Elderly cat and anesthesia - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-03-2010, 03:34 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Elderly cat and anesthesia

I had posted this in the Introductions forum, but did not receive many replies so I asked Admin for permission to repost this here. Thank you.

Hello everyone. My cat Pandora and I live on an Island off Washington State with my husband and we are retired - us, not Pandora.

We are facing a terrible dilemma

Pandora adopted us from a shelter in June of 1998. Our beloved cat had recently died from CRF so in his honor we decided to give homes to two kitties who were on "death row" in shelters. Pandora had been seized from her previous owners under a court order charging those owners with abuse. We literally grabbed her out of the arms of a vet tech who was taking her to the room where animals were to be euthanized. Our vet assessed her at approximately 3 years old. She had little fur and weighed under 3 pounds. She had several broken teeth. It took two years before she would allow us to pet her as she was terrified of humans.

At the time we lived on the east coast and had wonderful vetrinary care. Once her physical condition was stabilized (initially our vet didn't think she would survive at all), she had extensive dental work done. She has since thrived and become an affectionate, loving pet. She turned out to be a tan and seal Himalayan.

She is now somewhere between 14 and 16 years old, and 3 years ago we moved here. We have now seen 4 vets, all of whom recommended extensive dental work requiring general anesthesia. If she were younger, I would not hesitate, but she does NOT appear to be in pain, and I wonder if our beloved pet who died just before Pandora joined us developed his renal disease after receiving general anethesia for dental work he received about 6 months before he was diagnosed with renal disease. I read somewhere that that could be a side effect of such anesthesia. There are no holistic vets anywhere in our area.

What I do not understand is the relative risks of giving a cat her age general anesthesia compared with allowing her to go without the dental work 4 vets have recommended. The reason she has seen 4 vets is that vet #1 we discovered has a reputation for recommending expensive procedures that are unnecessary, but he does have what appears to be a top notch, modern hospital. Vet #2 we like, but he is very clumsy and could not even take blood from her successfully. Further, his office does not appear to have very sophisticated, modern equipment. Vet #3 was a Canadian vet we took her to on a vacation a couple of months ago when she was constipated. And since the Canadian had no financial interest in telling us she needed dental work, we tried out vet #4 two weeks ago and actually had set up an appointment for the anesthesia yesterday, but I freaked out and cancelled it. Vet#4 seems to have a slightly more modern facility than vet #2, and had his vet techs take blood as he was honest enough to say they were better at it. Her blood work was almost normal except for slightly elevated kidney values consistent with her age, but not significant for any kidney disease.

We have not noticed any changes in her behavior in recent years. She does appear to be eating normally, though sleeping more, but heck - I sleep more, too, as I get older. If I thought she was in pain, I would have the procedure done, and I know cats seldom show they are in pain, but how does one tell?

How can I make the decision that is best for her?

Thank you in advance for any advice.
begete is offline  
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-03-2010, 03:48 PM
Tom Cat
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 297
I recently rescued an older cat who had advanced dental disease. Dental disease left unchecked is awful. The vet recommended a dental procedure, which turned into two, and he took the anesthesia both times with zero problems. Beforehand, the vet did testing to make sure that there were no hidden issues that could cause complications. we got the go ahead, and it went beautifully.

This cat's dental problems had been let go for far too long, and he was to the point of losing teeth and the inflammation in his mouth caused him a lot of pain. I wouldn't recommend just letting it go because a lot of times, dental problems don't' cause a lot of pain until it's too late. He would have starved to death if I hadn't gotten a hold him.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-03-2010, 04:03 PM
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Location: Indiana
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I am not an expert on such matters, but it might help others here if you could explain what type of procedure the vets here are recommending? Since it seems that the East Cost vets didn't recommend it, what has changed between then and now?

That's so wonderful that you rescued 2 death row cats, and that your girl has become such a loving companion. Welcome to the forum!
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-03-2010, 04:17 PM
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Welcome to the Cat Forum. What a beautiful tale of love and compassion you have told, and what a lucky girl Pandora is.

Originally Posted by begete View Post
Her blood work was almost normal except for slightly elevated kidney values consistent with her age, but not significant for any kidney disease.
Kidney values don't elevate with age. They elevate with disease. Elevations in kidney values also don't typically show up in bloodwork until at least 2/3 of kidney function has already been lost. So get a copy of Pandora's bloodwork and check it against the information at the following links to get a better idea of her renal status:


How can I make the decision that is best for her?
It is true that anesthesia can result in damage to the kidneys, but this risk can be minimized or eliminated by strictly following the protocols recommended at the following links:


Find a vet who will adhere to those protocols and who possesses the equipment necessary to do so (including a dopplar blood pressure machine to monitor feline blood pressure).

Dental infections can seriously damage the heart and kidneys, so if Pandora has infection in her mouth, it's wise to get the dental procedure performed to eliminate any problem teeth.

I had a very elderly (approx. 20 yr old) cat with multiple chronic diseases (CRF, hyperT, hyperPTH, skin cancer) who underwent dental extractions under general anesthesia using the above protocols, and he came through beautifully. His blood pressure dropped briefly during the procedure, but they quickly brought it back up by increasing the fluid drip before any further damage could be done to his kidneys.

It's all about protocol, equipment, expertise, and careful monitoring both during and after anesthesia. If you can find a clinic that will provide those, Pandora should be fine.

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-03-2010, 05:29 PM
Tom Cat
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 391
If your cat is basically healthy, I wouldn't be worrying about the anesthesia, infected teeth not only cause pain, but can infect the heart and kill the cat!

get her teeth fixed.

mimitabby is offline  
post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-03-2010, 05:49 PM
Cool Cat
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: California
Posts: 1,374
My vet uses a lighter sedative (as opposed to full anesthesia) when cleaning the teeth of small dogs and cats, especially elderly ones. It's supposedly less of a risk to the kidneys. Perhaps ask if something like that is an option?
saitenyo is offline  
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