Before You Euthanize Your Pet: Eddie's Story

Eddie the Cat in 2011
Eddie one year after his illness

From 2010:

Eddie was born twelve years ago on the day my 16 year-old cat died. I met him at a shelter when he was two weeks old. I brought him home at age eight weeks. Eddie, also known as Panthera Plumpo, is large, orange and affectionate. His playfulness makes me laugh and he comforts me when I’m sad.

Last spring I noticed a decline in his health through the loss of appetite, weight and energy. He also developed an occasional cough. I took Eddie to the veterinarian and learned that my cat had muffled heart sounds. The chest X-ray revealed a large mass (tumor) in his left chest. Blood work indicated anemia.

The veterinarian and I discussed euthanasia. I asked my vet what he would do if this were his cat. Because Eddie did not yet have labored breathing, or continuous coughing, he said that he would give his cat a long-acting steroid injection: "This will make him more comfortable and give you time to say goodbye." I took his advice and brought Eddie home with a heavy heart.

Days passed and he began to improve. Four weeks later, his heart sounds were more audible and he received another steroid injection. Five weeks after that, Eddie was acting like his healthy, playful self. His appetite increased and he returned to normal weight.

I took him in for another radiographic view of his chest and repeat blood studies. The X-rays and lab tests were normal. The tumor and anemia were gone. To quote the veterinarian, "The only thing I know for certain is that the chest mass was responsive to steroids. Observe him closely for a return of symptoms, but for now, you have a miracle cat." Eddie probably had a lymphoma that responded to steroids.

Dr. LeCompte added that a round of steroids should be considered before making the decision to euthanize your pet for three reasons: 1) Steroids often make the animal more comfortable, 2) They may give you a little time to say goodbye, and 3) Once in a while, if the condition is responsive to steroids, the treatment improves or heals the condition. Of course the benefits of steroids must be weighed against the potential for harm. For example, steroids will make a bacterial infection worse because they suppress the immune system and can predispose animals to diabetes; but, if your pet is dying, steroids are worth a try. 

I am sharing this story because I almost had Eddie euthanized last summer. Euthanasia is final and the decision deserves careful evaluation. Perhaps my experience will help you. I don’t know how much more time I have with Eddie, but isn't today all the time God gives any of us? Every situation is unique, so before you make the difficult decision to euthanize your beloved pet, please ask your veterinarian about the benefits and risks of steroid therapy for your pet's specific condition. It could save your companion animal’s life, or at the very least, give you time to say goodbye.

Spring 2012:

Eddie died of GI complications in 2012; but he had 18 months of quality time because of the decision to forgo euthanasia and try steroids in 2010. I chose euthanasia because it was the loving thing to do. I was present for his final breath and the last voice he heard was mine.

Our pets’ time on earth is fleeting. Our brief interval together is never enough. If we have loved animals our entire lives, we experience grief again and again. I am grateful Eddie was part of my family for 13 years. Now he lives in my heart.

Wait for me on The Bridge, Eddie Spaghetti. I love you.

If you live in the Cincinnati / TriState area, please visit kingsvethospital.com. The wise and compassionate veterinarian in this story is Paul LeCompte, DVM. In my opinion, he possesses the triumvirate of veterinary care: good with animals, good with people and he is a devoted, skilled clinician. A rare combination indeed.


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