But to get back to my cat. What cats with immunosuppressive diseases get is something with the daunting name lymphocytic plasmacytic stomatitis. (Cats without immunosuppressive diseases get it too, but not nearly as often.) A cat with LPS has become allergic to its own plaque, usually because its immune system is all jacked up and has started attacking the wrong things. The result, as I saw vividly at the vet yesterday, is redness and inflammation that can go as far back as the throat. "See?" said Dr. Freed, holding Attica's jaws open, which Attica bore as stoically as a cat can bear something like that. "Just from me examining her, her gums are bleeding."
This explains everything: the horrible breath, the reluctance to eat hard food, and worst of all the recent approach-avoidance behavior even with soft food, the pawing at the muzzle after eating. My poor beast is suffering, her mouth is full of pain. When I realized this, I felt like a terrible caretaker, a terrible ape. I know I'm not a terrible ape, I'm really a pretty decent ape, but it's distressing to think that Attica's symptoms had to get this bad before I acted. My only comfort is in knowing that they have been getting worse, that Attica used to eat dry food happily, and that probably she hasn't been in this kind of pain for the whole time that I've had her. I will know better next time, anyway.
The treatment for LPS can be dire. Since the allergy is to plaque, the teeth must either be kept scrupulously clean or extracted. Sometimes just a few problem teeth have to go, but more often it's everything behind the fangs, and full-mouth extraction is horrifyingly common. Every tooth in the cat's head, gone. The thought of Attica denuded of all her teeth is equalled in awfulness only by the thought of how much I'll have to pay for it -- starting Wednesday, when she goes back to the vet for a cleaning and general examination. I'm going to ask Dr. Freed to save any teeth she pulls out, so I can keep them in a jar. If I'm going to be paying top dollar, I want souvenirs!