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Cat is 15 with cancer: amputate or heaven?
scribbo posted:
I've got a 15-year-old domestic short hair female. She's not been in good health lately--she's been on death's door twice in the past 18-months, both times with strange afflictions. The last time the skin around her mouth started to blister and ooze and she had to go through a long cycle of antibiotics to get it under control. During the worst of it, she wasn't eating or drinking and was really suffering visibly. The last thing I want to do is put her through anything like that again.

About six weeks ago, a lump showed up on her front leg just above the paw. I thought it was something like a bee sting, but it grew very rapidly. It turned out to be cancer. We don't know yet what kind, but the vet said it was inoperable--there'd be no skin left to close the wound if they removed it. We put her on antibiotics last week, which brought the swelling down about half, but the tumor is still large, though it doesn't appear to still be growing at this point.

The vet is saying the only solution is to amputate the leg. I've read up on stories from people who've done this, and apparently cats do quite well with 3 legs. My question is, do *old* cats do quite well? My concern is that the recovery time for a 15-year-old cat that has had fragile health may be too much for her to get over. Right now, she's enjoying the sun, eating and drinking, and not too bothered by the mass on her leg. If she can go on like that for some time, I'd rather she have a warm and bright summer as the sunset of her life than a major surgery and all the stress that comes with it, only for a questionable road to recovery--or worse, just a delay of something systemic happening with all these illnesses over the past 18 months.

Any thoughts or recommendations are welcome.
Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
This very much depends on what the biopsy says it is. There are some cancers that respond well to treatment with a minimum of side effects, and some that don't. Also, it may not turn out to be cancer, especially as it decreased so much in size on antibiotics (cancer wouldn't, unless it was also infected.) Once you know what it is, an intelligent decision can be made. Otherwise, it's just a guess.

That said, it's always best to focus on her quality of life, instead of just her longevity. If she's happy and eating well, it's worth continuing her treatment, even if it's just to make her comfortable. If she's not feeling well and the likelihood is that she won't improve or the treatment is likely to make her worse and is unlikely to cure her, you'll know what to do if you focus on her quality of life.

Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
The Cat Doctor
Board Certified in Feline Practice
scribbo replied to Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP's response:
Thanks, Dr. Drew. I appreciate the reply. We'll wait for the results of the biopsy.


William Draper, DVM, better known as "Dr. Will," is a well-known small animal practitioner in the Atlanta, GA area. He grew up in Inglewood,...More

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