Please don't bother replying if you're against euthanasia, because this thread isn't about that, thanks.
I have three cats. One of them is 15yo and has been unhealthy for several years. First, she's a heartworm survivor. There is no cure for heartworm in cats, so the treatment is to just control the symptoms until the worms complete their life cycle and die. It can take years. She tested negative for heartworm about three years ago, but has residual lung and heart damage from the irritation of the worms.
She has moderate-severe arthritis. She has been unable to jump for a number of years now. She can make it on and off the couch with effort, but it ain't pretty.
So now she's exhibiting symtoms of hyperthyroidism. I noticed her strange behavior a few weeks ago.....took her to the vet yesterday. She was at the vet last fall for her periodic checkup (to get her meds refilled...she's on Prednisone for the lung inflammation and Adequan for the arthritis), and she appeared to be maintaining the status quo at that time.
The vet did take a blood sample to check her thyroid....but during the examination she also noted that kitty's right kidney was very large and her left kidney was smaller than normal. So they did an x-ray. Her left kidney is atrophied, and there appears to be a sizable stone in her ureter. So it's possible the stone blocked urine flow, backed the urine up into her kidney, and caused renal failure on that side. The right kidney is huge and banana-shaped. The doctor's gut tells her it's a lymphoma, for which there is no cure, and even if there was a cure I don't think I'd put a 15yo, sickly cat through it. Bloodwork should let us know if it is, indeed, cancer. I'm still awaiting the results.
Also, her airways showed significant calcification on the x-ray. She has been coughing quite a bit more as of late.
So....this is where I'm torn. Right now her quality of life does not appear to be horrible. She is still pleasant and alert, and does seek out loves and cuddles. She sleeps more than the average elderly cat, but that's not bad in itself. She doesn't appear to be in any pain....she didn't flinch or tense up when the doctor was examining her belly. If the bloodwork shows cancer, do I wait to put her down? Do I let her enjoy her mediocre life a little bit longer? The thing is, I don't want her to be absolutely miserable and decrepit, and cats don't do a very good job of letting you know when they become miserable. I don't want her to suffer, but I don't want to take from her the enjoyment she has left. Am I making sense?
You're making perfect sense. The moment we take a pet into our homes, we are responsible for their well-being. Part of that means taking responsibility for making sure they don't suffer.
Of course the practically impossible question to answer is "when is the right time?" You know Kitty isn't going to get better; you know that she will gradually decline, either from the medical problems already identified, or something new.
We had an old, arthritic Lab. The hardest phone call I ever made was scheduling the appointment to bring him in for the last time. He might have hung on for a few more weeks, or even months, but he was not a happy dog any more. We had to carry him up and down the stairs to go outside. My biggest fear was that he would fall and get hurt when we weren't home, and I couldn't stand the thought of him spending even an hour in pain or discomfort, so we brought him in.
You've done so much for your old cat - I honestly don't think you'd be doing her a disservice by bringing her in at any time. I'd hate to see you in a position of kicking yourself for waiting too long.
Hugs to you, and a gentle snuggle for your kitty.
If the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.
I got the phone call from the vet today, and surprisingly, kitty's bloodwork is all normal. The vet did say that it's not unusual for a renal lymphoma to not manifest in metabolic changes early on (probably because the organ is encapsulated, so the cancer is "contained" for a time). Her thyroid tests were also normal, which now leads me to wonder why she's been constantly begging for food and been acting so restless.
So, the doc said to increase the Prednisone to once a day (to help shrink the tumor) and we're just gonna take it from here.
Thanks for your reply and the hugs. :)