Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Keenan's Heart

As many of you know, we have several geriatric cougars living at In-Sync Exotics.  One particular cougar, Keenan, who will be 17 years old in May, is one of our older special needs cats.

Keenan has a unique history because he is our only exotic wild cat that died on an examination table during a procedure performed by a veterinarian.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start from the beginning…

In September 2010, we noticed that Keenan was behaving oddly.  He appeared lethargic, refusing to eat all his food, and play with the other cats—so we called his vet.  Dr. Kerin examined Keenan without anesthesia and visually found nothing physically wrong with him, so he recommended a trip to Texas A&M, so he could be anesthetized and thoroughly examined.

A couple of days later, we took a road trip to College Station so Keenan could be examined by the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine veterinarians.  Keenan was sedate so the vets could perform a sonogram.

During the sonogram, the vets observed Keenan’s heart stop beating, so they immediately initiated emergency resuscitation procedures.   After about 60 very long seconds later,  Keenan’s heart finally started again.  Technically, Keenan died on the exam table for a very short time.

During the time Keenan’s heart stopped, his body started to shut down non-essential organs, and so when Keenan’s heart resumed beating, we discovered our cougar was blind.

Thankfully this condition was only temporary for while Keenan was recuperating at A&M, the vets were happy to report his vision returned about 36 hours later.  Keenan, stayed at A&M for three days, while the vets tried to get him to eat and take his medicine because they wanted to perform one more sonogram, this time without anesthesia.  Needless to say, we were very anxious about repeating this procedure after what happened the last time.

Keenan came through the second sonogram procedure without incident and the test did reveal our cougar has a heart problem known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?  Well, our cougar’s heart has four chambers: two chambers at the top, the right and left aorta; and two chambers on the bottom, the right and left ventricles.  DCM is a heart disease that affects the ventricular muscle and is characterized by dilated, or enlarged heart chambers, and reduced contraction ability. That means his heart has a diminished ability to push blood out of the respective ventricle.  Unfortunately, DCM causes the heart to become overloaded, and may lead to congestive heart failure.   When the A&M vets made this diagnosis, they gave Keenan only six months to live.

We were determined not to give up on Keenan, so our cougar was placed on a whole host of medicines (almost including the kitchen sink) to try and correct or at least alleviate some of his recent symptoms.

We return home with our cougar with a plan to give him round the clock attention to make sure he resumed eating and took all his prescribed meds.  Unfortunately, Keenan still had trouble eating, so we called his vet, once again, for a consultation. 

Dr. Kerin recommended we take Keenan off most of his meds as they were causing Keenan to lose his appetite as they undoubted upset his stomach.  He did continue to take two medications necessary to aid our boy, enalapril and furosemide.  Enalapril is commonly given in conjuction with a diurectic, like furosemide.  Because of the medications’ side effects, we monitored Keenan’s kidney parameters (BUN and Creatinine) levels periodically to make sure there were no changes to his kidney functions.

Nine days after his trip to A&M, Keenan still refused to eat his regular food, so we administered subcutaneous fluids and he was given a valium shot by his vet.  As soon as the valium shot “kicked in,” Keenan resumed eating his meals once more.

For the next several weeks, Keenan’s vet visited with our cougar to check on his heart rate to make sure he heart was beating normally.  During one such visit, Dr.  Kerin thought he heard an irregular heartbeat. 

A call to a heart specialist was made and Keenan went to his vet’s office for another sonogram and an EKG—all without anesthesia.  As expected, Keenan remained calm, cool, and collected through the entire procedure—he was such a trooper!  The heart specialist confirmed our vet’s diagnosis—Keenan has Cardiac Dysrhythmia (also known as arrhythmia).  Our cougar was prescribed another medication called diltiavem, which is used to relax blood vessels so the heart doesn’t have to pump as hard.  It also increases the supply of blood and oxygen to his heart.

Keenan playing on the playground
two months after his 1st A&M procedure
Keenan, until recently, was doing great!  He ate well, he played well, he was a very  happy and social cougar…until about three months ago when we noticed Keenan started turning away his food on and off.  He’d eat one day, skip a day, eat 2-3 days, skip a day, and so forth.  

So last Tuesday, we drew blood and our vet ran the usual blood tests.  The results were not encouraging.  Our geriatric cougar has renal failure.  Whether it’s chronic or acute, we do not know at this time, but we are monitoring him very closely. 

In the meantime, we are administering subcutaneous fluids and keeping him on his medications.  Keenan’s next blood draw will be on Tuesday of next week, so we will keep you posted of his condition.  We hope you will keep Keenan in your prayers.  


  1. Keenan will be in my thoughts and prayers. He is in In-Syncs hands so I know he is well loved and cared for. Am sorry the fella has to go thru all of this....

  2. Love you soooo much Keenan! E