What price for a cat’s life?

What price for a cat’s life?


We implicitly trust those caring for our pets when they get sick. They are holding something quite precious in their hands. But what happens when that trust is betrayed?

What happens when the alleged negligence comes at the hands of a veterinary professional? Someone you think has the best intentions for the care of your sick or injured pet?

These are the questions that Renate faces daily since the death of her cat Sonny just a few weeks ago at a clinic in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. Here is part of the letter she sent to the clinic a week later.

At approximately 8pm on April 27, 2011, I made an emergency call to your hospital – regarding Sonny.

We told the veterinarian that we noticed that Sonny was hunched up when he came out of his litter box and vomited once. We were told to bring him in to your clinic.

Upon our arrival we gave [the vet] the history on our cat. Sonny showed no other signs of discomfort. He had eaten and was drinking that day and was still quite playful. (Having owned a male neutered cat in the past, I knew full well what signs to look for in a cat that had a urinary blockage.) Sonny was on the highest quality food for urinary tract and hair ball. The doctor obtained a urinalysis and [saw] crystals and at that time he advised us that an x-ray was necessary.

When the x-ray was completed, he showed us the image and said there were small stones but no blockage and that was good. He said Sonny would have to go on special food and possibly antibiotics. He debated on giving Sonny an injection and [bringing] him back the following day but he then decided to keep him overnight and flush his bladder. Feeling quite confident in what he had said, we put our beautiful cat in his hands.

At 11 pm that night, I received a call that he had lost Sonny.

I could not comprehend what had happened. The following day I went to get Sonny and asked to speak to the vet about what happened. The events that took place next will live in my mind forever. One girl brought Sonny in to us, while another followed with a debit machine asking us how we were going to pay for this? Holding my baby in my arms with my heart broken, I could not believe the lack of compassion!

I asked to speak to the vet who flushed Sonny’s bladder. When he came in he told us this: He flushed Sonny’s bladder and all went well with that and the anesthetic. He told me that Sonny was waking up from the anesthesia and when he went to check on him – Sonny had “PUKED” and he was blue by the time he realized it. He then went on to say that he worked on him for ½ hour but lost him anyway.

Sonny was left unattended as he was coming out from the anesthesia. Perhaps because of the food in his stomach, which the vet was aware of, Sonny vomited. Because he was laying down flat and likely barely conscious, he had no way to clear his mouth. With no one there to notice and no one to help him, Sonny asphyxiated on his own vomit. He suffocated to death.

To this was the added insult of the way the staff at the clinic seemed more concerned about payment. While Renate is sitting there holding her lifeless baby and trying to get her head around this whole event, she is being insensitively asked how she wants to pay for the “care” Sonny received.

In her search for answers about the work done for Sonny, Renate received this response from a vet professional:

If Sonny did not have a urethral obstruction, that is, if he was not blocked and could still urinate on his own, then there was no reason to rush the aesthetic procedure. This is especially true since your vet knew that Sonny had not been fasted, thereby increasing the risks of vomiting and aspiration of the vomitus into the lungs…

If Sonny’s life was not in immediate danger, then there is no reason at all why he should have been anesthetized that night. Your vet should have fasted him for 12 hours and performed the procedure the following day. In addition, if Sonny did not have a urethral obstruction and did not have bladder stones, anesthesia and flushing of the bladder is not even necessarily required.

It is far below the standard of care to allow an animal to wake up from anesthesia without someone there to monitor him. I feel this is another area in which your vet failed Sonny.

Just this week, Renate was finally contacted by the clinic’s owner.

She said that she was deeply sorry about what had happened to Sonny and offered us a full reimbursement.

Yes, I guess that is a start. But the hard part is Sonny’s loss, especially when it shouldn’t have happened.

The big questions that still loom are those already mentioned:

  • Knowing that Sonny had eaten just a few hours prior, why was a procedure that required anesthesia performed at that time? Sonny was not in danger.
  • Why was the bladder flush even recommended if Sonny’s condition did not necessarily warrant it?
  • Why was NO ONE supervising Sonny as he came out of anesthesia?
  • Was it really appropriate for staff to approach a client in the exam room, hand her Sonny and ask for payment? That seems so insensitive at that time.

Debbie, the clinic owner, has offered full reimbursement of Renate’s expenses and I think that short of performing some kind of miracle that would bring Sonny back, this is the least they can do when an unnecessary procedure is performed on an animal. Especially when that procedure results in this baby losing his life.

The vet that performed the procedure is on vacation. I certainly hope Debbie will take appropriate action with this vet to assure the public that this kind of veterinary care is never repeated; that unnecessary procedures are neither recommended nor performed because the pet’s owner ultimately pays the price.

Sonny should still be running around the house playing with his best pals — a rabbit named “Thumpy” and a budgie named “Fenster.”

Sonny and his pals Thumpy and Fenster

So where do we go from here? We’ll talk about that in another post.This post is about Sonny.

For now, Renate has created a wonderful video honoring Sonny. I encourage everyone to watch it (grab your tissues) and leave her a message on the Daisy Foundation Facebook page. I’m sure she would appreciate the hugs.

Comments (6)
  • Lesleigh May 23 2011 - 10:17 am

    A beautiful post. I’m Renate’s daughter and the loss of Sonny to our family has been devastating. I would like to thank everyone for this post, we will be working hard to make sure that substandard vet care comes to the light so more owners can be aware of this problem and protect their pets.

  • ann Jun 3 2011 - 8:53 am

    Hopefully this post will prevent anything like this from happening again. It is so heartbreaking that this happened to Sonny.

  • Renate Jun 8 2011 - 11:26 am

    Yes Ann, it is terrible. I hope and pray that by speaking out, nothing like this ever happens to any other animal again. Sonny will live in our hearts forever. He may be gone, but he is not forgotten. We need to fight and let our government know that our pets are not property!

    Our Prayer for Sonny

    Almost two months have passed since you’ve been gone
    yet I still can’t comprehend all that went on,

    I left you that night, thinking I did right,
    even the doctor said that you’d only be in over night,
    The phone rang around 11pm,
    only to be told we would never see you again,

    In my confusion, despair and pain,
    I fell to my knees crying out your name
    What have I done, I cried over again
    knowing I would never see my sweet boy again

    You came into our lives- tired, weary and weak
    Toss from home to home at barely four weeks,
    With lots of love, and around the clock care
    You grew up to be healthy and nothing you feared.

    How did this happen, I wanted to know
    the answers are yet to be unfold,
    They said they were sorry and asked what could they do,
    They offered an reimbursement, but I only wanted you.

    As we picked up your body and laid you to rest
    we made an oath, that something like this would never happen again.
    Our fight for justice has just begun, We will not stop until we have won.

    If I could turn back time you would still be here
    your memory I hold in my heart so dear,
    Your picture hangs on our bedroom wall
    and your presence seems to follows us around

    I still expect you to chase after my feet
    and run like crazy when you hear your treats,
    Your best friend Thumpy is not the same
    he is lonely and sad because he misses his friend.

    Life must go on, this I know is true
    but life without you is lonely and blue,
    I know you are safe at Rainbow Bridge
    and someday Sonny, we will meet again.
    Until that time, remember my friend,
    We will love you forever and ever, Amen

    Love Mommy, Daddy, Lesleigh and Thumpy.

  • Renate Efford Jul 7 2011 - 5:26 pm

    Sonny, I want you to know that Mommy and Daddy have not forgotten you. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you. Everyday I shed a tear for the fun times we had. Everyday, I shed a tear for the emptiness I still have in my heart. Everyday, I still expect you to meet me at the door. Everyday I cry, everyday my heart still breaks, everyday I wish I could turn back time and hold you again. Everyday….Every single day…..

  • Lesleigh Sep 12 2011 - 6:44 pm

    Sonny, The NDP is helping me with my petition. While I have 3 babies now to focus on, you remain close to my heart and memory. I will work on this petition as hard as I can. for YOU! You haven`t died in vain.

Comments are closed.