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Kitten died after anesthetic.

Species: Cat
Breed: Sphynx
Age: 3-6 months
Dear Dr. Marie,

We are heartbroken. Our 5 MONTH old spyhnx kitten passed away suddenly this past Sunday. We can't sleep, haven't gone to work because we are so distraught about the loss.

Here's the background:

We purchased a kitten from a spyhnx breeder who we still feel is a reputable breeder. She had many credentials and her cattery was her home, where the kittens ran free. Our kitten had a wonderful loving temperament...she was perfect.

The breeder had her spayed before giving her to us so she was spayed at approx 11 weeks of age. After that surgery, she had to have a second because the incision area became swollen and needed to be drained.

We brought her home and she was wonderful. She ate like crazy, used the litter box with no issues. We started to notice that once in a while she would start limping around... then seconds later stop limping. This seemed to get worse over the course of a week so we took her to the vet. The vet felt that it was probably a luxating patella and she would need X-rays to confirm. One week later we took her for X-rays. They sedated her with half the amount of medicines that they would use to do surgery on a kitten. She came home and was her normal crazy self. This was friday morning.

The vet let us know that the X-rays showed that she actually had 2 luxating pattellas and very shallow hip joints and would probably need surgery for the luxating pattellas. We were fine with this diagnosis.

2 days after her X-rays she was acting totally normal. We went out for 2 hours to get groceries and run some errands. When we came home she was laying in one of her spots on the couch, though slightly off her blanket. I gave her a quick pet and she didn't flinch. I said to my wife "I think something is wrong with the cat!" My wife then pet her and said, "no, she's just sleeping". She did look like she was sleeping. Eyes closed, mouth closed, laying on her side on the couch. Needless to say, seconds later I knew something was wrong and I knew she was gone. We grabbed her and rushed her to the emergency vet which was 2 minutes away. The vet there confirmed there was no heartbeat.

We are devastated! We know for a fact she did not bite any wires, she did not ingest any poisons, she did not have any trauma whatsoever. There were no bodily fluids found anywhere in the house when I was looking for evidence of any problems. I watched her eat that morning and we watched her play with the other cats, running, jumping etc.

What could have happened???? I could only think that with her back legs not being fully developed, maybe other organs were not fully developed. I would hate for the anesthesia to have caused her to pass away....

We can't move on unless we have answers but we also didn't want an autopsy on her because we couldn't process what was happening and just wanted her back so we had her cremating and are waiting for her to be returned to us.

Can you help shed some light on this tragedy? Help give us some peace so we can move on and stop feeling guilty about not being here to monitor her on that horrible sunday :(

Broken Hearted

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Aw...I'm so sorry to hear about your story about Baby.

We won't be able to know exactly what happened to her but I can give you my thoughts.

When a seemingly healthy young animal dies suddenly the most common reason is if there is a heart condition. I think that you may be right in thinking that if Baby was born with some congenital problems then there could be other ones that you simply can't see.

One possibility is a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is a condition where the walls of the heart are too thick. A cat can suddenly die and there can be no symptoms leading up to this.

The anesthetic is unlikely to be the cause of her death. Anesthetic deaths do not take two days to happen. An exception would be if the anesthetic caused issues with the liver or kidneys. However, she would have been very unwell (not eating, lethargic, vomiting) if this were the case.

Some type of internal bleeding could cause a sudden death as well, but there would have to be some kind of trauma in order for this to be the cause.

It sounds like there was absolutely nothing anyone could have done to prevent this.

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 so much for your reply. it does make me feel that there was nothing I could have done. I did research HCM and it said that it appears in young cats. I wasn't able to find anyone reporting this issue with kittens. So HCM can be in kittens of this age and cause them to pass suddenly?

I only ask because the breeder had said that her breeding cats were scanned for this horrible disease. But I also read that it can still creep up if parents are scanned and are found not to be HCM.

Thank you so much for your knowledge.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

HCM can definitely be present in kittens.

Screening for HCM is controversial. I am not completely certain about how accurate it is, but any screening test has the potential to miss some cases. One of the problems with HCM screening is that a cat that has it could have a completely normal heart and then develop the disease at 2 years, 4 years or even 15 years of age. So, if the parents were screened a while ago, HCM could possibly be there an not be picked up. There is also a great variation in the skill level of ultrasonographers who do these screening tests.

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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.