Aging in Cats: Take Two

This is an update to my previous post “Aging in Cats,” where I shared a medical journal article on signs of aging in cats, as well as talked about my own senior kitty, Patches.

2016-09-13

A little over a month ago, Patches was 5.8 lbs, taking 50 cc of IV fluids, and on an increased dose of felimazole.

Her last blood test revealed that although her thyroid levels had decreased, her kidney levels were slightly elevated, and her red blood cell count was down. Fluids were increased to 75cc daily, and her felimazole doubled.

Not much could be done about her red blood cell count. Technically, blood transfusions are possible, but my vet suggested against it, saying that it was expensive and would only prolong her condition for two weeks, and then require another transfusion.

My animals have pet insurance, so while money isn’t a huge issue, it didn’t make sense to torture Patches with the blood transfusions just to prolong the inevitable. I’m not saying that owners should never consider a blood transfusion, but it is a procedure that the owner should thoroughly think through before deciding to proceed.

For most of this year, Patches had been going into the vet for monthly blood profiles to monitor her thyroid and kidneys. Luckily, her decline has become less drastic in the past two month. However, when the vet left a voicemail suggesting another blood profile to monitor quality of life, I began to wonder: am I living month to month with Patches through these blood tests? If the goal now is to make her comfortable for the rest of her life, do I even want to bother with these blood tests?

If you have questions like this, do not be afraid to talk to your vet. It’s what I did. We kept playing phone tag, until eventually I said screw it and drove to the vet’s office after work to make sure I got in touch with him.

Our vet has given Patches an estimate of 1-3 months. She is in no pain, but her kidneys will slowly continue to decline and her anemia will grow worse. As a result, she’ll become tired and weak. This is a typical scenario for what is end stage kidney failure.

I asked my vet that question that lots of owners ask: when will I know it’s time? He gave me that answer that we probably don’t want to hear: you’ll just know.

Patches has had kidney disease for quite some time, and it was inevitable that it would come to this. Our vet says we were actually fortunate to have Patches lasted as long as she has with the various treatments.

For now, we’ve stopped prescription food entirely. We let Patches eat whatever she wants. Some days, she barely picks at anything. Other days, she’ll finish her bowl and search for more. Her chin has become dirty from chin acne, and she’ll have spells of lots of drooling. Another symptom of renal failure is bad breath that can be caused by mouth ulcers. I think that may be why she drools.

I’m not saying that accepting her limited time left is easy, but Patches is 17. That’s a great life for a cat. When she was first diagnosed with kidney disease, I did a lot of reading. Most of it honestly freaked me out with how severe it was, and it turned out that the severe cases were instances of the kind of end stage KD that she’s only now experiencing, years later. So at the very least, none of these symptoms come as a shock to me. It was also a great example of why wellness exams are so important; most symptoms of kidney disease only show themselves when a cat is too far progressed. Thanks to my vet’s recommended yearly blood profiles, her decline in kidney levels were diagnosed years before her symptoms could finally manifest.

At the same time, it’s hard to imagine saying goodbye to an animal I’ve had the majority of my life. We adopted Patches from SPCA when I was only 10. She was there through my awkward teenage years, and was always great to see when I came home from college breaks. She was there into my adulthood, marriage, purchase of a new house, and many years of cat rescue.

afterprom

Patches and I (when I was 17), the night after senior prom.

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