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Thread: Kitten died after spay surgery, looking for answers

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    Default 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. #2
    Senior Member calicokitty's Avatar
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    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.

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    New Member Alden Cornell's Avatar
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    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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    Senior Member calicokitty's Avatar
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    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.

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    New Member TeresaT's Avatar
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    I'm so sorry to hear of your loss.

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    Staff DianeP's Avatar
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    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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    Staff - Cats KarenA's Avatar
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    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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    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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    Senior Member GailS's Avatar
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    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.

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    Senior Member calicokitty's Avatar
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    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.

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