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When I heard the diagnosis I was beside myself. Cats are naturally agile, independent, stealthy, ornery, daring ninjas of furry death. How would a disease like asthma effect the new kid?

Stewart joined us on Halloween. He ran up to the kids and started playing with them while they were waiting for the bus. Then, as I was told, the children left and he started playing with Dismal. In my home, Stewart is the one that runs by and smacks Tommy Gargoyle’s butt and keeps running, refusing to accept a consequence for touching my alpha’s derriere. He sneaks up on any female feline, even the one that hates him, and bear hugs them around the shoulders, throws his weight upon them, and like a vampire out of a cheesy romance novel, he bites them right in the neck and holds them tight.

Stewart has been diagnosed with asthma.

On his first wellness check, Dismal insisted to the veterinarian that Stewart seems to gasp when he plays too hard and again when you pick him up suddenly. The gasp usually appears as a happy cat about to kill you, but it was there, and it wasn’t there with any of the other 4 cats or the ones that came before the residents.
We tried to think nothing of it and the veterinarian wasn’t able to reproduce it, but the wellness check did report that his tubby tiny butt was growing like a weed. He’d already gained almost 2 lbs in 6 weeks. He was not an adult cat by far.

Teenager cats love to play. They play long, hard and at 3 in the morning, grabbing at your feet from under the bed when you’ve woken up from a full bladder and are on your blind journey to the can.

At the beginning of last weekend, Stewart started waking us up in the middle of the night. He didn’t want to play. He couldn’t breathe. He was coughing, choking, falling back to sleep and waking back up again. The concern over his tiny gasps in play became a sudden high priority. I took him to the animal hospital the next day, where this time we had a different veterinarian due to scheduling availability.

I presented him with occasional coughing, occasional wheezing and a plea to fix my cat. X-rays showed “classic donuts” deep in his lungs above the diaphragm. There were no cloudy areas of fluid. Honestly, I was hoping to see that because I knew with the kitty cold that has been circulating my home that a URI would be easy to treat. Tommy had a sneezing fit around Thanksgiving, irritation, cough and an emergency room visit. Two weeks ago Amalie came down with a sneezing fit that she’s only recently gotten over and that tiny tiger sneezes like a human grown man.

Consensus is that the cat will be on a short course of steroids as well as bronchial dilator, both in tablet form. Tablet form does take longer than an inhalant with metered dosing, but when you think of doping a cat and the frustrations that accompany with it, you don’t think, “Hey, I want to hold an inhaler to my kitty’s face and hope for the best”.  He’s been on all meds for about a week. He was worse the day after the visit. We’d been putting him through albuterol ‘rescue’ inhaler doses.  He had not gotten any better by the second day and we contacted the vet again regarding a blood panel that was submitted before he began his medication. All results normal and antigen and antibody read negative; Negative for heartworm.

Issues with the heart can be confused for issues within the lungs. Both may bring on shortness of breath and coughing

Day three. Kennel.

Stewart has been in isolation for the majority of this week to confine him and keep him from over-exciting himself. He’s in the dog cage.  He was also choking on food that was at floor level and hadn’t been pre-softened. Dismal has put raw chicken in the food processor for him and served it at least 3 inches off the ground. This furry child eats like a horse. He also happens to like stinky fish flavored Lysine supplement, which is great for immune response and sniffles. Perfect…

… Because he’s gotten the frickin’ Kitty Cold.

Stewart had a recheck this morning with a different veterinarian at the same hospital (again due to scheduling availability) and the vet was hopeful. She said his lungs sound clear and there is no current sign of infection. The kitty cold is potential viral and some physicians don’t feel comfortable overusing antibiotics. Dismal would feel better if she had as a precautionary measure. Steroids lower immune response and chronic coughing plus the drugs can leave you open for secondary infection as it stands. Before I left I did ask the vet for his prescriptions to fill when I have the money for his inhalers.

Common asthma treatment for cats:
Steroids

Steroids do not target the exact location of the issue. Steroids can cause weight gain and even diabetes in cats over prolonged usage. Many cats are more apt to take medications in pill form, either used with a pill plunger or snuck into food OR smuggled into a pill pocket.

Inhaled medications go right to the source, avoiding circulation through other organs in the body. They avoid processing in the liver, among other things.

Less common asthma treatment for cats:
Flovent 110
Albuterol Sulfate 90

Albuterol Sulfate is cheap. It’s in a generic. Common names are Proventil and Profair, I believe.  These are to be used in urgent situations.
Flovent is still patented by GlaxoSmithKline. There is no generic available in the United States. This inhaler would be almost $200 from the retail pharmacy.

Now, even if you could afford it, how would you dope your kitty with an inhaler?

Inhalers spray fast, cold and make a scary noise to a cat. You can’t hold it in their mouth like your own and I don’t think they’d be happy with you pumping off a straight shot to their nose.  You can fashion a small mask and hope for the best delivery around your pet’s muzzle(as we had to do with the albuterol) or you can let someone else perfect it.

AeroKat is the most common inhaler attachment I was able to find that would deliver the dosage safely and completely to Stewart once I was ready to go. It looks like it’s been a lifesaver for the 1 in 10 cat owners who have an asthmatic cat. Marketed by Canadian medical supply company, I intend to get my hands on one for $69.99

However, I don’t often buy retail for much so here’s my gig:

I participate in MyPoints and cashed in a large sum for an Amazon.com $25 gift code that I’ll receive in the mail in a few weeks. I’m putting that towards the chamber. I also plan on making a few impassioned pleas to GlaxoSmithKline regarding Patient Assistance Programs and how if this were for myself I would be able to get a supply of it for either free or on a steep discount due to the income of my legal household. I have part time in-home work for a disabled veteran. I help with his children. I attend college currently full time. Maybe somewhere within the system there would be help for my cat; somewhere hidden that corporations won’t talk about.

In the meantime there are other resources:

FRITZ THE BRAVE! is a well put together site with information regarding feline asthma, treatment, personal experience and networking within Yahoo! Groups to reach out with other pet parents and also resources within the groups to try to find an easier route with your inhaled medications.

Cornell University – College of Veterinary Medicine

MarvistaVet had a great reference about medications. Stewart is currently on Prednisone and Theophylline.