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Surgery risks old cats

Discussion in 'Cat Health' started by klegg, Dec 4, 2006.

  1. klegg

    klegg Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Dec 4, 2006
    I tried to search the health forum for posts about surgery risks for old cats, but I was unable to find any specific information about possible post-operative complications/risk evaluations for old cats, so I post my own question if that is ok.

    What are the most common complications and risks with undergoing anaesthetized surgery for old cats(over ~15 years)?
    Are there any specific anesthetics that are better for older cats?
    Is there a point were it is better to euthenase than to take the risks with the
    horrible complications following surgery?

    The reason is that we lost our dear old friend last Friday. We were informed by the vet that older cats have a low survival rate in anaesthetized surgery, often resulting in acute kidney failure. But the condition with an infected tooth left no other options and the pre-operative screenings said she was in good shape.

    She had undergone surgery several times before when she was younger without any problems, but this time it was as if the drugs never wore off. After three days with few signs of improvement we revisited the vet. They said that her kidneys were failing and she was given intravenous fluids.
    But later that day she started getting convulsions, choking, wetting herself and was unable to rise up. (It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen) So we decided to relieve her from her pains.

    Today we talked to our neighbors and they said that their cat had perished in a similar fashion shortly after surgery, so it seems like it is common for older cats. Is it perhaps better not to do surgery on old cats?

  2. sharky

    sharky TCS Member Veteran

    Jan 30, 2005
    It depends on the animal ... cause just like humans they can suffer sudden death due to anesethia or shock of being put under... I know with my 18 yr old she gets fluids before during and after surgery....She has kidney issues

    I send [​IMG] to you for your loss

  3. graciecat

    graciecat TCS Member Top Cat

    Oct 23, 2006
    In Steelers Country!
    I agree with sharky, I think it depends on the cat.

    Our sweet Maggie lived to be just a week shy of her 19th Birthday and she had surgery to repair a hernia ( that resulted from her spay, that was done years earlier ) at the age of 16 and she sailed right through it with flying colors.
    Then a friend of mine lost a cat in very much the same way you lost your baby, so I think it really does just depend on each indiviual cat.

    I'm sorry for the loss of your girl.

  4. poohandwendy

    poohandwendy TCS Member Alpha Cat

    Jul 25, 2005
    First, I am so sorry for your recent loss. {{{HUGS}}}

    I think it's a catch 22 sometimes. In many cases, without the surgery they will end up having problems that could lead to an early death. I would definitely place an infected tooth up there as a necessary surgery. Sometimes the surgery is not recommended because their condition isn't one they will likely recover from anyways, but would have a better chance of success with a younger animal. I do think most vets try to be conservative with anesthesia because they are trying hard to keep the animal safe...but sometimes there just isn't anything that can be done.

    It is so hard to lose your friend. I understand. My thoughts are with you.

  5. white cat lover

    white cat lover TCS Member Veteran

    Nov 17, 2005
    I'm sorry about loosing your baby!

    I myself am contemplating what to do with a 13 year old kitty that lives in my garage. I feel she needs to be an inside cat due to hearing/vision problems. She also needs some dental work done(cleaning & tooth extraction). However, she did not fare well during her last surgery in Late Feb or early March of this year.....it took her too long to wake up & the vet was very concerned. I have my doubts that she will survive any more surgery.

    But, I know of a 20 year old kitty who had surgery earlier this spring when she was only 19 & she's still reigning over her home.

  6. pat

    pat TCS Member Top Cat

    Jul 1, 2003
    Pacific NW
    I agree with the other posters. It depends on the cat and their specific health status. My Tyler, who just turned 17 had a dental w/tooth removal, it was risky as he has high bp, kidney failure and a heart murmur, but it was in an attempt to get him eating again (didn't work, but boy his teeth are clean and pretty, and a bad tooth is now out). I know they monitored him extremely closely and used a particular anesthesia (though I didn't ask what specificly they used).

    I am so sorry for your loss. Imo, if the benefit outweighs the known risks, it is worth it. I have turned down many a procedure for my oldsters if the benefit was not worth the rish.

  7. cloud_shade

    cloud_shade TCS Member Top Cat

    Dec 19, 2004
    There are definitely some anesthetics that are better for older cats than others. Ketamine, for example, is hard on the kidneys and should not be used in older cats (who have a higher rate of kidney insufficiency). There is a Yahoo group for senior cats, the group owner has done tons of research around anesthesia. What I learned is that senior cats should always have IV fluids and catheters. For induction of anesthesia, propofol is one of the safest methods. For maintenance of anesthesia the gases, isoflurane and sevoflurane, are among the safer methods and result in faster wake-up times. None of those methods have pain-relieving properties, so a separate pain reliever (like Buprenex) is a must. Especially for dentals, where there is a risk for the cat to aspirate (inhale) fluid, the cat should be intubated.

    I'm so sorry for the loss of your cat. I've had two seniors who have had successful surgeries, but I worried non-stop until they were home safe with me. Odo just had a dental done last month where he had to have two fangs pulled. I think that a vet who understands how to use the newer anesthetics may have better success rates on older cats. I think that you did the best possible thing for your friend--you tried to help him heal by removing a source of infection and recognized when you had done everything possible for him.

  8. yosemite

    yosemite TCS Member Veteran

    Apr 26, 2001
    Ingersoll, ON
    Also agree - it depends on the cat. We almost lost our little Mika during her spay at 4 months old. The vet told us that if she ever has to go under anaesthesia again that we must inform the vet that she comes out of it very, very fast and cannot breathe. Thank goodness we had a good vet for her spay.

  9. booktigger

    booktigger TCS Member Top Cat

    Jun 11, 2005
    I am so sorry for your loss. I agree with the others that it depends on the animal - I have never heard that it can cause those kind of issues though. The eldest I have had under is 14, they were fine - my nearly 12 year old now has to have fluids before and throughout, and even with that she took a long while to come round from the last op. my vets do use a special anaesthetic for oldies though - forget the name of it, but it might not be the same name where you are. I would always have pre-anaesthetic bloods done. I have known 19 and 20 year olds have surgery for things like dental and amputation and come through fine.

  10. alleygirl

    alleygirl TCS Member Top Cat

    Dec 2, 2006
    hiding in the bathtub
    I don't know what to say except that I am very sorry for your loss.

  11. klegg

    klegg Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Dec 4, 2006
    Thank you all very much for your replies and info about your experiences. Special thanks to cloud_shade for the information. -I will look for that Yahoo group.

  12. cloud_shade

    cloud_shade TCS Member Top Cat

    Dec 19, 2004

  13. nekochan

    nekochan TCS Member Top Cat

    Aug 5, 2006
    Chicago, IL
    There are increased risks as others mentioned... However there are ways your vet can help minimize these risks, including getting a good bloodwork panel done before surgery and carefully choosing any anesthesia meds as well as any post-op meds. My previous cat Sylvia had surgery twice on mammary turmors when she was about 14-16, and she also had kidney disease (controlled fairly well with her diet...) The vet was very careful on the surgery and anesthesia used, and she had no problems during or post- op. Sadly though the second time they found out the cancer had spread, and about 2 months after the second surgery she passed away due to the metastatized tumors...

  14. meower

    meower TCS Member Young Cat

    Oct 11, 2005
    I have a couple of elderly cats with kidney disease. My vet uses a gas, sevoflourine(sp?) and then uses gives dormitor via shot. After the surgery, a shot is given to counteract the dormitor and the cat is awake within about three minutes. My vet always warns me that it gets more dangerous as they get older to have surgery .

    I am sorry you lost your beloved friend.

  15. weezymom

    weezymom TCS Member Kitten

    Feb 27, 2012
    I have just scheduled my nearly 9year old cat for surgery to remove a fairly large bladder stone. The vet has warned me that surgery is more dangerous for older cats. She seems to be in good shape other than the obvious discomfort from the bladder stone. How worried should I be?

  16. crocuscat

    crocuscat TCS Member Kitten

    Nov 10, 2012
    I just had to euthanize my Mom's cat (approx. 9 years old) from complications of dental surgery.  We took her in 3 years ago when she was starving and came to my Mom's porch.  My Mom said she was an angel because she came to us when my Dad was dying of cancer, so we called her Angeline. She was so close to starvation that I honestly didn't think she'd pull through, but she did.  Still I think that it probably did some organ damage--being so close to starvation and so extremely underweight.  We had to have the dental surgery because her teeth were infected and her gums were inflamed; the vet removed 11 teeth--mostly molars. Two days after the surgery she hadn't eaten and was starting to have trouble with breathing.  Her poor little heart was failing so the emergency clinic put her in an oxygen cage and did an ultra sound to confirm diagnosis.  They said that her heart condition was undetected and no matter how carefully the vet had extracted the teeth, some of the bacterial made it into her bloodstream and probably settled on the heart valve.  They said our vet hadn't done anything wrong.  The IV fluids from the surgery built up in her lungs because her left heart valve couldn't pump properly.  Maintenance for such a serious condition would not have been easy (especially for my 86 year old mother) and it would not have been really fair to her, so we had her put down. Also the emerg vet said that her heart condition would kill her eventually and I just didn't want her to suffer anymore.  We take comfort in the fact that we gave her 3 years in a loving home as an indoor cat and she died in my arms. quickly and peacefully and very, very much loved.  Had we not rescued her 3 years ago, she would have died alone, frightened and out in the cold.  We did the pre-operative blood panel & she had been on antibiotics to clear up a toenail infection, but still her teeth were still a bit infected. However, the vet who did the surgery had only been practicing a few years, so I worry that maybe one of the more experienced vets at our clinic might have done something differently.  I would now take an elderly cat in a day after surgery for a postoperative check on heart, kidney & liver functions, although I suppose that really wouldn't have changed the outcome as the damage had already been done to her heart. Apparently when this type of thing happens the heart condition takes a couple days to present after surgery. I also wonder if she should have been on the antibiotics longer before having the surgery until all the infection was cleared up. Her toes were healed, but the gums were still a bit infected a week before the surgery. I would just caution anyone thinking of having surgery on an older cat, to do the research, ask about the risks and what kinds of things can be done to minimize the risk.  Needless to say preventative measures are the best.  I feed my cats a raw food diet and brush their teeth twice a day.  I started brushing their teeth  when they were 3 or 4, and they tolerate it well. I found lots of good info for caring for cats at CatInfo.org a website by Dr. Lisa A.Pierson, DVM.

  17. just mike

    just mike TCS Member Top Cat

    Mar 11, 2011
    Saint Louis, MO
    I am so sorry for your loss ;(  It is so difficult to lose our babies.   As for the discussion;  I agree with the rest of the posters.  I think a lot of it has to do with the animal, it's genetic makeup and any past issues the cat may have as well as current issues.  My Hoot had 3 major surgeries when she was less than a year old.  She flew through with flying colors, much to the surprise of everyone involved.  She is now 15.  I would be terrified to put her down for any reason.  She is fragile and very thin.  She has no issues but I've been concerned about her weight loss.  I've had every test imagineable done, Xrays etc.  She is healthy, just not faring too well in old age.  I'm not sure she would survive a surgery at this age but she has surprised us in the past...  I would not even allow the vet to give her a rabies shot this year.  Don't want it, was determined not to give it to her...  I don't care if it is breaking the law here.  My vet complied ;-)  without giving me any trouble about it. 

    Again, my deepest condolences.

  18. blueyedgirl5946

    blueyedgirl5946 TCS Member Veteran

    Sep 10, 2005
    Klegg, I am so sorry for your loss. Our fourteen year old Muffin had a liver tumor in May. The vet opened him up. His abdomen was pretty much cut from one end to the other. I don't know what was used to put him to sleep. I do know our vet used stitches on the inside and staples on the outside because it got the cat our from under the anesthesia twenty minutes earlier. He is doing well. I think it would depend on the cat too.

    We have a Crossing the Bridge Forum where you might consider writing a tribute to your sweet cat. That will give other members a chance to read about your kitty and express their sentiments to you.

  19. the_food_lady

    the_food_lady TCS Member Super Cat

    Nov 11, 2008
    Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
    I guess every cat's situation is different but I've had 3 elderly cats (14 years up to 16 years old) who had to undergo surgery, 2 of them had moderate kidney disease/failure......and they did very well.  One had kidney disease along with diabetes (he sadly developed a sarcoma on his shoulder and had surgery twice to remove it, though sadly it came back) and his surgeries were very extensive in which they removed a golf ball sized tumor along with surrounding tissue and muscle....and the next week I have a video of him begging for his treats and trying desperately to get the lid off of his can of cat treats :-)   Here is video:

    I also insist on Isuflourane as the anesthetic.   I like Vet clinics that use Laser as there is less bleeding.   I always ensure they have a full pre-anesthetic screen (bloodwork) prior to surgery though in the case of cats with CRF and diabetes (however diabetes was well controlled on twice daily insulin and had been for 5+ years), even though BUN and Creat were elevated, I weighed the risks and benefits (particularly in case of having a bad tooth and needing dental/extraction) and we were still fine.   

    Some Vet clinics don't monitor a cat's blood pressure while they're under and that's atrocious to me.....they simply use a heart monitor.  I insist on BP monitoring because a blood pressure can drop quickly and without proper monitoring, too risky.

    Some Vet clinics here, or at least used to, would offer a client the "option" of having an IV in during surgery.   I wouldn't dream of NOT having an IV in place for if any issues arise during surgery, they need immediate IV access and just as in humans I can't imagine NOT having one.   Frankly I wouldn't use a clinic that gives a client this "option".  I know we'd all like to save money but this shouldn't be an option, it's critical to have in place....for emerg delivery of meds, if blood pressure drops and fluids needed, etc.

    Years ago I rescued a very old siamese girl, weren't sure of age but though to be about 18 yrs old.   Found her very ill and weak with CRF and other health issues including horrible teeth, and she ended up developing an anal gland abscess.   She also had a rare condition called Hyperaldosteronism which made everything a challenge.    She underwent surgery twice....once for the much needed dental and extractions, and a few months later to drain the anal gland abscess.    She did well with both.

    I think a lot of the risk is related to competence of the Vet staff and those administering (and monitoring) the general anesthetic and vital signs while under.   In an elderly cat, just as it is with an elderly human, they are more sensitive to medications, kidney function is often reduced/impaired......so giving "enough" meds to anesthetize properly while balancing with "not giving too much" is critical.  

    I'm very sorry for the loss of your dear kitty.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2012

  20. love my pets

    love my pets TCS Member Kitten

    Jun 18, 2015
    I have a 14.5 year old female cat who has never been sick.  Two years ago the vet told me she was as healthy as an 8 year!

    In April of 2014, she developed a kidney infection and pancreatiis. She  got well after many visits to the vet and a brief hospital stay.  Last week I found a lump on a mammary gland.  The fluid drawn from it has tested positve for a malignancy.  Yesterday, she had follow up blood work and x-rays.  The x-rays are inconclusive for any tumors in the lungs. UGH. The blood work still shows her kidneys to be high levels.  I am in a catch 22 here.  If I don't do surgery, the tumor will kill her, if I do the surgery, the kidneys could worsen.  I went ahead and scheduled surgery for next week.  I trust her doctors completely.  The doctor told me there is no right or wrong here.  I want to save her life IF I can save it without causing further damage or misery to her.  Please help! I know it depends on the cat, she's always been very healthy and right now has a very healthy appetite and all of her other blood tests were good.  

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