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Euthanasia for older cat.

Species: Cat
Breed: Applehad Siamese
Age: 11-15 years
I euthanized my cat on Friday, and I regret it so badly. He was 14 1/2 years old, blind, and had diabetes for 5 or 6 years, which was controlled by daily insulin shots. He also had feline aids. Occasionally there would be an issue which would cause a dosage increase or decrease, but then he would be fine. In 2011, he began losing hair in chunks, and losing weight. The hair around his head and shoulders grew back beautifully, but the rest of his body (not including tail and legs) was pretty sparse. He walked slowly but we assumed that was due to his lack of sight. He still slept on the bed and used the litter box. A couple weeks ago I took him to the vet because he was vomiting and had diarrhea. They gave him antibiotics and injected fluids under his skin. He had no fever. The vomiting stopped, but the diarrhea continued. Upon weighing him, he was down to 6 1/2 pounds. He spent most of the day sleeping, and wasn't eating or drinking much. We did full blood work, and it all came back fine except for his pancreatic enzyme was up. The vet initially though pancreatitis and said we had to wait through it. This past week I took him in every day for IV fluids. He still wouldn’t eat more than a teaspoon of food, and wasn’t drinking anything. Starting Wednesday, he stopped using the litter box, and would usually lay where I put him, except for occasionally urinating or defecating diarrhea on the floor beside the litter box, or in my bathtub. Thursday while at the vet for IV fluids, he had a seizure. Since he wasn’t eating, his insulin dosage was too high causing his blood sugar to drop. The x-ray taken at the beginning of the week didn’t show anything. His diarrhea still had some chunks in it, and the vet couldn’t feel masses. He was trying various antibiotics. The vet finally said that there wasn’t anything else he could do, he was sure he was in pain. He suggested exploratory surgery, but when I asked him what he thought he would find, he didn’t have an answer. Through all of this, my sweet cat Midas would purr whenever I pet him. I asked if I was prolonging the inevitable and causing him to suffer when he wasn’t going to get better, and the vet said yes. He then said that they have tried exploratory surgery, and if nothing was found, they proceeded with euthanasia without waking him up. I made the decision to proceed with euthanasia so Friday morning, I took my best friend in and had him put to sleep. I’ve never regretted a decision so badly in my life. Why didn’t I proceed with the surgery? I have no excuse other than I was worrying about paying for it, but he so deserved for me to do whatever I had to do to try. I can’t go back, but I hate myself for it. The vet even said that it’s unusual for a cat to survive as well as he did with the diabetes, but I can’t get past my terrible decision. Was I wrong?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh my goodness, you did so much for Midas. I'm sorry that your final decision was so hard, but let me give you my thoughts on his situation.

First of all, for any cat to live to 14.5 is an accomplishment. For a cat with diabetes AND FIV to live this long is truly amazing.

I have had cases like this where an older cat is wasting away slowly and we can't figure out what is wrong. The vast majority of the time, when the blood tests show nothing, but we know that there is something definitely wrong, the answer is usually some type of cancer. Often cancer can be hard to diagnose in a cat.

With high pancreatic enzymes he may have had pancreatic cancer and there is no cure for that. Another common possibility is something called lymphoma. There are some cats that can be successfully treated for lymphoma but these are usually cats that got the disease when then were young and healthy. If I had a 14 year old patient with FIV and diabetes who was diagnosed with lymphoma I would not advise on trying chemotherapy. I would definitely be advising on euthanasia.

You are questioning your decision to not do surgery, but let's look at this logically. The whole idea was to see if anything could be found. So, let's say nothing was found. As you had decided with your vet, if nothing was found then he would be euthanized. But, what if something was found? The chances that something operable was there are almost nothing. I can't think of a single thing that the vet would be able to say, "Oh! I found this! We can remove it and he will do just fine!". If they did find that there was pancreatic cancer or an intestinal cancer like lymphoma then the vet would be recommending euthanasia. So in either case, you would still be ending up euthanizing, but would be out the expense of surgery.

You did the right thing. You did everything you could for Midas and those things were still not making him better. I have seen cats like this where the owners have waited way too long before euthanasia. From what you have described I think you made the perfect decision as hard as it was.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

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:

Thank you, I needed to hear that from someone impartial.

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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.