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  • Kitten died after spay surgery, looking for answers

    Hi everyone,
    I'm new here and unfortunately have start out with a horrible story. I came across this forum when searching on Google for answers, and saw a similar story to mine. I hope someone can shed some light on what happened:

    My 5 month old Ragdoll cat Zoey was in perfect health. Last Thursday, I took her to the vet for her spay. The vet assured me that 5 months is not too young, and that her weight and health were good for the surgery.

    She had her surgery at 10:30 AM. At around 1 PM they called me and told me that everything went well and I could come pick her up at 4PM. At 4PM I went to pick her up, and the vet told me that she was still very groggy, and that the anesthesia hadn't "worked its way out yet." He admitted that he'd never seen this before, but said I should not be alarmed and that she was going to be okay. He wanted to keep her though until she was more awake. He did say she would pop her head up and was alert, but she could not walk or stand.

    I went home and as soon as I got home I got a call from my vet. He said right after I left, Zoey went into cardiac arrest. They restarted her heart, but she was not breathing on her own. My boyfriend and I went back to the vet. When we got there, she was on a table with a manual ventilator hooked up to her. A vet tech had to squeeze the ball to put air in her lungs every 10 seconds. She was not responsive. Her eyes did not blink or move, her tongue hung out, and none of her limbs moved. The vet was rubbing her body and squeezing her feet and her tongue, trying to get her to "wake up" and start breathing on her own again. Her heart was beating on it's own and had a good heartbeat. He did several tests and blood work on her, all which came back normal. She just wouldn't breathe or move.

    The vet was visibly upset and shaken. He said he'd never seen this before and he's been practicing for over 20 years. He didn't even know what to do. We talked to her and petted her and kissed her, but she never woke up. If the vet tech was even a few seconds late in pumping the ventilator, Zoey would begin to seizure. The vet called the closest emergency hospital (over an hour away), and they told us we could bring her there, but that the chances were basically zero that she would come back. They said if the animal doesn't start breathing on their own again within 20 minutes, they almost never come back. We sat with Zoey for nearly 3 hours - with no response - before we finally decided to leave it and let her go. The vet said she most likely sustained brain damage or some other damage anyhow, and even if she miraculously came back she would probably not be okay.

    I am beyond heartbroken. My kitten was PERFECT in every way. I could get another one, but she'll never be that perfect. The vet wanted an necropsy done, so she is being sent to a nearby university with a veterinary school. But we won't know the results for weeks, and that's if they even show anything. The person who does the autopsy says there is a 50 % chance the results will be inconclusive.

    Please, does anyone have any idea what could have happened?

  • #2
    I am so sorry to read your story. It truly is heartbreaking. Did you get her from a breeder? Do you know the bloodlines? Unfortunately, ragdolls are prone to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, and it can hit as young as her age. It affects males more then females, however. I am not saying that is the reason, and you may never know. And yes, at 4 PM she would be expected to still be a bit groggy. If it does turn out to be the heart problem, be sure to let the breeder know. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy hits suddenly, under conditions of stress, and breathing difficulties are also one of the problems.

    Spay at that age normally is not a problem, and a spay is as safe as any surgery can be. It seems they did everything possible for Zoey.
    sigpic

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    • #3
      I'm terribly sorry to hear of your heart breaking experience. Zoey was fortunate to have you as her owner who would give her so much love at that difficult time. I'm not a vet, so can't answer precisely for Zoey, but I have looked into this before as anesthesia always can carry some risk, even though it is considered quite low for small animals, and in some species and breeds lower than others.

      A large study published in 2008 in England, with 117 veterinary practices participating (98,036 dogs, 79,178 cats, and 8,209 rabbits) were anaesthetized and sedated. Overall risks of anesthetic and sedation-related death in dogs were 0.17% (1 in 601), in cats 0.24% (1 in 419) and in rabbits 1.39% (1 in 72) within 48 hours of the procedure. In healthy dogs, cats and rabbits, the risks were estimated to be 0.05% (1 in 1849), 0.11%, (1 in 895) and 0.73% (1 in 137), respectively. In sick dogs, cats and rabbits, the risks were 1.33%, (1 in 75), 1.40% (1 in 71) and 7.37% (1 in 14), respectively.

      I also found this site which might help you the most. I can't post links yet, so use Google with the search... Anestheisa in cats vet info. A woman writes of a story very similar to yours with a litter of 4 month old kittens, all weighing at least 3 pounds, with 3 doing fine after surgery, but one kitten having adverse reactions to the spaying procedure, similar but not as severe a reaction as you detail for Zoey. The vet answering the post (Mike Richards, DVM) gives some very good information about the anesthetics, sedation, pain meds, and mentions the possibility of underlying heart issues that can't tolerate the stress of anesthetics.

      If you wish, let us know what the necropsy shows. Answers, of course, don't take away your grief, but understanding can give some relief. Best wishes to you.

      Alden Cornell Hawaii
      Alden Cornell Molokai Hawaii

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      • #4
        The actual operation for spaying takes about 5 minutes, so the time under anesthesia is minimal, compared to longer procedures. And kidney failure is the biggest concern with anesthesia, which is why vets use an IV drip. But there is always the wild card of underlying genetic problems that cannot be foreseen. And that is tragic for the pet servant.
        sigpic

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        • #5
          I'm so sorry to hear of your loss.
          ~ * Teresa Turner *~ SoCal
          “Dogs have Owners, Cats have Staff.”

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          • #6
            Hi and welcome to the forum. I'm so sorry you've had to go through this heartbreaking event. It sounds like you and your vet did everything possible to bring your kitten back, and letting go finally had to be just devastating. Here in the forum we get posts like yours with sad regularity, with varying results, and I wish we had answers. We are not vets, but when this does happen and the cat survives, it appears that administration if steroids can help, which seems to indicate some sort of brain insult during the administration of qthe anesthesia that can cause heart problems and seizures. The problem is, in all of these posts that we get, the vet never seems to have a clear answer as to what happened. I hope the necropsy brings you some answers. Hugs to you. I hope one day you will be open to having another kitty share your life. If you do, remember, there will never be another like the one you lost, but there can be one that will find his or her own place in your heart.
            Diane and Cicero - Sr. Manager:

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            • #7
              I can't add anything to what Diane and others have said other than that your kitten knew love from you and you had her love as well for as long as she was there. I agree with Diane that I hope you will feel yourself open to the love of another kitten - each kitten is perfect in his or her own way, believe me.
              Karen A/Publicist

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              • #8
                Thank you all for your responses and kind words.

                DianeP, is there a search I could do to find these posts that are similar to Zoey's situation? I've been trying to find them on here but I've only found one so far.

                CalicoKitty - yes I did get her from a breeder. I have another kitty from the same breeder, Charlie, who is actually her half brother. Charlie has idiopathic cystitis and recently had a full blockage. He almost didn't make it but thank God he's okay now (that's another story for another time though...). I do have both Zoey and Charlie's parent's information, and I don't know of any problems in the bloodlines. However, I do know that the breeder had both Charlie and Zoey's parents genetically tested for HCM and both came back negative/negative. I have copy of the test results, so I believe this to all be true. However, I know that rarely HCM can appear even if the gene is negative.

                Alden Cornell, the site you told me about was extremely interesting. I had never heard about this all before, and quite frankly I'm a bit shocked that this does happen and the stories are similar each time. They say it's a "bad" reaction to the anesthesia but what exactly does that mean? Is it like an allergic reaction do you think?

                I will share the necropsy results on here. I'd like for others to know about Zoey's story. Although it's so sad, it's best to know the truth of the matter...

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                • #9
                  I'm so sorry for your loss and the devastating experience leading up to it. My thoughts were running along the same line as Calicokitty's

                  I have a friend who rescued a litter, all the kittens (six) came through their spay/neuter with out any trouble, except one. The situation was similar to yours, his vet called to say all the kittens were fine and all alert except one who was slow to come out of anesthesia, but the vet felt by the time my friend got there to pick them all up she would be fine. He had a bit of a drive to get there, and by the time he arrived the one little one had died, her heart just stopped.

                  It just happens that way sometimes, somethings can't be predicted, an EKG is not standard procedure before a simple spay, after all.
                  http://www.pawproject.org/

                  http://catinfo.org/

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                  • #10
                    As regards prior problems with pets from anesthesia discussed in this forum, most of them have been blindness, and often that cures itself. Anesthesia can result in kidney failure, and that is one things vets really try and hone in on. And the pets the vets may have the most angst about pull through fine, and the ones they expect no problem, have problems. So it is impossible to predict with certainty. All anesthesia caries risks, and of course not doing the operation has a whole set of other problems.

                    Naturally, keep the breeder informed about your problems. It may not be anything related to the bloodlines, but the breeder will want to know about their offsprings.
                    sigpic

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                    • #11
                      I don't know if your vet has suggested it but mine recommended I use only purified or distilled water for Stanley <rb> after he had a blockage. Even with the whole-house charcoal filter, he blocked so obviously it wasn't removing all the stuff dissolved in the water. That's all I give my three now.
                      Karen A/Publicist

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by leocharliezoey View Post
                        Thank you all for your responses and kind words.

                        DianeP, is there a search I could do to find these posts that are similar to Zoey's situation? I've been trying to find them on here but I've only found one so far.

                        CalicoKitty - yes I did get her from a breeder. I have another kitty from the same breeder, Charlie, who is actually her half brother. Charlie has idiopathic cystitis and recently had a full blockage. He almost didn't make it but thank God he's okay now (that's another story for another time though...). I do have both Zoey and Charlie's parent's information, and I don't know of any problems in the bloodlines. However, I do know that the breeder had both Charlie and Zoey's parents genetically tested for HCM and both came back negative/negative. I have copy of the test results, so I believe this to all be true. However, I know that rarely HCM can appear even if the gene is negative.

                        Alden Cornell, the site you told me about was extremely interesting. I had never heard about this all before, and quite frankly I'm a bit shocked that this does happen and the stories are similar each time. They say it's a "bad" reaction to the anesthesia but what exactly does that mean? Is it like an allergic reaction do you think?

                        I will share the necropsy results on here. I'd like for others to know about Zoey's story. Although it's so sad, it's best to know the truth of the matter...
                        Go to Advanced Search at the top right if the screen .. Search on Anesthesia and you will get several titles... Scroll down through the titles to find the ones that deal with similar problems to yours. I think because we get people who come here with this it seems more prevalent, but I guess across the country at each individual vet office it's a rare occurrence -- which is not surprising when you consider the number of vet surgeries done every day. It would be interesting if there were a clearing house for reports on this issue to see if there were some sort of pattern.
                        Diane and Cicero - Sr. Manager:

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by KarenA View Post
                          I don't know if your vet has suggested it but mine recommended I use only purified or distilled water for Stanley <rb> after he had a blockage. Even with the whole-house charcoal filter, he blocked so obviously it wasn't removing all the stuff dissolved in the water. That's all I give my three now.
                          That's an interesting idea. I do give my kitties water that's been filtered by the Brita only. But Charlie literally NEVER drinks water. Ever. The only way I get him to ingest water is that I only feed him wet food now and I put water in the wet food. Maybe if it's distilled he'll drink it though. I'll try that next time I go to the store I'll get some for him.

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                          • #14
                            I am very sorry for your loss. I know you want answers...but there may be none to be had. That's the hard truth.

                            Been there, done that. Since you're new to the Forum, and everybody else has heard the story a zillion times...I'll give the short version. Just so you know you're not alone.

                            We had Bali, of course. My healthy 13 yr. old went in for routine dental work, and had a reaction to the anesthetic (and/or the 28 drugs they used during the surgery - the vet gave me a detailed breakdown...). They had him under for 2.5 hours, much longer than he should have been. Never ate or drank again, 3 days later neurological disconnect, and then all his body functions shut off. He had to be relieved of his misery 10 days later after we tried everything, including a hospital stay.

                            I still go to that vet clinic, but changed vets. I questioned everything, but there are no answers to be had. I still want to punch that vet in the nose....so I have not come face to face, though we had a few heated discussions initially and she, of course, denies any wrongdoing and puts it down to ''a fluke''. Who is to know.

                            I know you want answers...and the hardest one to hear is that there are likely none to be had. Which med, which procedure, did he have a stroke...nobody knows.

                            I ended up in grief counselling for a solid 6 months because I was in shock. Then 9 months later, I had another death after giving palliative care for 3 years.

                            Nobody has answers. It's hard to take...we want to get a handle on our catastrophes to make some sense of it all. But alas, there are none. Almost every vet I know has had a death at some point or another during surgeries...even with the advance tests they do.

                            And that is why you sign a waiver...though frankly, I could have sued anyway for wrongful practice - but I just didn't have it in me to put up a fight in that department. I could barely get out of bed, let alone a court case.

                            Our new vet is the owner of the clinic and he has been kind and helpful, giving me (and my ailing Latte) much of his time free of charge. He made housecalls to help me with my technique in giving fluids, spent hours with me on the phone going over her numbers, etc. He KNOWS in his heart (he's a cat person, she wasn't) that I would have a case...but he's a good man and I have no desire to topple his business.

                            I hope down the road you find some peace. I'm not quite there myself yet, but I suspect it will come when I stop trying to find answers for something that makes no sense to anybody.

                            Good luck.
                            Home of the Northern Mews: Boo and Cookie Arabella (from Yukon) & Orange Julius Caesar (from Alaska)
                            Remembering Latte (2000-2012), Bali (1998-2011)






                            "I came. I saw. I conquered."
                            Orange Julius Caesar, before meeting Boo

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by leocharliezoey View Post
                              That's an interesting idea. I do give my kitties water that's been filtered by the Brita only. But Charlie literally NEVER drinks water. Ever. The only way I get him to ingest water is that I only feed him wet food now and I put water in the wet food. Maybe if it's distilled he'll drink it though. I'll try that next time I go to the store I'll get some for him.
                              I'm so glad to read that you have Charlie on a wet diet! Cats have a very low thirst drive. A cat on a wet diet, especially with water added, will usually not drink at all, because he is getting sufficient moisture from his diet, which is the way cats were designed by nature to get their moisture. So you are doing it right!

                              Feed him wet foods that are low in carbohydrates to help keep his urinary tract and bladder healthy and to reduce inflammation. Carbs raise pH and can cause inflammation.

                              Feed foods that are high in meat protein, because meat is naturally acidifying, and this will help keep his urine at the proper pH, which of course will also help keep the inflammation away. Avoid fish and foods that contain any fish

                              Perhaps you have already read this website, since you already have Charlie on a wet diet?

                              www.catinfo.org

                              Dr Pierson has compiled a chart of canned foods and their protein, fat and carbohydrate percentages. You can find her list in the menus listed on the right in her website, this list can help you choose foods to keep Charlie's IC in remission (or maybe even eliminate the problem entirely).

                              Gail
                              http://www.pawproject.org/

                              http://catinfo.org/

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