Saturday, May 14, 2005

Deciding Treatment Options for Kitty

As my regular readers know, when my grandmother died in March, I adopted her cat. The cat is 21 years old. And upon our first visit to the vet, we learned that she has kidney failure.

Kitty generally seems to be enjoying life. She is more full of energy than either of my other two cats (both of whom are half her age).

We have tried making the recommendations provided by our veterinarians. First, we treated her for her ear and urinary tract infections (with antibiotic pills and ear drops that she hated). Then, we put her on a low-protein, low-phosphorous diet (which she also hates). Now they are asking us to inject her with fluids under her skin every other day. When I went to the vet's office to learn which fluids we would be using, how often I would be giving them, where to dispose of the needles, etc, they asked me to do a demonstration on the cat. I did not admit I was a nurse, not wanting to intimidate them, and honestly, not 100% certain of technique on a cat, as my patients are all human.

Afterwards, Kitty hid under a counter and behind a trashcan. She has *never* hid from me before. So, we can probably agree that she did not like having the fluids put under her skin.

Working in palliative care, I, of course, have to wonder. What would Kitty want? To eat whatever she wants and not get pills and needles and live for perhaps a few more months? Or would she want all these annoyances in order to be able to live for another year or two? (The vet actually did not give me a prognosis with and without treatment, but in the next visit I will ask for one).

My Sweetie and I are in disagreement. Sweetie wants all of the interventions. She says that the cat seems to have more energy after the fluids are given and thus has overall better quality of life. I'm not convinced.

Anyway... it's been an interesting dilemma to have been faced with in my home. And surprising that despite all Sweetie has learned about Palliative Care that she would disagree with me that all of the life-prolonging measures may give Kitty more quantity of life for substantially less quality of life.

My grandmother would definitely agree with me. Of course, she only took the cat to the vet to get her nails clipped (which I do more comfortably myself at home). Having a Christian Science background, my grandmother was definitely a minimalist when it came to medicine. But I don't necessarily want to totally do what my grandmother would have done. Because, ultimately, I want what is best for the cat.

Sweetie has recently realized that the decisions we are making are bigger than she'd first thought and is giving it some thought. I think we will end up trying a few of the fluid boluses at home and see whether or not Kitty tolerates them any better in a safer environment. And meanwhile, in the interest of giving her enough calories to survive on and some quality of life, I am sneaking Kitty some of her favorite treats that are no longer on her diet plan. ;-)

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