By Amy D. Shojai, CABC
The most important part of your cat's world is you, and as long as you remain a constant in his life, he can live with illness and infirmity and still be happy. Cats aren't concerned about having all their diseased teeth removed or losing their sight to glaucoma - they're just glad the pain went away.
"With the palliative realm you accept that [the condition] will progress, that quality of life is now reasonable, and so we'll prevent symptoms as long as we possibly can," says Nicole Ehrhart, VMD, MS, DACVS, an associate professor of oncology at Colorado State University
That might be the best possible choice for an aged feline at high risk for a radical surgery, for example, or for an animal whose cancer is too advanced for other options. It might also be an economical or ethical choice for owners who aren't interested in aggressive treatment and just want the cat to feel good during the time he has left. "Palliative options are minimal hospitalization, and minimal cost in many cases, with nursing care at home," says Dr. Ehrhart.
"We've taught hundreds of people to give fluids at home, from the very young to the elderly, and I've not met anybody who could not learn the technique," says Susan Little, DVM, DABVP (Feline), a veterinarian at Bytown Cat Hospital, in Ottawa, Canada.
Fluid therapy is one of the main things you can do to make cats with kidney insufficiency comfortable, give them a continuous quality of life, and stabilize their disease. "It makes a tremendous difference," says Dr. Little. "It empowers people, too. Owners are doing something very powerful."
All the proper supplies are available from your veterinarian - the IV kit with the plastic line and large gauge needle, and appropriate fluids such as saline for kidney disease, dextrose (sugar) solutions to feed, or a balanced electrolyte solution for other conditions. Injecting fluid into the veins requires special training, but once your veterinarian demonstrates, it's easy to administer subcutaneous fluids - beneath the skin - to your pet at home. When your cat requires fluids regularly, it's not only less expensive to administer them at home, it is much less stressful for your cat.
Ask your veterinarian about the new "indwelling catheters" designed for subcutaneous (beneath the skin) administration of fluid. Dr. Martin G. St. Germain of Practivet developed the administration unit, called the Greta Implantable Fluid Tube (GIF-Tube). The nine-inch silicon tube is surgically implanted just beneath the cat's skin and a small skirt of material is sutured in place to hold the tube steady. An injection port is attached to the outside portion of the tube. The veterinarian will change the port each month, but the tube itself can remain in place for up to a year. A needleless injector connects to administer fluids through the port. That allows you to give fluids to your cat without poking him with a needle.
2002 & revision 2010 Amy D. Shojai, CABC
Amy D. Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant, and author of 23 pet care books including Complete Kitten Care and Complete Care for Your Aging Cat. She's also the behavior contributor for cats.About.com and can be reached via www.shojai.com.
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This program is supported by
The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.
This program is supported by The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.