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CalCatDoc, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 631
Experience:  I have 31 years of clinical experience, with the past 22 years being in a feline-exclusive practice.
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My cat died suddenly about a day and a half ago. She had

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My cat died suddenly about a day and a half ago. She had been sick with CKD for some time and had taken a major downturn in the last month, but she was still behaving like herself, still seeking attention and always doing everything she could to get onto my lap whenever I sat or squatted down anywhere near her. I'd been force-feeding her the last two weeks though since she lost all interest in eating. On Monday, I took her to the vet because she starting defecating in numerous places on our carpet. Vet determined she was severely constipated and needed an enema. They gave her the enema and did so without sedation. Prior to taking her to the vet, she was still walking around and attempting to use the litter box any time she felt she needed to go. The day after her enema, when I picked her up, she could no longer walk. She was super lethargic and would just flop onto her side and lie there. She still would attempt to crawl to my lap if I sat down though. She had peed herself in the carrier, so I bathed her and left her near the litter box when we had to go out (just in case she wanted to try to get in and use it). When we came back in about 3 hours, she had barely moved from the spot where I left her, and she had some kind of a weird abdominal twitch going on. She also had some other little twitchy things going on up around her neck. I thought maybe she was just cold (her ears and feet felt very cold). I used a hair dryer on the low setting to try to warm her up some, and it seemed to help. Then I figured I would try her sub-q fluids to see if some hydration might help. It seemed to help a bit, so I figured i would then try to get some food in her to give her a little energy. I started feeding her with the syringe (a half can of KD food mixed with water). She seemed to be taking it well, and the twitch in her abdomen lessened. So I thought we were doing well with that. As I neared the end of her feeding, however, she all of a sudden lurched to the side while on my lap and started vomiting up a LARGE portion of the food I had just fed her (if not all of it), and then her body went COMPLETELY limp. Her head just fell to the side, and I thought she had died right at that moment. I lay her on the floor and petted her a bit, talking to her and trying to see if she was alive or not. Then she started noticeably breathing again, but they were quick, catching kind of breaths. This continued for about 20 minutes, and then the breathing slowed a bit. She made a couple little meow/moaning kind of sounds, but she didn't seem to be in any kind of major distress or anything. I could tell that this was basically the end and that she was on her way out. Her breathing actually looking fairly normal, albeit doing the little catching thing once in awhile. I placed her in her cat bed and curled up on the couch with her and just kept petting her and holding her and talking to her until I couldn't visibly see that she was breathing anymore. I then placed my ear against her side and could still very faintly hear her heartbeat, but that also stopped not long after, and I knew she was gone. This was a long explanation of how she came to die, but I'm just trying to figure out what exactly happened? DId her body just give out because of the CKD and disease? Did I possibly kill her by overfeeding her? The vet had told me to give her a quarter teaspoon of miralax to help soften her stools too, so I mixed that in with the food I was giving her. Did that kill her? She was my baby, and I hated to lose her like that, even though I know she had been sick for a really long time.
JA: I'll do all I can to help. This sounds like it might be serious. I'll let the Veterinarian know what's going on ASAP. Is there anything else important you think the Veterinarian should know about your cat?
Customer: Oh, I also gave her the half-prednisone tablet she got once per day to see if maybe that would help relieve her GI issues or give her a little strength.

Hi! I'mCustomerand I can help with your question.

I am so sorry to hear about your cat passing away. I know firsthand how traumatic it is to lose them at home.

Without seeing her blood and urine test reports at a minimum, it's very hard for me to speculate about what happened. But I don't think you did anything to cause her death.

In chronic kidney disease, eventually electrolyte imbalances get severe and the nitrogenous waste products build up in the blood so much that organ systems just shut down. Often this causes their stomach and intestines to no longer be able to move food along its normal path.

Many of these cats also get very low blood potassium which causes muscle wasting and contributes to organ shutdown.

The miralax was not what killed her either.

Cats are famous for their ability to "keep up appearances" until they get to the very end and then they just go very quickly. It's something that I know intellectually but even after 36 years in practice, it still disturbs me and makes me feel I have failed as a professional.

Don't beat yourself up. You did everything you could for her, but ultimately it was just her time.

Please let me know if you have any additional concerns you need to talk about.

Oh, and if you get that silly phone call prompt, feel free to ignore it unless you really think a call will help.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Thank you. I did worry about either low potassium or high phosphorus, particularly when I read that it could be the cause of the twitching that was going on, but at the time, there was nothing I could try to do about that apart from feeding her. So if the organs shut down, for whatever reason (and I'm suspecting her digestive system might have been what shut down, due to the enema, the abdominal twitching, and the fact that she vomited everything up immediately before dying), death happens kind of like I described? I'm just hoping she wasn't in severe pain or discomfort during those last moments.

It sounds like she suffered cardiac arrest and then it started again but she already was so close to gone that all she was doing was what we call "agonal respiration". At that point they are completely unconscious and not aware. So i don't think she suffered at the end.

Nature provides all of us with natural endorphins that cause our minds to dull and become less aware at the end of chronic illness. Things get fuzzy and pain diminishes and then we just fall asleep.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Thank you again. Now that you mention the cardiac arrest, that actually sounds right because I remember right near the end of the feeding, before she vomited, she kind of stiffened up a tad and moved her front paws in an odd way before settling down again. I didn’t think much of it and continued trying to feed her after letting her sit for a minute or two. Then she vomited, along with everything else I’ve already described. It makes me sad to think that my force feeding her might have caused the stress that led to her cardiac arrest. I know it might have just been a coincidence in timing, given everything else that was wrong with her, but I still hate that it happened while I was doing something that I thought would be helpful and not harmful.

Don't blame yourself.

If you had not been doing anything with her at the time she passed, you would now be wondering if she died because of something you didn't do.

We all tend to have doubts and beat ourselves up about these things, but the truth is, if you had not shown her the love and compassion you did, and provided the medical care you did, she would have passed away some time ago. You gave her a good life and did everything you could within your means. Nobody could ask for more than that.

CalCatDoc and other Cat Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for all of your kind and helpful words. I appreciate it.

YVW, happy to help.