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Old 10-05-2015, 12:44 PM
 
Location: Reno, Nevada
9 posts, read 67,464 times
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I have to put this down somewhere in hopes that I can get this out of my head and heart. We lost our cat Frank on Saturday to congestive heart failure. It was a traumatizing event that took me back mentally to the agonizing cancer death of my grandmother. I am not so sure we made the right choice to let Frank die at home being loved though we were sure of it before Saturday.

Frank was a 5 year old Himalayan mix, we believe, who was diagnosed with a heart murmur early on. He never seemed to have any issues until recently. He grew up in my home as the kitten to my adult son and his ex-girlfriend, moving with us to another state 5000+ feet higher in elevation. He then moved back to the city we came from to live with the ex-girlfriend, he was more her cat, but after a year when she had to move and couldn't take him, we temporarily took him back in earlier this year. That was when I noticed Frank's heavy breathing, which my son said he did occasionally. The ex-girlfriend had signed Frank up for a PetSmart health plan (BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER) and took him for regular check-ups due to his heart murmur, so we took him in for a check-up, they didn't mention any issues and said he looked good. Frank continued his heavy breathing, I insisted we take him again and specifically ask about it. They kept him for two days for treatment and after handing over $1000, my son was told Frank had congestive heart failure, they thought he would die any minute....and then launched into an overly cheerful euthanasia sales pitch of $200-$300 depending on our needs. We were shocked. Frank had been his normal happy self other than the heavy breathing, eating everyone's food and begging for something off your plate on fish or chicken night, jumping up and down from furniture and windows, purring, snuggling, and scratching his post. With the ex-girlfriend a day's road trip away and wanting to see her cat first, my son decided we would not euthanize Frank and would let him live his remaining days at home being loved, it didn't seem like his time yet. I did some research and saw others had helped prolong their cat's lives with a change in diet and daily meds, so that's what we did. I read up on what to expect when his time did come and everything I read from people who had pets die of congestive heart failure said it was a "sudden heart attack and they were gone". That is what we expected but it was NOT what happened at all.

******VERY GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING, ONLY READ IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN THEY DIE AT HOME***** Saturday was like any other day. The last couple days, I noticed Frank breathing a little heavier, but he was still his normal self. We snuggled Saturday morning and I felt his belly that had been filling with fluid, it seemed so tight, but he ate normal, was lovable, purring and was still getting up up and down the stairs fine. We had a small party in our backyard Saturday for grandkids so we we kept Frank isolated upstairs where it was peaceful with my son checking him often. About 3pm my son told me that Frank was panting with his mouth open, which I had read about. Shortly afterwards, Frank's legs gave out and he began to meow and cough, dragging himself about appearing to have a seizure. He was contorting his neck and gasping, clawing and starting to panic. He looked scared and confused as the process intensified. We were in no way prepared for what was happening, this was horrific and we felt so helpless and stupid. Frank lay on his side clawing out, twisting his neck to breath, seizing, meowing, and appeared to be in agony as we pet him trying to comfort him before he let out his last gasp. We were in shock and traumatized. We had never had an animal die, my sons, even as young adults have never experienced death. I wish I had known what his dying at home would be like. I thought I prepared my sons for the hypothetical scenarios of how the death would play out, I feel so stupid. I wish I had known more what I could do to make it easier for Frank, I wish I knew that it wouldn't be a sudden quick heart attack. Why did I not find any detailed descriptions online when I was looking for what to expect? Was this a sudden heart attack and I just didn't know it was a 30 minute or so process? Or was it not considered a "sudden" heart attack and Frank's death was out of the ordinary? We loved him and just wanted to love him until it was his time, but we got to no sign that it was his time from him as others say they get from their pets. I am so torn on our decision and now have regrets. Did the extra time and love we gave him outweigh the suffering? Did he suffer? Was his body reacting and he was already gone not feeling it? I don't know, I wish he could have told me what he preferred. I almost wish he felt miserable and deteriorated in the weeks before so we would know and ended his misery before it got so bad, but then part of me is glad he seemed himself until his last day. I still don't know what the right decision was but it so hurts and weighs heavy on my heart and mind. I can't get the images of his dying out of my mind. These are the things you should know as you are making your decision on whether to euthanize your terminally ill pet or allow him/her to be loved to the end. I don't know what the right answer is, but I wish I had a clearer picture to begin with and I am sure my son does too.

We miss Frank tremendously, our hearts are full of sorrow over losing him. Mine is especially in turmoil thinking I could have done something more for him. I only hope he felt all our love until the end and that it was worth it for him. We will never know. I hope this post helps others decide what it best for their pets.

RIP Frank
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Congestive Heart Failure and Dying At Home-frank.gif  
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Old 10-05-2015, 02:06 PM
 
Location: Wisconsin
2,898 posts, read 3,461,378 times
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I'm so very sorry this happened to you. It is unfortunate that your vet didn't offer any options for treatment, though you obviously didn't have time to try anything given the time frame.

We lost a cat from lung cancer last year, and I know the panting and gasping you're referring to. The vet who came to our house told us that open-mouthed breathing is very stressful for an animal because they don't understand why they can't breathe. I didn't ask about pain--it is hard to say if Frank was in pain then or not.

We all have coulda-woulda-shoulda moments in our lives. I'm sorry this is so stressful for you, but know you didn't intend for this to happen. I hope you can find a way to work through this.
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Old 10-05-2015, 02:18 PM
 
6,307 posts, read 8,577,219 times
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Oh my gosh. My condolences to you and your son.

I think you said it best right at the start:

I am not so sure we made the right choice to let Frank die at home being loved though we were sure of it before Saturday.

You made what you felt was the right choice for Frank. Taking all of the information that you had at the time, you made the decision that you felt comfortable with. Though I know that it's a natural feeling to ask yourself whether you made the right choice, I would encourage you to not second-guess it.

Several years ago, I had an older cat who developed a cancerous tumor in his ear. The vet was unable to remove it all during surgery, as it had grown around healthy tissue. She did what she could, and the next step would have been to remove the ear canal. I didn't have it done. I knew that the cancer would inevitably take him, but the information that I had at the time and my own feelings about it dictated that we would just let things take their course. He ended up living another 2 years. When I finally did have to let him go (and yes, it was one of those times where he told me), I went through the "what ifs". I think it's natural, but also counter-productive. Because, as you said, you'll never know the answer.

I have no doubt that he felt your love until the end. That he was his "normal self" until Saturday morning I would say speaks to that. Grieve his loss, but please don't punish yourself. As I see it, you have absolutely nothing to be punished for.

Take care.
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Old 10-05-2015, 02:26 PM
 
1,024 posts, read 1,167,129 times
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Based on my experience watching my fosters pass, it was similar to your experience. They were eating, playing and then no longer. Their mouth gasps for air, even cry out with each breathe, pupils dilated, arms stretching out to nothing, and they lose their bowel control. Ours didn't pass right away so I held them for over an hour until the veterinarian was able to put them down. They passed from FKS which may include heart failure. A necropsy was never done by the shelter and they were checked for good health that morning.

I think in the end, they know they were loved. They held on for a few hours until I found them. They used their last strength to climb on my lap. They collapsed in my arms and was 'mentally' gone as soon as I held them.

My condolences to you. It will get better in time.
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Old 10-05-2015, 02:51 PM
 
Location: southern kansas
9,120 posts, read 8,355,423 times
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Please don't beat yourself up. With any end-of-life issues there's no guarantees how it go when the time comes. You did the best you could with the information you had.
I successfully treated my little Yorkie Midget for CHF for 3 years with daily meds , and in the end he died from kidney failure at the age of 14. It wasn't quick for him as I waited a couple of days too long to get him to my vet (where he passed away). It's natural for us to want to hang onto them as long as possible, and sometimes it's difficult to know when it's time. We're human, and make mistakes, but it's not due to not caring or neglect. So try to let the 'guilt' go. Grieving for your lost furkid is tough enough without it.

Run free at the Bridge Frank.
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Old 10-05-2015, 03:46 PM
 
Location: Wisconsin
2,898 posts, read 3,461,378 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catdad7x View Post
So try to let the 'guilt' go. Grieving for your lost furkid is tough enough without it.
So well said. You did the best you could at that time.

I just remembered a book that was helpful to me about losing a cat and working through the grief. Maybe it will help you too: http://www.amazon.com/Soul-Comfort-C...=cat+loss+book
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Old 10-05-2015, 04:36 PM
 
Location: Reno, Nevada
9 posts, read 67,464 times
Reputation: 47
Thank you all so much for your feedback and so sorry about the losses you have all suffered through. I admire people who go "through it" and come out stronger. I am just feeling a bit weak and cursing my ability to be overly empathetic to every situation. This whole experience has me rethinking life and worrying about how I am going to support family when older family members begin to die. It had me wondering how people, such as yourselves, get through a loss and then take the chance to love again. I wonder how nurses and paramedics get through their days without losing their minds dealing with death and the sadness that surrounds it every day. I never expected to take Frank's death so hard knowing he was sick and it was inevitable, but watching the death happen as my grown sons were sobbing was a little more than could handle I guess. I so wish there were no pain or fear surrounding death, but that is so unrealistic, I know better, just working through this.

Although your posts brought the waterworks on and now I can't stop, I very much appreciate the comfort your reaching out has given and I appreciate your taking the time to respond. Thank you!
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Old 10-05-2015, 05:31 PM
 
Location: Free From The Oppressive State
29,437 posts, read 21,919,607 times
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PurpleCheetah:

I went through very similar to you in late summer 2013 with my little cat Blondie. She, too, was only 5 years old, and the end of her life was horrific. I, to this day, still think about it. Unlike your cat, she had never been diagnosed with any type of heart problem, so I spent the next who knows how long, (sometimes even to this day), blaming myself. I fought against thinking it was a heart problem, and was sure that I must have been the worst cat owner alive and had left something out that she got in to. There was nothing for her to get in to, there were no remnants of anything she may have gotten in to. I even tried to convince myself that maybe the dogs ate the rest of whatever, but then wouldn't they, too, have suffered?

It was the most agonizing experience. It wrenched me apart to the point that I stood in the driveway, in the pouring rain with my neighbor who was very sympathetic, screaming at the top of my lungs, angry, sobbing...I was an absolute wreck.

A pet dying is never easy, but to see them die so violently, to suffer so horrifically, and there's not a THING that you can do about it, is the worst feeling in the world. It still hurts me to this day, two years later. I try so hard to think of our fun times, but that death, that terrible, violent death will haunt me forever.

I did write about it here, on this very forum. To be honest with you, I don't know if reading that would have prepared you anyway. I don't know if reading that would have made it any easier for you. I don't think reading that would have helped you at all. There really are no words to describe it. Horrific, terrible, gut wrenching, soul tearing...those pale to the actual feelings of witnessing it happen to your beloved pet, especially one that is so young and seems so normal right before it happens.

I feel sad for you, because I KNOW what you experienced, as I did, too. I actually DO understand. And I know that it's going to take a long time, if ever, for you to get those scenes out of your head. I am truly sorry...I would not wish that anyone would have to witness what I did, nor what you did. I'm so, so sorry for your loss, but mostly, I'm sorry that it happened the way it did. It's the darkest, blackest, most sickening place to be. My deepest condolences.

I seriously doubt that you are ready, but IF you ever get to that point, here is my experience:

Don't Go, Blondie.

Her post on the Rainbow Bridge section of this forum:

This Is My Beautiful Baby, Blondie Snacks

I really feel for you. I don't have any comforting words because frankly, there is no comfort. It does get better as time goes on, but only slightly, and the hurt never, ever stops. I hope your little Frank meets my little Blondie snacks, and that they become friends and play together, free from all pain.
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:31 AM
 
Location: Black Hammock Island
4,620 posts, read 14,329,351 times
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PurpleCheetah ... so so sorry.

Over the many years I've been faced with the decision about how and when a beloved animal was going to make the trip to Rainbow Bridge. Some decisions were to say the when and how and others were to let nature take its course. With whichever decision, I've always second-guessed myself during and afterward with the shoulda-woulda-couldas.

Like so many of the other members, I agree that we do make the right decisions with what we have and feel at the moment, and I know that if we could turn back time and make a different decision we would still second-guess that one, too.

Let the waterworks flow from sadness not guilt.

Again, so sorry for your loss. I do feel your pain.
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Old 10-06-2015, 01:52 PM
 
Location: southern kansas
9,120 posts, read 8,355,423 times
Reputation: 21236
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleCheetah View Post
Thank you all so much for your feedback and so sorry about the losses you have all suffered through. I admire people who go "through it" and come out stronger. I am just feeling a bit weak and cursing my ability to be overly empathetic to every situation. This whole experience has me rethinking life and worrying about how I am going to support family when older family members begin to die. It had me wondering how people, such as yourselves, get through a loss and then take the chance to love again. I wonder how nurses and paramedics get through their days without losing their minds dealing with death and the sadness that surrounds it every day. I never expected to take Frank's death so hard knowing he was sick and it was inevitable, but watching the death happen as my grown sons were sobbing was a little more than could handle I guess. I so wish there were no pain or fear surrounding death, but that is so unrealistic, I know better, just working through this.

Although your posts brought the waterworks on and now I can't stop, I very much appreciate the comfort your reaching out has given and I appreciate your taking the time to respond. Thank you!
It might be best if you don't try to stop. Give into the grief, and let the tears come for a while. It will help... at least it did for me. Eight years ago I had to make the decision to take my wife off of life support, and watch her slip away. The experience made me numb in a strange sort of way. I resisted the urge to cry & grieve for 3 days, until it finally overwhelmed me. I broke down & cried off and on for the next week as I began to accept that she was really gone. I felt a little better after each time, and the overpowering grief gradually began to subside. As others have said, it just takes time. But just give into the tears when you need to.
I have lost 2 dogs, and 3 cats since my wife's passing, and I've used the lessons learned from her passing to handle the grief of losing them as well.

Peace be with you.
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