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Should we do surgery?

Species: Cat
Breed: domestic short hair
Age: 11-15 years
Hello Dr. Marie, My cat Gus will be 15 in 3 months. We have been working with his vet since last July. He started showing signs of IBD, throwing up & loose runny stool. My vet ran all sorts of tests, everything that she could do short of exploratory abdominal surgery. We changed his food and put him on a grain free diet. He eats Dick Van Patten's Green Pea & Duck. He tolerates it well and his stomach and stool issues are fairly normal now. Since July, he has lost about 2 pounds most of which was lost July thru Sept., he's remained fairly steady weight wise since then. She says that the next step is the surgery but I'm not sure what to do. If we don't have the surgery and he has cancer, then he will die sooner than needed. If he does have the surgery and they determine that it's cancer, then he spends the rest of his days on chemo and pills. If it's IBD, then we keep doing what we're doing now. As I said, he's almost 15 and he also has a heart murmur. I'm torn about going through with the surgery. He could die on the table. Right now, he seems happy and fine. He's playful and loving and doesn't appear to be in any pain. I just don't know what the right choice is. Put him through the torture of the surgery or leave him be and be grateful for the time we have. Our vet says that she really can't try any other meds on him unless we do the exploration. Please help a concerned mommy make the right choice. Thank you, Patty


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm sorry to hear that Gus is not doing well.

It sounds like your vet is doing all of the right things. Cats with bowel issues can be very frustrating.

This is a really tough situation and the decisions are going to be hard.

Here are my thoughts, but ultimately the decision is yours:

If your vet is recommending surgery, I would agree that it is a good idea. Cats recover from surgery extremely well.

With surgery we can have an answer as to what is going on with him.

I know it is scary thinking that he may not make it through surgery, but here is how I look at things...if he is that unwell that he is not strong enough to survive surgery, then his time on this earth is short anyway. I would rather have my animal pass away before they got so ill that they were suffering.

If the vet finds out that he has cancer (possibly intestinal lymphoma which often mimics IBD), most cats do extremely well with chemotherapy. We tend to associate chemotherapy with a lot of bad things. Most people who go through chemo have a tough time. However, cats with lymphoma usually do extremely well.

Here is another possible outcome. If the vet does surgery and sees that there is an obviously large tumor, then I would recommend that he is put to sleep on the table. I know this would be hard, but again, this way he does not have to suffer for the last days of his life.

One other thing to ask your vet about is the possibility of using a medication called budesonide. This is similar to prednisone, but it works even better in the intestines and has very few side effects. Sometimes cats with IBD that are no longer responding to prednisone will do well on budesonide.

I hope this helps with decision making. The best advice I can give you is to trust your vet. The recommendations that they make will be in the best interest of Gus. They truly want what is best for him.

I really hope he does ok.

Dr. Marie.



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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.