Late last year, there were a series of questions posed by Sharon, whose cat Henry had just died of a saddle thrombus unexpectedly. I thought the information was useful and interesting enough to separate it out in it's own post so that no-one misses it.
Question from Sharon:
My beloved cat Henry died unexpectedly 9/21/09. I woke up to his loud cries and leapt to his side. Within a minute he was gone. I think back to a month ago when one morning Henry couldn't stand up and his back right leg was weak. I took him to the vet that morning and he got better within a day. The vet did an x ray of his leg and only saw what looked like a touch of arthritis in his knee. He gave me some pain medicine and we went home. Henry got better immediately. Now I wonder if he actually had a mild attack of ATE, which was followed by a total clot that ended his sweet life. Does anyone have an idea?
Answer from Dr Carleton:
Sharon, I think you are right - partial clot (saddle thrombus) that resolved on its own the first time and then a clot that caused a heart attack, which is why it was so quick. I am so sorry for you Sharon,
Question from Sharon:
Thank you for answering. I took him immediately to the vet for an x-ray on his leg the day he had trouble walking. If a clot had already resolved, is it fair to say that it wouldn't have shown up? Also, would a vet know to look further because the symptoms were so sudden? With this disease, would it have helped Henry if we had put him on aspirin or blood thinners, or is the disease a time bomb regardless? I'm not out to blame the vet, just to understand this malady and to know what to look for since I have other cats. Many thanks.
Answer from Dr. Carleton:
Sharon, A clot will never show up on X-ray. The only way you know it is there is by 1) decreased blood pressure in that leg (measured with a doppler and cuff), 2) a cold extremity and discolored pad and 3) clinical signs that range from limping to dragging the leg depending on whether the clot is a partial or complete one. If the clot is affecting both sides, the cat is basically paralyzed in the hind end and is extremely painful.
As anti-coagulant therapy, even with treatment, a cat with a saddle thrombus' median survival time is 2 months to a max of 2 years (uncommon) because of the tendency for them to throw more clots. Sometimes a clot can be so bad that you have to amputate the leg in order to save the cat. However, I hesitate to do this because the long-term survival is poor and it doesn't really seem fair to the cat or owner. Heather
When I'd asked Sharon if I could share her questions, she wrote to me the following:
Dear Laura. That would be great. Here are two photos of sweet Henry. He came to my house as a stray in 2003 and passed away on 9/21/2009. The vet estimated his age was 12 years or so. Thanks. Sharon
P.S. When I took him to the vet three weeks before he passed away, he was limping badly, but then it went away almost immediately. The vet who looked at him specialized in orthopedics, so I think that was part of the reason they may have overlooked the underlying condition.
Have you had something similar happen to your cat?