Unhappy ending for a senior cat

Our worst fears came true when we recently took our 17 year old tomcat to our local veterinary clinic for a checkup and he died from the stress of work on the table. He always got upset when he was examined. We know it’s a sad thing to share, but wonder if you might have been worrying about what, if anything, we would have done to ease the stress and avoid what happened.

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Our cat has been going downhill for a while. He had a heart murmur that was classified as Grade 3 for a couple of years, he was on hyperthyroid medication and was very thin and weighed 6 pounds. In the past few months he had become more lethargic, did not eat much, and was coughing quite a lot.

We took him for a recommended chest x-ray or ultrasound exam and to check his blood pressure. After the breast exam found fluid, our cat became very excited, was breathing heavily like at home, and then left. Could you have done anything else?

First, let me say that I am sorry for your loss. The entire story you share suggests that your cat had multiple problems, all of which likely contributed to his death. I’m not sure there could have been any specific things to change the ultimate outcome. Had he been admitted earlier when he was becoming more lethargic, eating less, and coughing, his condition might not have been bad enough to push him over the edge. However, no one can say for sure.

I am sure it was taken into consideration, but that had to be weighed against your tendency towards high levels of stress. Hearing that he coughed suggests the possibility that congestive heart failure, with fluid buildup in the lungs, is developing. It may have been diagnosed and treated, but again, there is no way to know for sure.

The only other thought that comes to my mind is whether anyone has ever considered using medication for the heart murmur earlier if necessary. I’m sure your vet considered this option, taking into account hyperthyroidism that has already been treated. Had your cat weighed only 6 pounds in a long time? I wonder if it was dosed correctly because of the hyperthyroidism, but again I trust that your vet has performed routine blood tests to assess the possible need for a change in medication dose as needed. It sounds like your cat’s condition is a tough one, and I think you don’t have to look back further and wonder what could have been done differently.

Finally, you pointed out that the cat was prone to stress and excitement at work, and given all that was going on, I suspect that her heart gave up on natural causes and its stress. Sorry again for your loss.

Dr. John de Jong owns and operates the Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic. He can be reached at 781-899-9994.

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