Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I had my autistic son’s kitten neutered and a few days later he couldn’t move his hind legs very well. I took him to the vet and they thought it was because he was ill and put him on antibiotics. He is almost done with the meds. Is it possible the vet did something wrong in the surgery? Please help. I don’t know what to tell my son about his kitty.
Siouxsie: Although we’re not veterinarians and couldn’t say for sure what happened, our research has indicated a possible explanation.
Thomas: Your kitten may have had a reaction to the anesthetic that was used for his surgery. According to Mike Richards, DVM, at VetInfo For Cats, Ketamine and Xylazine, the two most common drugs used for the first stage of anesthesia, can, in rare instances, cause central nervous system problems.
Dahlia: This happens if the medicine causes the blood pressure to get too low, which causes heart arrythmia (irregular heartbeat) and means that not enough oxygen gets to the brain.
Siouxsie: These symptoms are extremely rare and they happen to the best and most competent vets in the world, so it’s not necessarily an indication that your vet did something wrong.
Thomas: Sometimes surgery can uncover medical problems that weren’t obvious before, such as cardiomyopathy (weakness of the heart muscle), or liver or kidney problems.
Dahlia: Some vets encourage people to have their cats’ blood tested before they’re put under anesthesia. When this testing is done, it can reveal potential liver and kidney issues, but it won’t uncover cardiomyopathy.
Siouxsie: The good news is, because your kitten is so young there’s a very good chance he’ll make a full recovery. It may take weeks or even months, but he should be okay eventually.
Thomas: While your son’s kitten is coping with this disability, make sure he gets plenty of fluids and that he’s eating. If he stops drinking or eating, get him to the vet right away.
Dahlia: So, Corrin, if I were you I’d explain to your son that sometimes the anesthetic makes cats sick and wobbly, and it may take a while for your cat to get better. Encourage your son to be extra-kind and gentle to the kitten while he recovers and to be as helpful as he can. If your son is aware that he’s “different” from other kids, you might be able to use this as a teachable time to help him learn more about compassion and caring.
Siouxsie: We don’t know the level of autism your son has, so we don’t know how capable he is of taking care of the kitten or understanding what the problem is, but Mama has autistic friends who have found that taking care of sick animals has been a profoundly life-changing experience for them.
Thomas: We’d also encourage you to talk to your vet and see if you can get more answers about what the problem is. If your son’s kitten doesn’t make a full recovery with the antibiotics and they continue to assume that he has an infection, you may want to consult another veterinarian.
Dahlia: Good luck, Corrin, and our best wishes for your kitten’s recovery.