Living with a chronic illness can be really tough. And we don’t often think about animals suffering from the same sorts of chronic conditions as we do, but they certainly can.
Reed, for example, is a cat who has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). The condition means that Reed is often very tired, he has ultra fragile skin which cuts and bruises easily, and he can’t jump as high as a normal cat.
But it also means that, in a twist of fate, he is the perfect match for his human mama, Abby.
28-year-old Abby McElroy, a veterinarian, and researcher from New England, just so happens to have the same condition. She was diagnosed with EDS in 2010, and also went on to have surgery in 2015 for Occult Tethered Cord Syndrome – a condition where the spinal cord tissue attaches abnormally to the spine.
Abby now continues to work hard to explore EDS in animals and humans alike, pushing for doctors and veterinarians to work closely together.
Although Abby already owned two rescue Basset Hounds and a nine-year-old cat, when she came across Reed and found out he had EDS, she just had to help him.”I try not to let EDS limit me,” Abby says.
“I am lucky to be able to do all the things I want to do such as working full time, riding horses, walking my dogs, and going out with friends.”
“I occasionally have to make accommodations such as having access to a chair when giving lectures or standing for long periods in the lab due to my postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which can lead to dizziness and fainting.”
“My only true limitations are secondary to my chronic, severe back pain. This was part of the reason that I went into research rather than my original plan of practicing equine medicine. My back limits me from standing still for long periods and from lifting anything too heavy,” she said.
As for Reed, he faces his own challenges due to EDS.
His skin is very fragile and loose. It is hyperextensible, so it can be cut or bruised very easily. He has to wear special clothes to prevent him from hurting his skin.
He becomes tired very easily and is unable to jump as high as a normal cat would be able to. He takes daily pain medication because of the stiffness in his joints.
Reed is unable to clean himself due to his condition, so Abby uses baby wipes to clean him every day. She also baths him once a month.
He needs a lot of extra care, but Abby is more than willing to give that to him.
“Reed is lucky to have a great team working to keep him as healthy as possible,” says Abby.
“He has been seen by both a veterinary neurologist and cardiologist, as well as a small animal physical therapist and several awesome general practitioners. He has a strict daily routine to try to prevent accidents and injuries. He is never around the other animals while unsupervised, and he stays in a “Reed-proofed” guest bedroom while I am at work.”
Abby says pets with special needs are definitely worth a chance and encourages others to adopt them, but not without first fully understanding what is involved and being willing to commit to the challenges involved.
Abby shares Reed’s daily struggles with EDS on social media.
“Owning a special needs pet can be an extremely rewarding experience,” Abby says. “They have a lot of love to give, and I think caring for a special needs animal creates a unique bond.”
“That said, I urge people to think long and hard about the financial and emotional implications of adopting a special needs pet, particularly in the case of EDS animals. While a small laceration may be able to be repaired for less than $500, a large laceration can easily run $500-$1,000 and sometimes more. Prospective owners should understand that many of these cats sustain multiple lacerations a month and should be sure that they can budget accordingly.”
“Prospective owners may also have to make significant changes to their daily routine to accommodate the needs of an animal with a chronic illness like EDS.”
“Additionally, they should be aware that some animals with EDS have significantly shortened lifespans.”
But despite all the extra time, cost and care Reed may need, Abby is extremely glad he came into her life. “Reed is a great companion and is a joy to own,” she says. ‘He is an extremely sweet, docile cat.”
“He sleeps a little more than a typical one-year-old cat; however, when he is awake, he is very playful and mischievous. He loves to play with the dogs, and he loves to swim in the bathtub. He has a huge appetite and loves human food, particularly mashed potatoes.”
Ohhh, don’t we all? All the best, Reed!
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