't have been involved in this procedure! Later, I explained it to my sister-in-law, who didn't think it sounded too gross, just normal procedures for a vet!

Finally, we went home, with instructions to come back in a few hours! With my other cat as well, to give him some medicine to hopefully ensure that he didn't catch whatever Tesla had.

We came back, both cats were given medicine, and this time Tesla was taken away for the flushing procedure, which didn't last as long this time. Whew!

For the next five days, I continued to take Tesla twice a day to the vet, and luckily most of the wait times were short.

The blood work came back showing that he had an infection, but we weren't sure what.

On Sunday, another vet was there, she seemed very confident and well-informed, and although Tesla seemed much better, she was concerned that we didn't know what it was. So she did another test, and we discovered that he had panleukopenia, a virus which is rather lethal in non-vaccinated cats. He'd been vaccinated, but had never received the booster (my other cat had), and we feed stray cats, so most likely we'd brought the virus in from one of the strays, and Tesla had managed to catch it. Luckily, he had been vaccinated, so he survived.

I had to return on Monday, where I waited over 3 hours, and then again on Tuesday, where we discovered that he had a fever – still sick!! – and he was started on another round of antibiotics. So another five more days (at least) of going to the vet, but at least once a day.

On Thursday he was finally down to just an injection that the nurses could do, and they told me that I no longer had to wait in line! Woo-hoo! So on Friday I just waltzed past all the waiters and was able to explain in broken Russian that I didn't need to wait.

I went again on Saturday and Sunday, when they finally told me that I didn't have to come again, which was good timing, since I was returning to the US on Wednesday. They did ask for me to take him a week later for more blood work, but when I explained in very broken Russian that I would be out of town and didn't know anyone who could do that for me, they said that as long as he seems healthy, I don't have to worry.

I have two friends who are taking turns feeding the cats while I am away, but they are both busy, and taking the cat to the vet can be a very time-consuming experience. I didn't want to inflict that on them if I didn't have to!

Currently, I'm back in the US and my cat-sitting friends have told me that both cats are doing.  I can't wait to see them again!

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