Friday, January 7, 2011


I am very sad this morning. McGregor (my black foster kitten) had to be euthanized last night.

He stayed at the clinic while I was gone, and he was fine while I was away. I picked him up Monday, and he was his usual spunky self, up from 1.5 pounds to almost 3 pounds. Over the course of the next 2 days, he became progressively more lethargic, and his appetite dropped off. I didn't think much of it, because I related it to stress from being at the clinic, then coming home. On the 3rd day, I realized that he had most definitely not eaten in 24 hours and then alarm bells started to go off. Keep in mind, I'm working - so gone all night, sleeping all day. I realized something was definitely amiss Thursday morning, but I had just gotten home from work.

I offered him some wet food, as well as dry and Kitten Milk Replacer, made sure his heating pad was on, and then elected to sleep and bring him into work with me Thursday night. When I woke up, he was even more lethargic and weak, and I knew it was bad.

Bloodwork showed a profoundly low blood sugar (43), he was extremely cold despite being on his heating pad all day, and his white blood cell count was low. His weight - in 2 days - had dropped 11 ounces. All fitting classically with panleukopenia (feline parvovirus). I had not vaccinated McGregor yet, because when I got him, he was very sick with a feline upper respiratory tract virus. Vaccines should not be administered to sick animals, so I was waiting until he was fully recovered before giving him his first FVRCP (the P standing for panleukopenia).

He was so sick that I couldn't see putting him through panleukopenia treatment. Unlike canine parvovirus, which we treat with a high level of success here, feline parvovirus is much harder to treat. We've had 2 confirmed cases in the last month here, and they both died - one after SIX days of intensive care. I felt much like most of my clients must feel when faced with this kind of decision. Cost versus outcome versus prolongation of suffering. Sure, I get a discount at work, but I still would have ended up spending $700-1200 on his treatment with a 50/50 prognosis at best. Further, I didn't want him to languish in the hospital for days, only to die or be euthanized later.

Of course, I'm now torturing myself - why didn't I notice he was dumpy earlier? Why didn't I turn around and take him back to work with me on Thursday morning? Why didn't I give him the panleukopenia vaccine right before I left for Christmas (he was likely healthy enough at that point to stand it, though still underweight). Did I do the wrong thing euthanizing him? Should I have treated and hoped for the best?

I loved that little kitten, and though I would have adopted him out, it did not diminish my feelings toward him. I feel terrible, as if I failed him. There were so many places along the way I could have been more alert and prevented this or at least treated him before he got so bad. It made me very empathetic to owners who - without medical knowledge - are faced with the challenge of knowing when an animal is truly sick. They can decline so rapidly.

Rest in peace little McGregor. I'm so sorry I didn't do better for you.


Karen W said...

Don't beat yourself up. Though you are an awesome vet, you aren't God. Coulda, shoulda, woulda is no guarantee that things might work out differently.

That said, I'm sorry for your loss. {{{Hugs}}}

Holly said...

"why didn't I notice he was dumpy earlier?"

because you are human and work a horrendous schedule.

Stuff happens HP and that kitten had a lot of love in his short time with you.

The Snowboarding Vet Student said...

I'm so sorry. Just remember that even if you HAD done things differently (and I DON'T think you did anything wrong!), it still might not have worked out. Sometimes their little bodies just aren't strong enough :(

Elizabeth said...

Hindsight is 20/20
Try not to beat yourself up too much, I know you will, we all do.