Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'm sad.

I actually cried tonight at work -- the first time in a long time.  Of course, I've been sad, I've grieved with owners, but I don't usually cry. 

A one-year old beautiful cat presented laterally recumbent, weak, cold, and with a low heart rate.  I couldn't palpate femoral pulses, suggesting that her blood pressure was critically low.  As I examined her, it became apparent that she had been hit by a car. An area of swelling was present over her abdomen, she was bruised, painful over her back and neck, and her nails were frayed.

Initially, she responded to stabilization with IV fluids, pain medications, and oxygen. The family allowed us to continue care and monitor her for progress, knowing the variety of possible outcomes for pets that have suffered trauma. She rallied, and became able to stand, vocalizing and resisting our attempts to take her temperature.  I celebrated a bit as she had made significant strides in the correct direction.

And then, she crashed and burned.  Her swelling had increased, and now, visible on x-rays, there was air accumulating under her skin and in her abdomen.  Her effort of breathing worsened, and her mental status declined.  She became minimally responsive.

I watched her deteriorate (and tried to intervene) over the following hour.  We discussed treatment options, and ultimately, her family elected euthanasia.  I cried as I gave her the injection, and although I knew that I was preventing suffering, I wished that I could save her.

I still do.


  1. Reading your story brings tears to my eyes. I feel this will likely be the hardest part for me as a vet.

  2. This one was really, really difficult for me. It's been a while since I've actually lost a patient despite my best efforts -- especially one so young. Not every day is like that, or nobody could do this job.

  3. I'm so sorry. :( I would guess losing a patient would be the hardest part of the job for sure. As a pet owner, nothing feels good about losing a pet but knowing my own vet and the entire office was just as upset as me helped a great deal.

    Love your blog btw.