The dilemma of Gizmo’s leg tumour

Gizmo and his vet, Reg.

Gizmo and his vet, Reg.

Gizmo was a lovable cat who had been known to the practice for many years. She was one of those vocal Orientals who sounded like a baby crying. In fact she had reached the tremendous age of 21 years with no major health problems until his teeth started to loosen and she had difficulty eating.

We are always extremely cautious with giving anaesthetics to aged cats so we took some blood tests for organ function which came back completely normal. She came through his dental with flying colours.

A couple of months later she came back with a very painful leg, swollen around the left knee (stifle). When we X-rayed the leg our worst fears were confirmed: Gizmo had bone cancer. We took further X-rays and there was no sign of spread to any other part of her body.

Bone cancer in dogs is highly malignant and has often already spread by the time the diagnosis is made. Although chemotherapy and amputation are options, survival time can be very poor.

Cats are a slightly different proposition and their form of bone cancer (osteosarcoma) tends to stay more confined and is slower to spread.

My instinct with Gizmo being 21 was to recommend her being put to sleep but her owner was determined that we should do everything possible for her providing that he did not suffer. Prior to the surgery we were having great trouble keeping Gizmo free of pain and at home she was on strong oral pain relief every couple of hours. I agonised over the decision to operate but was eventually persuaded to go ahead by his owner’s dedication to him and the fact that Gizmo behaved like a cat half her age.

Gizmo after amputation of a hind leg.

Gizmo after amputation of a hind leg.

The surgery went well and Gizmo recovered very quickly and was much more comfortable with the leg removed and surprisingly mobile. She lived on for another seven months when unfortunately the cancer returned in his pelvis and reluctantly at this point we had to admit defeat.

Looking back, my colleagues thought I had lost my reason undertaking this surgery on such an old cat but I think the extra quality of life which Gizmo went on to have justified going ahead. Anaesthetics and pain relief are so much better these days than they were twenty years ago. She was certainly one of those cats who seemed to inspire the old folklore about a cat having nine lives and she will never be forgotten by all of us who knew her.

If you are concerned about pain, swelling, lumps or any other problems in your cat, please contact your vet or use our interactive Cat Symptom Guide to help you decide what to do next. For more information about insurance which could ensure the cost of operations like this one are covered, please see our pet insurance pages.

  • Erin says:

    This is a lovely and informative story, and has helped me better understand and come to terms with my cat’s recent diagnosis of osteosarcoma.

    However, the constant shift throughout between female and male pronouns for Gizmo was very distracting. Maybe consider editing for future readers?

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