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senior cat - what would you do?

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone,

My cat will be 17 in June. For the last few months he's been scratching at his ears. Brought him to the vet, and he said it was ear mites. He treated for ear mites and he was fine for about 1 month. I go to another vet and he says it's his teeth.... It's true Rambo's teeth are terrible but my first vet said if I didn't want to put him under for a cleaning that I could give him antibiotics for the rest of his life. (5 days a month). The second vet is convinced that the scratching and shaking of his head is due to the condition of his teeth and wants to clean (most likely pull) them.

I'm so torn.... I don't want to put Rambo through a surgery at his age. I know they'll run some tests the morning of the surgery to see if he can handle it. But things can still happen (I sent my dog in for surgery about 4 years ago.... didn't think it would be a problem and she died right after at the Drs. office) So, I'm afraid that I'm setting Rambo up for death. (I can be a dramatist - I'm sorry)

What would you do? would you take a chance with the surgery or would you just leave him alone to live out his life? I don't think he's in much pain, it seems more annoying than painful, but what do I know.. .cats can hide pain pretty well, right?

another thing I'm worried about is Rambo is very routine when it comes to breakfast and drinks a lot of water.... I'm suppose to fast him from Midnight till I bring him in at 8am. He's not going to understand and he's going to be meowing like crazy.... I don't know if I can be strong enough to ignore him... I know what will happen if I give in, but how do I not give in???? How can you just not feed him??

I'm sorry for rambling... just wondering what the best thing to do is.... leave him alone in a little misery for however long he has left, or take a chance that he may die???

Thanks for anything you can say to me that may make me feel better...


Neurotic Barbara
post #2 of 42
My elderly cat had teeth problems also. Due to her age, we just "let it go" unless they were infected, then gave her antibiotics.

As far as withholding food from your cat: you will do it because you love him. You gotta go all tough love on him because it is for the good of his life, not his immediate comfort. Being a responsible pet owner sucks at times, but take solace that doing the right thing is enough incentive.

I hope your baby is OK. My elderly kitty lived to 22, so 17 seems young!
post #3 of 42
Thread Starter 
Thank you CDubbie for your reply!!!
Rambo's teeth are VERY infected... In fact the vet said the gums are so receded that you can't even find them....

Does that change your thinking???

p.s. i'm not very good with tough love but I know, it's something I have to do..... I just hope the last thing he remembers about me is not that I didn't give him any food or water
post #4 of 42
Sounds like my Twitch's teeth, however, for me that decision was at a much younger age. Twitch was 7 months old when she started having dental issues. We eventually pulled all her teeth.

Let me not tell you what to do, but offer some info. Twitch's teeth were the same was as your Rambo's. The vet told me that she was in constant pain. Also....she had to receive a steroid shot every 2 weeks. And....she was on & off pain meds because she refused to eat her mouth hurt so bad.
post #5 of 42
Thread Starter 
Thank you WCL....

I know he's in pain too.... I'm just scared of what can happen, and the guilt I will feel if it does happen....

Is there any website where I can see statistics or something that show ages of cats and how frequently they die during surgery??
post #6 of 42
The first thing I would have done (& maybe you have already) is a blood work up for an elderly cat. Excessive thirst is a sign of Chronic Renal Failure. I would hold off on a decision on his teeth until I know what shape his kidneys are in. If they are in bad shape, I would not put him through the surgery and would do the anti-biotics instead. If they were not too bad, I'd have to think about the surgeory. (I'm a huge chicken when it comes to putting a cat under for any surg.)
post #7 of 42
Thread Starter 
thanks Rang.....

They're going to do blood work the morning of the surgery (unless, of course, I cancel)

He pees a lot too.... I'm surprised the vet didn't ask me about the drinking and peeing, and of course, since i thought I was there for ear mites I never thought to bring it up. But I will tell them about that when and if I bring him there...

I want to just let him be too, just like you say... but then I feel, if he's in pain why am I letting him remain in pain???

ahhhhh.... I am so evenly split about this.... I just don't know what to do...

post #8 of 42
There really isn't an easy decision. Is the surgery already planned? If so...for when?

Is he already as the vet's office? I'd see if you can do bloodwork like now....& once you get the results think things over for a few days or weeks. I'm not a fan of surgery on a cat of his age....but.....if he's in god health, this could really prolong his life. Rotten teeth can cause kidney probs, too.
post #9 of 42
Thread Starter 

the surgery is scheduled for Thursday (12th)... He seems in really good shape... he's alert, affectionate, runs up and down the stairs...

The vet said if anything came up on the bloodwork in the morning, they would not do the surgery.

Really the only thing wrong with him is this violent scratching at his face and overall seems miserable by it.... He tries to run away from himself after scratching... but we may find out that he has some kidney problems due to how much he pees and wants to drink out of the faucet. Sometimes he meows when he pees, but I really don't think he has a blockage, I think he's meowing just because he's getting old... he's been getting extremely vocal as he ages...
post #10 of 42
I would have his urine tested for a UTI or crystals, just to be safe. Also...they can check the kidneys via the urine sample. It's not as good as bloodwork, but it might give you a general idea.
post #11 of 42
Thread Starter 
but they are doing bloodwork on thursday morning, so won't they see a UTI then?
post #12 of 42
UTI is only shown through a urinalysis. A male cat can get to the point where he blocks completely & can no longer pee. It can kill them. One of my outside kitties, Cow, almost died because I didn't notice he was blocked. He has not been the same cat since. But....I tend to be overdramatic.
post #13 of 42
Thread Starter 

He's peeing pretty normally. He had crystals about 9 years ago... Do they just pee and drink more as they get older?

I'm going to mention it to the vet just so he's aware of a possible UTI or Kidney problem.

post #14 of 42
Peeing more & drinking more is usually a sign of a health problem(diabetes, kidney probs come to mind). If he's had crystals in the past, it shows that he's more likely to get them than a cat without a history of any UTI issues.

Hopefully, knowing this....you can talk to your vet & know a little more!
post #15 of 42
Thread Starter 
I'll be sure to mention it (if I go through with the appt.) to the vet or the nurse when I bring him.... maybe that will mean they will pay particular attention to the kidney results....

you've been so nice, and I hope I didn't bother you too much with my crazy thoughts and questions...

Both of my cats have been so healthy that there hasn't been many issues to think through....
post #16 of 42
I would get the bloods done first and then make a decision - maybe get them done before hand so you have time to think about it. As long as his organs are fine, I would go for the op over antibiotics, and I would ask for him to be put on a drip before and during, it can help with their kidneys, and doesnt' add that much on to the bill. Antibiotics might not totally help with the pain, and from someone who had a lot of toothache due to not being able to afford dental work (cats always had theirs, just left nothing for me), I wouldnt' want to be left like that, I can take painkillers, cats cant always let you know - plus there is the risk that the bacteria can affect kidneys, liver, heart - if there is kidney issues, you might find that doing a dental improves them a lot. I have known cats older than 17 have ops, and fine - in the UK, there are 2 certain anaesthetics used for oldies, they are less harsh on their sytem. Good luck.
post #17 of 42
Thread Starter 
Thanks BookTigger,

they said at the office that they always do the blood work on the morning of surgery, then based on the results they decide if he's fit for an operation.

Ha! I know what you mean about not having enough $$$ for yourself, but i wouldn't have it any other way... I also understand about us being able to handle pain and taking things for the pain....

I guess I'll wait to hear about the blood work.... Do I just trust the vet to know if he can handle surgery?

He'll be using the isoflurane and will insert a breathing tube I believe...
post #18 of 42
Just another little tip I learned when dealing with an elderly cat. I always had a ton of questions but could not remember them when I got to the vets office. SO I would write them down. Another question would be to make sure that the blood work they are doing includes a kidney panel. (never assume, and there is no such thing as a stupid question)
post #19 of 42
Is there no way you can ask them to do it now? Normally pre-anaesthetic blood tests does kidney, liver and something else (I do forget what!!).

I have only had one cat have a prob when pre-anaesthetic bloods have been done, they ring you before they start the surgery to discuss it with you - sometimes, it can still be done anyway, I know someone who has a 19yo with liver probs who had a dental anyway because it was affecting his quality of life. He is fine.

I have been known to type my answers up and fax them so the vet can read them before I get chance to talk to them!!
post #20 of 42
Barb, I know how you feel. I have a similar situation right now with my kitty. She's only 11, but the last year has been difficult for her (digestive issues and 3 moves) and she seems to be aging more quickly these days. Her vet wants to clean her teeth and remove at least one of them, and he also wants to probe into her ear with an endoscope because she has a blockage (both procedures would require anesthesia). I found this out last Thursday when I brought her in because she'd been drooling randomly and seemed uncomfortable at times, and I've been hoping ever since that she'd just miraculously get better (wishful thinking).

I also feel very torn, and I'm also dramatic about it. I cry almost every time I take her to the vet because I feel like I'm torturing her. Whenever I've had to leave her at the vet for a surgery or anything requiring anesthesia, I've worried that it might have been the last time I was going to see her. It already makes me sad enough to even think about the day when she won't be around anymore.

I'm really not sure what to do with her at this point. She's had recent bloodwork and appears to be healthy, so having teeth pulled would probably make her feel better. I want her to be happy, but I still hate the idea of anesthesia, especially since she hasn't reacted to it favorably in the past. It sounds like we both only want what's best for our babies, and sometimes it can be so hard to know what really IS best.

Well, I know this post wasn't a very positive one, but I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone. It's a difficult decision to make, and it's hard to know which one is the "right" one, if there even is a right one.

You and Rambo will be in my thoughts!
post #21 of 42
I would suggest asking that they also run a full senior panel rather than just the pre-screen bloodwork. You may want to call first thing tomorrow to see if that would need to be done ahead of time. A full senior panel should include thyroid levels as well as kidney, liver, and blood sugar levels. Also included might be potassium and phosphorus levels and a CBC. While the full panel is more expensive than the prescreen, it is a good idea for any kitty over the age of 10 and it may save you money in the long run if the blood work gives them pause. Kidney problems, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes can all cause excessive thirst and urination so it is important to test for all three.

That said, I've had two senior cats go through anesthesia. Spot had it twice for an abscess, and during the second surgery they also cleaned his teeth. He had anesthesia a third time for a rhinoscopy. Odo has only had one round so far for a dental in November, but he already needs another one (along with at least one more broken tooth removed). I would suggest asking what anesthesia the vet will be using for induction. Propofol is good but ketamine is not, especially for a senior. Ketamine is contraindicated for any cat with kidney issues, and it takes longer for them to wake up.
post #22 of 42
I have a question about anesthesia. My vet said they normally use an injection and gas, but that they could use gas only since she had a hard time coming out of the anesthesia before. I didn't ask what the options were. Would gas be a better idea? I've read differing opinions online.

Also, she had a urinalysis to test for specific gravity and protein levels, blood work to test creatinine and BUN levels, and blood work for thyroid testing about 3 weeks ago. If I decide to have the dental work done, it will be done in early to mid-May. Would she need to have those tests redone?

They're supposed to call me the end of this week to see how she's been doing, so I'll have to ask them a bunch of questions.
post #23 of 42
Thread Starter 
I just want to thank you all for taking the time to ease my mind and give me some valuable information. I feel a little better. He's been scratching more today and really isn't a happy cat... I guess I'm going to have to take a chance.

BOOKTIGGER- Hearing about the 19 year old cat made me think that Rambo does have a good chance of coming through fine. I always tend to think of the bad things that can happen.... About having the blood work done now, they have a lab right on the premises so they'll know all the results first thing in the morning.. and to be honest, I would hate to add another trip to the vet for him, he hates it so much and I can't take it either, I feel so bad for him.

CLOUD SHADE - Glad to hear your cats were ok. How old were they when they had surgery and the dental cleaning? they feel they are going to remove almost all of Rambo's teeth. There really aren't any that can be saved...

JENNY JEN - My vet is using both injection and isoflurane (sp?). He didn't even say anything about NOT being able to use the injection based on results of the bloodwork. I know exactly how you feel about 'torturing' them. When I have an appt. scheduled, I feel terrible when I see him relaxing and knowing that in a little while he'll be thrown into a cat carrier and taken to the vet. I feel he's like "I was just so peaceful and minding my own business, why are you doing this to me" :0 wish I could explain things to him..
Plus, I go through a whole "thing" myself, from the moment the appt. is made.. I think about it each day and get myself worked up for the "big day".. I usually have someone go with me, but this time I'll be on my own. I'll have to ignore his cries for food and then try to get him in the carrier myself... I am not looking forward to this at all.....

Anyway, I've taken up your lives quite enough... I want to thank you ALL again for your thoughts and advice. I do feel a little better and based on how he's doing today, I think I should go through with it.... I don't think he wants to live like this, it has to be awful....

Thanks again!!

post #24 of 42
That's what we are all here for, TCS is a great place to go for advice & support. Do please keep us updated, as we will all be thinking of you & you sweet kitty.
post #25 of 42
Thread Starter 
You're so right about the people on here... they are fantastic...so caring...

I will definitely post on thursday and let you all know how it turned out...
post #26 of 42
Yes I agree, this is a tough decision. I can only say as far as not being able to feed him in the morning is and this is what I did. Misty needed a teeth cleaning, this was a few years ago. I brought her to the Vet's the night before so I didn't need to hear her cries in the morning for her breakfast. Everything went well, she spent the night and had her procedure done the next day. As far as what you should do...that's a tough question. Check to see if there are any meds to deal with her problem rather than teeth cleaning. Good luck to Rambo whatever your decision.
post #27 of 42
We all think of the bad things that could happen, I have had so many sleepness nights over mine!! But, when you are dealing with dental issues, it is somethign that needs sorting sooner rather than later - imagine if you left it to avoid him the trauma, it got worse and then his health said he couldn't have it done, and you then had to face an even harder decision because he had a poor quality of life and there was nothing that could be done about it?
LaRussa has a good point, the rescue always leave theirs at the vets the night before, I personally can't do it, as hard as it is dealing with them not being able to eat, I would rather not have them there longer than necessary. When my 13yo had his last dental (he was overweight too!!), he had one good tooth out of 6, I asked them to pull them all, as it was his third dental in as many years, and they did it, so it might be worth doing that, and knowing that there wont be any more problems - they deal with being toothless with relatively few issues.
post #28 of 42
Originally Posted by barb0802 View Post
CLOUD SHADE - Glad to hear your cats were ok. How old were they when they had surgery and the dental cleaning? they feel they are going to remove almost all of Rambo's teeth. There really aren't any that can be saved...
Spot was a stray, and we have no idea how old he was. When I found him, the vet said he was at LEAST 10 but probably older. The longer I had him, the older she thought his starting age was. Since he was hyperthyroid when I found him, it made it even harder to judge his age. I think he was at least 13 but possible much older.

Odo I adopted from the shelter last year. The first shelter thought he was 6 (yeah, right!), the second shelter that he was transferred to thought he was 10, and my vet thought he was 14. I think my vet is closest, and that would make him 14.5 when he had his surgery.

I would ask your vet what kind of injectable they will be using. One of the best protocols for anesthetic on senior pets (according to a friend who has spent a lot of time research this stuff) is propofol for induction and either isoflurane or sevoflurane for maintenance. Also make sure they give some sort of pain medicine.
post #29 of 42
Thread Starter 
I first thought about asking if I could bring Rambo the night before (tonight) but maybe that would be more stressful for him being there alone in a weird place.

I am so nervous right now... I wish it were Thursday night already... this morning at 5 am he was up and ready for water and food... I tried to ignore him to see how it's going to be tomorrow and I couldn't...

Do you think I should lock him up in a room with a litter box until I'm ready to leave tomorrow morning?

If any of you have experiences with withholding food and water, can you tell me any tricks? maybe you've distracted your cats or something or put down food you know they didn't like? will a small amount of water really cause him problems?

Cloud Shade - Why do I have to specifically ask for pain medication? Why wouldn't that be standard?
post #30 of 42
My vets tell me not to give food, but I am allowed to give water. It can be hard to do it, and i have had to resort to shutting them in a room before now, but I normally just ignore it - happens too much at this house at times!! I wouldnt actually use the food they dont like, some cats when hungry will eat anything, so not something I would risk. Good luck!!
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