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  • Pets and Immunosuppressants, Pros & Cons

    Posted by christie on November 4, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    grey and black cat sits on stairs

    Having a furry companion can help relieve the emotional stress of living with a rare disease. This article details some of the benefits of having a dog while living with PF. Service dogs can be a huge help for PF patients when it comes to conserving energy, and they can be trained to find help in an emergency. Even if your dog isn’t a service animal, it’s possible to train your dog to perform tasks that help make your life easier, such as picking things up, retrieving things for you, or turning on/off lights.

    My parents had a dog while my mom had PF. He was a good buddy that provided emotional support and encouraged her to exercise regularly, even if only for a short walk. He passed right before her acute exacerbation landed her in the ICU for 4 months prior to her lung transplant. They also have cat (pictured). My mom’s cat–formerly my grandmother’s cat–shares a special bond with her. They have been together through a lot of loss and pain, and I think their relationship has benefitted both.

    There are some risks to having a cat while on immunosuppressants, though. Cat bites and scratches can be a serious threat to someone with a compromised immune system. A gentle cat is a must. Also, it is important to have someone else maintain the litter box. Disturbing the litter can send Toxoplasma gondii into the air–while it’s not really a threat to immunocompetent individuals, it could wreak havoc in diseased or transplanted lungs.

    There are lots of things to consider when you are thinking about getting a pet while on immune suppressants. Each kind of pet carries its own risks–bacteria, parasites, environmental factors, dander–but they can also provide a lot of benefits to the life of their human.

    Do you have any pets? Have they helped you cope with your illness? Have you suffered any negative consequences from having a pet while on immunosuppressants?

    christie replied 2 years, 5 months ago 3 Members · 6 Replies
  • 6 Replies
  • wendy-dirks

    November 6, 2021 at 11:48 am

    Hi, Christie –

    I am an animal lover and have had pets all of my life. When I moved to England in 2006 from the USA, I had to bring my two young cats with me, particularly as the quarantine laws had dropped to meet EU regulations. They adapted beautifully to becoming British kitties and lived to ripe old age. I have their ashes and intend to have them interred with me when I go.

    My husband has always had cats too and after mine died, we waited a bit and then adopted Casper, a “senior” cat from Cat Protection. It was December of 2019. We decided we should adopt an older cat as we are both seniors ourselves and of course, I have an ultimately terminal illness. We adore him and he completely rules our lives. He was 13 at the time and just celebrated his 15th birthday.

    Shortly after we adopted him, in January 2020, my son died, and soon after that, the pandemic hit the world in full force. Because of my illness, I was “shielded” and stopped leaving the house except for the rare medical appointment. My husband rarely goes out as he is my carer and has to protect me. I don’t know how we would have managed without Casper. His funny antics, demands for cuddles and treats, and loving personality have kept our spirits up for the last two years. We’re happy not to have a dog – they require too much work and I no longer am able to go for walks. Casper goes out in our garden and vigilantly guards us against the mousies who live in the wall between our garden and our neighbours. For anyone in our situation, a senior cat from a shelter is a wonderful companion.

    He’s meowing at me right now, so I must wrap this up and tend to his latest whim.

    (PS I hadn’t thought much about the litter box but my husband takes care of it most of the time. I start coughing when I bend down, so I stopped looking after the letterbox some time ago. And I am taking immunosuppressants, so this is a good reminder to let him do it from now on.)

    • christie

      November 8, 2021 at 5:54 am

      Hi Wendy! Lovely to hear from you again. I am glad to hear that Casper has been your companion through the pandemic. Cats can be very demanding–in the best ways–and also hilarious. I know that pets help a lot with grief too. I am so sorry to hear that you lost your son. I know that my cat is very in tune with my grief and she is always in my face to comfort me when I get really emotional (which is good because it freaks my dog out when I cry haha).

      My sister-in-law adopted an older cat too when she moved to Las Vegas. She wanted a lazy indoor cat but had always had outdoor cats, so a senior seemed like a good choice. Mr. Pickles is somehow still alive at the ripe old age of ~18-20, and has but one remaining tooth. He’s a character though and has been a good friend to her while she’s lived alone.

      If we didn’t move so much I would have a whole pack of cats! 🙂

  • karen-martin

    November 10, 2021 at 11:06 am

    Like Wendy, I am an animal lover.  My kids and grands have dogs who are a delight to watch romp and play.  A good vacuuming after they visit is a must, but well worth it to me.  I have a sweet cat who is my buddy.  He is very gentle and seems to pick up on my moods and is extra cuddly on days when that is what I need.  He is an indoor-outdoor guy, so a litterbox isn’t something I have to deal with, a good thing since I am a widow.  It was hard enough to give up my feather pillow when CPFE came along so I am glad to keep Toby and do a bit of extra vacuuming.  🙂

    • christie

      November 11, 2021 at 6:51 pm

      Hi Karen, what a smart idea, if you are familiar with the responsibilities of an outdoor cat, to just let it out for potty… solves the litter issue entirely! My mom’s cat was raised totally indoors with my grandma, but he gets to explore the yard under supervision now. He’s old, and not too adventurous so it seems safe enough (lots of coyotes around their place that like wayward kitty snacks) as a treat.

      Your grand-dogs gave me an idea for someone who might not want the responsibility of owning a dog, but would like occasional companionship.. perhaps a dog walking group would be a good idea. Or walking neighbors’ dogs for fun and exercise. When I lived in Reno I used to volunteer for the humane society as a “hiking buddy” and take shelter doggies out to the trail. It was a good way to get my dog fix when I was living in small apartments in college. It certainly boosts mental health!

  • karen-martin

    November 16, 2021 at 4:39 pm

    Hey, Christie.  Before my condition curtailed my mobility so much, I used to help my neighbor walk her two dogs.  It was a lot of fun and I think your suggestion of volunteering to walk someone else’s dog or help out at a shelter would be great.  Between the companionship and the fresh air and exercise, you can’t help but boost your mood and health!

    • christie

      November 16, 2021 at 8:05 pm

      Hey Karen, I agree! Even if you can’t go far, it’s nice to get out and get some fresh air with a furry friend. Maybe you could still play fetch with your neighbor’s dogs or something where you can remain near a seat if you need it. Puppies are good medicine 🙂

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