Feline Disease Symptoms
I have a question about my deceased cat. I will try to describe the last 7 days of his life because he died so suddenly and the Vets in my town don't know why.
First of all, I have to explain what kind of cat he was. Though we live in an apartment complex, he was free to leave whenever he choose to and go out and play around the building. Sometimes he used to stay out for two or three days and he would always come back to the third floor and mew at the doors so we could hear him and open it for him. He would play and rest at our apartment for a day or two and then he would go out again.
We brought him in to our apartment when he was just a kitten in the winter of 2003. He was so smart since day one.
Sunday, Feb 14: At the beginning of the day he vomited twice. After he ate, he went out as usual.
Monday, Feb 15: In the morning, he came back home. He ate more than usual. He spent most of the day at home and on Monday night, he went out and left again.
Wednesday, Feb 17: He came inside in the morning and he seemed very well and he behaved very well. He played, ate and did everything perfectly normal like a healthy cat. He spent the whole night and day at home.
Thursday, Feb 18: Most of the day he stayed at home and ate less than usual. At night he left out.
Friday, Feb 19: In the morning, around 11 AM, he came back home. He seemed tired. He walked heavily, acted lethargic, didn't eat or drink, and just slept. At noon, he started vomiting. He vomited around 5 times during the day. The color of some of thevomit was dark red and brown. He also had diarrhea around 3 times during the day. Coagulated dark-colored blood was visible in the stool. His tummy was somehow retracted in the area of rear legs.
At 7 PM, we took him to the Veterinarian. He decided to give him 4 shots (he did not say what kind of shots they were). He also noticed that his skin was hard to penetrate, probably due to the dehydration. The Vet stated that he didn't have a fever and he weighed around 4 kg (around 8.8 pounds).
During all that time, he did not show any signs of pain. He remained very lethargic and calm which was very strange for him. He was always scared of Vets and doctors.
2 hours after he received the shots, he was slightly better, but he continued to refuse food and water. As the veterinarian recommended, we used a syringe to insert anti-dehydration solution in his mouth but he swallowed very little of it.
After awhile, his condition deteriorated. He did not mew; he didn't drink or eat at all. He started to change his lying positions. He wagged his tail through the rest of the night.
Saturday, Feb 20:
Saturday morning around 5 AM, he was cold to the touch. He mewed in agony a few times when he tried to stand up and walk. He was visibly too exhausted to walk or sit. He continued to lie on the ground and he tried to hide from us. His pupils were dilated, looking almost coal black. He was not blinking atthe time, but he was still heavily breathing. At 7 AM inthe morning, he passed away.
What is the most likely cause of death?
Vets in my town did not take his blood for examination nor did any other tests besides visible check. I hope you can help my family because his death came so suddenly to us. I need to know why he died. Did we do something wrong ?
His picture can be seen by CLICKING HERE
Your letter is very sad and I can feel your pain as I read it. When we love a person or a pet, it is very difficult to move on after losing them if we don't know what happened. I cannot tell you exactly what happened because there is no way of knowing. I can list some possibilities based on my experience and I can tell you what you may want to do differently if you find yourself in a situation like that in the future. Hopefully that will never be the case.
It is impossible to know exactly when he became ill. However, it seems that he was perfectly normal on Wednesday. You mention, though, that he stayed home through Wednesday and most of Thursday, but he ate less on Thursday. You have to wonder if he wasn't feeling totally fine on Thursday in which case, you have to go all the way back to Tuesday as a possibility for the time when something happened outdoors to begin to make him ill.
On the other hand, maybe he simply ate a little less on Thursday, but was fine. He did go out as usual and you don't mention any other symptoms.
On Friday, he certainly was very ill. Vomiting 5 times is worrisome and the color of the vomit is of even more concern. I can't know without seeing it or testing it if the color of the vomit indicated bleeding, but it certainly sounds like that is the case. It seems likely that it was blood since you seem to believe definitely that his stool contained blood. Bleeding from the stomach and intestinal tract is certainly very serious.
I'm not sure why he wasn't placed on iv fluids and hospitalized with blood work and x-rays evaluated. If it was due to financial constraints, I understand. However, if the vet didn't suggest this, it is very disappointing, to say the least.
You could not possibly get enough water into a cat under those circumstances to make a dent in the dehydration. Also, he was vomiting so it would be quite unlikely he would be able to keep a sufficient volume of water down anyway. He should have been put on IV fluids or at the very least, a generous amount of subcutaneous fluids.
Blood work and x-rays would quite likely have given you your answers and possibly saved his life. If you ever have a cat in the future that is this ill, discuss these options with your vet.
It certainly sounds most like he ingested something outdoors that was toxic. That could be any number of things. Poisonous plants, rodenticides, a foreign object obstructing his intestines ...these are the most likely. Problems outside the GI system can cause vomiting and diarrhea (liver, kidneys, etc.), but the onset of his symptoms was so quick and became so violent, I would think this was something directly affecting his stomach and intestines.
The length of time from the onset of his illness until his death was so short that it excludes most other more chronic diseases. You did not mention anything about his urination. A cat with a complete urinary obstruction can die that quickly if untreated, but I would think your vet would have felt his bladder and also, the symptoms are not those most usually seen with urinary obstruction.
I am so sorry for your loss and your prolonged confusion. It is important to remember the good times and not blame yourself for his passing. Anytime a pet is allowed outdoors without supervision, they can encounter many dangers. It sounds like he really loved the outdoors and also everyone has their own idea about whether a cat should be exclusively indoors or not. I'm not sure there's a right or wrong answer, but we have to understand and accept the downside of either way of life.
In summary, my best guess would be that he ate something that poisoned him or obstructed his GI tract. It would have been best if the vet had kept him and run diagnostic tests and given IV fluids, but there's no way of knowing if that would have saved him. Also, many vets would perform an autopsy for little or no charge in such a case. In a situation like this, that would be helpful.
My deepest sympathies to you and your family. My thoughts are with you.
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