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What If? (Tales from a troubled pet owner).
Serious Illness in Pets
Member Name: Wee_Jackie_163
Serious Illness in Pets
Date: 12/09/11, updated on 18/09/12 (64 review reads)
Advantages: Pets are four-legged family members!
Disadvantages: It is difficult when pets become ill.
Many regular readers of my reviews will be well aware by now that I have an extremely elderly cat - she has featured in many of my reviews about cat food and litter and all manner of moggy-related products. Her picture is my Dooyoo Avatar so many of you will be familiar with seeing her little face peering back at you when you are going about your Dooyoo routine.
~~ THE PAST ~~
I have no real way of knowing how old my girl actually is; I have had her for nearly ten years, and her age was estimated at being between 7 and 10 when I re-homed her, so realistically she could be twenty years old! Certainly she has many of the 'tell-tale' signs of an older feline, but I'll talk more about that later.
Her start in life was one of the most disturbing that I had ever heard of, when I was working in an animal hospital some ten years ago. She first came to the hospital to have her back leg operated on, as she had been hit by a car and the leg had been broken. Unfortunately, the 'owners' she had at the time (who were a trio of drug addicts and seemed rather incapable of looking after themselves, much less any other being - feline, or otherwise) had not thought it necessary to bring the cat in for treatment straight away, so the poor little mite had been left with a broken leg for several days before getting any sort of pain relief or medical attention.
The veterinary team managed to repair the leg and she was soon fixed up with metal pins repairing the shattered bones and a plaster cast to keep everything in place. She was returned to the owners with strict instructions on when to bring the cat back to have the cast off and further treatment given if necessary. Unfortunately, once again, the owners neglected the cat and ignored the instructions given to them and as a result the plaster cast was on her leg for far too long, causing further damage to the leg as a result. The veterinary team did their best to fix the leg and help it to heal. However, on more than one occasion it was suggested that the leg should be amputated as the cat had begun to self-mutilate; attacking the leg and biting it when she could. It appeared that the leg might have nerve damage... certainly she thought of the leg as being 'dead' and was refusing to walk on it or even clean it by herself.
I am happy to report that in the weeks and months that followed, several fortunate events happened. Firstly - and most importantly - the previous 'owners' were persuaded to hand the cat over for re-homing. It later materialised that they thought of the cat as a 'stray' and often shut her outdoors to fend for herself for a week at a time. We also had our suspicions that the cat had been beaten and to this day she is terrified of newspaper which suggests she was smacked with paper often. I've come across many abused and beaten animals in my years, and I'm fairly confident that this poor mite had her fair share of abuse to deal with.
Furthermore, with weeks and weeks of intensive nursing and therapy, the cat slowly but surely started to use the leg again without mutilating it. This was of course a triumphant moment for the nursing staff (myself included) as it meant she would have a better chance of being rehomed if she had not needed a leg amputated.
By the time the cat had been in the animal hospital for around two months, I had well and truly fallen head over heels in love with her. Not only had her health issues greatly improved, but it was not difficult to see that the once highly aggressive, spitting, growling cat who lashed out at any opportunity had started to trust us and let her guard down. What shone through eventually was her true personality and it was not at all difficult to see that she was really a lovely friendly little thing, who had just been terrified and trying to protect herself. Who could blame her?
After around two months of being hospitalised, I managed to get her signed over to myself and brought her home with me and there she has remained until the present day. As I didn't know her true age at the time, I thought of my re-homing the cat as giving her an enjoyable 'retirement' as it were. I guess in some way I was trying to make up for the awful start in life she had had to endure.
~~ THE PRESENT ~~
Well, we have had a very happy nine-and-something years together, but it is not difficult to work out that she is getting very, very old and very elderly. With that comes health problems of course, and unfortunately she was recently diagnosed with renal failure. We are managing to control it with the help of a prescription diet and some medication, and her blood tests have greatly improved in the past couple of months which is greatly encouraging.
On top of this however, she has a serious mammary lump which is a suspected tumour. She has had this lump for a short while now and whilst it has never bothered her or been painful, it seems to have got rather inflamed recently and seems to be getting bigger. In the last week it has got so inflamed that the cat has been licking it to the point of making it bleed and I just didn't feel it was fair to the cat to carry on this way.
We were given the option by our vet to have the lump removed under general anaesthetic. I was terrified of my girl having this done, given her age and other health issues, as I felt the anaesthetic would be risky and she might not pull through. Furthermore, I had to question whether it was fair to the cat to be put through yet more operations, stitches, painkillers and bucket-type collars considering how much of that she has had to endure in the past.
In the end, the vet agreed with me that my poor old girl really only had two options left... risk the operation and hope she makes a full recovery, or put her to sleep and let her slip away in my arms and she needn't know any more pain.
This choice was put to me last Thursday and I have to say it is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make.
Initially, I felt quite strongly that the cat should be put to sleep as I knew first hand all she had had to overcome in the past and had helped nurse her through all of the difficulties with her leg as well as the psychological issues she had to overcome all those years ago. I had to seriously consider whether it was fair to put the cat through any more. And, given her age, and the fact that she has other serious health problems (renal failure is not to be sniffed at after all!!) I just really had to consider whether it was time to call it a day and let the old girl rest.
My husband on the other hand, was of the opinion that she should be given the chance of the operation, and leave it in 'the laps of the gods' as to whether she pulled through and made a full recovery. It is true that she was certainly in no pain with the mammary lump, and given all she had overcome in the past it is fair to say she has a lot of strength and fighting spirit!
I also had to question whether I would be doubting myself at a later date as to whether I had been too quick to jump in and have her put to sleep without giving her the chance of the operation - I know for a fact that I would be questioning myself later down the line....."What If" she'd have had the operation and made a full recovery? "What If" I made the wrong choice? "What If" I wasn't being fair to the cat and jumped in too quick? "What If"????
Weighing that up against the opposing argument was no easy task however, and I was further tormented by thoughts of her 'slipping away' whilst on the operating table and me not being able to be with her or say goodbye. I am not ashamed to admit that the thought of not being with her as she slips away is one that truly breaks my heart.
After much deliberating, discussing, 'Googling' and worrying, I was gently persuaded that our old girl should be given the chance and what will be will be. In the end, I came to the conclusion that no matter what decision I made on behalf of my girl, I'd no doubt be berating myself at a later date. I had to do what I felt was in her best interests, and in the end I didn't feel I had the right to end her life if there was an operation that could fix her problem.
~~ THE FUTURE ~~
So, she was bundled off to the vet this morning, armed with a signed consent form to 'administer any necessary veterinary treatment'. I know she is in good hands, and I know that I truly have the poor mites best interests at heart, but I can't help but feel completely terrified and extremely anxious... I haven't had more than four hours sleep per night for about a week, and I've hardly eaten. I feel that I have a knot of anxiety in my chest. That will hopefully disappear however, once I know what the outcome of today's anaesthetic and operation is. Here's hoping that a whole morning of crossing fingers and saying prayers will do the trick and the phone call I receive at lunchtime will be giving only good news. It is not difficult for me to understand and accept the anxiety and stress involved when my girl is so unwell and at such a high risk... it is not an alien concept for me to be so distressed and so upset at the thought of my girl being in pain or of losing her altogether.
In the past however, I have come across many people who don't seem to understand the bond between owner and pet. I have found myself justifying and explaining myself to family and friends, colleagues and veterinary staff. Some of them 'get it' and some of them don't. That's fine with me - everybody likes different things and not everybody is an animal lover, I understand that. However, I have had experiences when some people really seem to question what all the fuss is about.
As a final word, I'd like to try and explain what all of the fuss is about, and what this little creature means to me. This small, furry, noisy being, who wakes me up every day at 6am by standing on my head and yowling into my face that yes, it is indeed breakfast time - time to get up, miaow!! This little fuzzy-faced friend, who seldom leaves my side whilst I am sitting reading a book, watching television, using the laptop or even taking a bath! She is always there, that cheeky imp who has such a fun-loving nature and who trusts me implicitly, which never fails to bring a lump to my throat when I am reminded of this trait of her nature. How can any animal be so trusting, so completely open and without fear or loathing of any human, after all she was put through, after all that she suffered? What an incredible little animal. What a gem.
So. What is all the fuss about? She is remarkable, unique, wonderful. She is a loving companion. She's a friend. No............ she's family.
*** UPDATE 2012 ***
It is remarkable to read this review back, some 12 months after it was written. Just reading over it now instantly transports me back to that time, bringing all the emotions and worries of that time rushing back.
I thought it would make a pleasant 'note' at the end of this review to give a small update of her progress. My beloved girl did, of course, survive her ordeal, and although she had some hiccups to contend with regarding her recovery, she is still with me, every day, by my side.
It is easy to look back now and say that yes, we did the right thing and made the right decision for my girl to have the operation but weighing up her options was so difficult and heart-breaking too.
There is no doubt in my mind that it was of course the right decision to make - after all, we've had an extra year with her already.. who knows how many more we will share together?
As a last word, I'd like to thank the Dooyoo community for all of their support at the time (you know who you are!) as well as everyone who left a lovely message on my review. These really kept me going through that horrible day - and the week that followed, that was filled with worry and heartache. The kind words and lovely comments were a comfort to me during the time I thought I might lose my girl, and it did help to know that people were rooting for her, so thank you.
From us both..........thank you.xx
Summary: Being a pet owner means making some difficult decisions sometimes....