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Pass away at home?

Species: Cat
Breed: Black domestic short
Age: 11-15 years
Potter is almost 13. About 4 months ago he was diagnosed with diabetes and we started insulin twice daily. We increased his dosage to double in December because he was weighed at 5 lbs and his glucose levels were off. This week he was having trouble with balance and hopping and was increasingly lethargic. Last night he tried to jump on a chair in the kitchen but couldn't make it and fell on his shoulder. He was throwing up last night and has not eaten or drank today. We called our vet and found out we needed to stop the insulin since he isn't drinking.
This is not our first cat, so we realize he will be passing soon. My question: Potter is terrified of leaving the house. He has had this phobia since he was a kitten since he was abandoned and found in a tire. For many years we had a vet who came to our house, but she passed away. Potter is a darling, sweet thing and we want his last days to be comfortable. My wife and i would like to let him pass away at home but we don't want to make things worse for him or have him in pain. Can you offer some advice?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh dear. It doesn't sound like Potter is doing well at all. Diabetes can be such a difficult disease to deal with. I can sympathize with you because I recently lost one of my own cats to complications related to diabetes.

I often get asked questions like this about how to help a cat pass away peacefully at home. Unfortunately, my answer is not likely what you want to hear.

I can understand your reluctance to take Potter to the vet cliic for euthanasia, but I would highly advise that you reconsider.

It is unlikely that he will pass away peacefully at home. Many animals when they are nearing death with have seizures. This is even more common in a diabetic animal.

The other factor is that he is probably feeling very unwell right now. His symptoms tell us that his blood sugar is either way too high or way too low. If they are too low then he is very likely to have what is called hypoglycemic seizuring. If his levels are too high then he may go into something called diabetic ketoacidosis. Cats with ketoacidosis are extremely sick and feel extremely ill. This is not how you want to remember him.

I have a few suggestions that may help. The first would be to ask your vet if they could prescribe some sort of sedative that you could give Potter to help him to better handle the trip into the veterinary clinic. Once he is there they will likely give him an even stronger sedative before administering the euthanasia solution. The process will likely be harder on your emotions than his.

The other thought I had was to call each vet clinic near you and ask if they have a vet who does house calls. Some clinics won't advertise themselves as a house call practice but when asked, they can have a vet come out to your house.

I wish I had a better answer for you. In my 13 years as a vet I have seen a great number of animals die and I can tell you that it is uncommon that an animal will pass peacefully in their sleep. It does happen. But, more often than not the process of dying is anything but peaceful.

I hope this has helped and not caused further distress.

I will be online for another 10 minutes or so (till 9:45 EST). If you have more concerns, please reply.

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. 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.

Customer reply:

I appreciate that feedback. True, It isn't what i wanted to hear, but it's probably what i needed to hear. Lately, our new vet has made some errors (ie. wanting to run the same test twice and surprising us with bills) and we needed to get feedback from someone whom we felt was unbiased. Thank you for your help and for providing this service.

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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.