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I had been feeding a feral kitten for some time. A few days ago, I saw what looked like a gash next to its mouth, which darkened and didn't look like it was getting better a couple of days later. In addition, it had pink patches with no fur on it's right front leg, which was the leg it would use to rub the wounded area of its mouth. I also noticed it smells really bad, and there was what looked like dry mud or dirt on its legs.

I took it to a government vet who said it had Calicivirus, which needs treatment for a period of time. The kitten is not tame and was difficult to control at the clinic and was put in anesthesia.

The vet said it would be best to euthanize the kitten, as it would be difficult to control it to give it treatment and the illness would worsen and eat away much of the tissue on its face. They have no capability of holding cats there; they are either treated and released or put down.

I accepted his reasoning and expertise and thought it would be the most humane thing to do, especially since it was very difficult for me to trap the kitten the first time and I wouldn't want to watch it suffer and feel helpless if I couldn't trap it again.

Now I feel guilty and worried that the kitten might have gotten cured by itself upon reading about the disease.

Was the vet right/ethical about his decision?

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There are some strains of calicivirus that are very severe and would likely warrant euthanasia.

One very virulent strain of FCV, referred to as "Virulent Systemic Feline Calicivirus" or VS-FCV, causes severe generalized disease. With this strain of FCV, the initial symptoms involve the eyes, nose and mouth, but the infected cat quickly develops a high fever, severe depression, edema of the legs and/or face, jaundice, and symptoms of multiple organ disease. The VS-FCV strain is highly infectious, and the mortality rate is reportedly up to 67%. Fortunately, this particular strain of disease is very rare, with only a handful of outbreaks reported in the US since 1998.

Additionally, sometimes treatment decisions for difficult diseases are made based on the cat's personality. Last year I had a semi-feral cat who developed cancer in her mouth. We discussed treatment outcomes with the vet, and there was almost no chance that she could return to a state where she would not need to be medicated daily.

In the past, whenever she needed to be medicated she emotionally shut down. A few years previously she had to have bladder surgery and stopped eating after the surgery (we were medicating her twice a day and it was very traumatic for her). She had to have a second surgery to insert a feeding tube so we could force feed her food/medications without further trauma.

Based on this experience, we declined to treat the cancer. It was already interfering with her ability to eat so we euthanized her that week.

We can't tell you for sure if the vet did the right thing or not, but even if it wasn't VS-FCV the vet was likely also considering the cat's emotional reaction to treatment. Calicivirus often returns throughout the cat's life, and if the kitten was getting ulcers from the virus, it would likely continue to need treatment to the detriment of its emotional well-being.

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