canyonwren: (Kitty Love)
[personal profile] canyonwren
Thank you to everyone for being so supportive about the loss of my cat. Both on here and on Facebook, it's helped get me through some really tough days.

I was curious about what I could find regarding other cats dropping dead at the vet's office, so I did a lot of reading today. I've come to the conclusion that Tashi must have had heart disease, and probably had it at the advanced stage for the last six months. It is hard to diagnose in cats--for example, one symptom is sudden death in a stressful situation, like grooming or a vet visit.

This explains her breathing problems from several months ago, which had just recurred. Combined with the weight loss pattern, enlarged liver, lower temp, and weakness, it could very easily be. She also had a heart murmur that appeared under stress, but I don't know if that was related. It makes far more sense than food allergies, which I was thinking. Or ear polyps, like one other vet was proposing. (Two more vets didn't know what to think and wanted to do xrays. I had a super-bad feeling about the x-ray experience, either with or without anesthesia. I'm sure now that it would have killed her.)

From one site:
---"Cats with mild heart disease often do not show any signs of illness. As the disease progresses, however, symptoms of heart failure may develop rapidly. Symptoms of heart failure include: Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing, coughing, weakness, lethargy, decreased appetite and weight loss.

---"Some cats with heart disease suffer sudden paralysis of one or both hind legs. For other cats, the first symptom of heart disease is sudden death. Cats with cardiomyopathy have difficulty tolerating stress."

---"They may succumb to stress from heat, car travel, grooming, or veterinary procedures."

---"Cats with heart disease sometimes die suddenly from acute massive heart failure."

---"Cats with cardiomyopathy do not tolerate stress well. They sometimes suffer complications during veterinary procedures. Because of this, veterinarians are not able to perform full diagnostic evaluations on all cats with heart disease."

And from a vet's blog:

"Although dogs and humans often develop a moist cough when the heart loses its efficiency, cats rarely cough with this disease. Instead, they are often brought to veterinarians due to listlessness, rapid labored respiration, poor appetite and loss of body condition. At first glance these cats may look plump. But they are bony over their back and loins and what appears to be a plump tummy is actually an enlarged liver with fluid accumulation in the abdomen. These signs signify that the disease is already quite advanced.

Some cats remain stable for years while others deteriorate more rapidly. In general cats with thromboembolic disease, and those with heart failure which does not respond well to ACE inhibitors or calcium channel blockers have a bleaker outlook. Cats are quite successful in hiding the early stages of heart failure from their owners so many cats are not brought to my attention until the disease is in its later stages."

He goes on to say that a study of cats with this disease showed they lived an average of 150 days after diagnosis, when on meds. Tashi lived about 170 days from her last vet appointment in the fall, so maybe she was on borrowed time after all.

Believe it or not, this makes me feel better. Having a probable cause is better than, "I stressed her to death." I'm so grateful that she didn't die while I was in Japan, for both of our sakes, and also because that would have been awful for my mom.

I was also grateful for a friend pointing out, from the patient's perspective, that having "a heart episode," can entail more of a dissociative experience than a panicked one. The sense that all the action is happening "down there." That's also comforting. I'm sure the brain has some near-death protective measures that cause this is animals as well as humans. One can hope, anyway.

Nights are still hard, but I'm taking this one day at a time.
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canyonwren: (Default)
Jen Kleis

November 2014


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