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Winter is coming and the vet thinks Oscar has asthma

rjesak
September 1st, 2009, 09:07 AM
Sorry, this is a long post. Those who can make it through it - I'd really appreciate your thoughts and guidance. :)

Last November I took Oscar to the ER for a coughing fit which really scared me. He stayed overnight in an oxygen cage and seemed much better in the morning. We took him to a cardiac specialist the next day because his heart had been very slightly enlarged and because he's a Maine Coon. Very fortunately, they said his heart is in perfect shape.

Since then, we've been trying to deal with this asthma thing. After the visit in November, the vet put him on Albuterol and Prednisone. For the first time ever, I couldn't hear him breathing. :cloud9: He wheezed a bit since he was a kitten and I just thought that's the way he was. :shrug: It was so wonderful to not hear him breathing all the time. I mean REALLY awesome.

Since then, we've been trying to chase that dream back and it's been a mess. I have an inhaler for him (which he hates and which - to my unexperienced ear - seems to do literally nothing for him when his breathing gets bad). I use it when the wheezing gets bad but it doesn't seem to make a difference - at least that I can hear. We have him on a continuous dose of prednisone now (2.5 mg per day) although that's scaled up and down (you know the drill - start with 5 mg a day then decrease and we've gone through that process about 5 times). At the beginning of this process, that was quite successful but his breathing doesn't appear to respond to this treatment at all anymore.:frustrated:

To top that, the Prednisone caused him to be so aggressive with one of the other cats (attacking him while he was in my lap, drawing blood usually, etc.) that now he's ALSO on 0.4 ml of Fluoxetine a day to try to keep the aggression down. :sad: That has certainly helped with the aggression but the breathing is still an issue.

When he gets cortizone injections, they REALLY help for a while but that's not a healthy ongoing solution. The Prednizone and Albuterol doesn't seem to be working any more - he's wheezing most of the time now. And this week he's started acting differently - eating very little, not following me around like he usually does - just sleeps all day. I have an appointment for him tomorrow.

In the meantime, though, I'm really concerned about winter. He's not been doing as well as I'd've liked during the nice warm moist summer months and the dry cold winter will probably exacerbate things. :confused:

So does anyone have any ideas? After the first scare back in November, I was feeling really good about him but I've been worrying about him a lot lately and I feel like the vet and I are running out of options. :wall: BTW, if his food is an issue, he gets canned food - a combination of Fancy Feast (only grain free ones which is limiting) and Evanger's (mixing the Fancy Feast makes him willing to eat the Evanger's - I got them addicted to McFood when I was young and stupid:o).

Any help? I'm not very earthy crunchy so I've not tried any holistic options but I'll try anything (I don't mean that I'm judgmental about it - I'm just not knowledgable about it). He's only 11 which is practically a baby and I hate feeling this constant worry.

sugarcatmom
September 1st, 2009, 11:23 AM
Sorry that you're going through this with Oscar, it must be so scary and frustrating. Couple things - are you sure the AeroKat is fitted properly and that you're holding it in place long enough for him to get some good breaths of the meds? I know it must make it harder if he hates it so much. Is there a treat that he goes crazy for, like Temptations or Greenies or some Halo Liv-a-Littles? Perhaps there is a way to have him start associating the AeroKat with good things if he gets some tasty treats only after using it.

The other thing is the type of inhaler. Have you ever tried an inhaled corticosteroid like Flovent? These have less potential for nasty side effects than oral steroids. You would likely have to make it part of Oscar's routine and use it more regularly, and the Flovent can be pretty pricey, but if it helps it might be worth it.

As for the environment, a Hepa air purifier and/or a humidifier can also be quite helpful for asthma, especially in the winter. What kind of cat litter do you use? If it's clay or silica based, you might want to consider trying a switch to something like newspaper pellets, which are extremely low in dust. Also make sure all of your household cleaning products and laundry detergents are as non-perfumed as possible.

A holistic vet could be a great option if you can find one in your area. Here's a link to the AHVMA directory: http://www.holisticvetlist.com/

Good luck! I hope Oscar starts breathing better soon.

rjesak
September 1st, 2009, 12:11 PM
Thanks so much for your reply. The HEPA purifier, at least, is under control. I've got a top of the line filter since I tended to use a wood burning oven for heat in the summer. Since that's what kicked Oscar off last year (the smoke backed up into the house), I won't use it until Oscar is under control but the purifier is a very good one.

Unfortunately, Oscar has never been much of one for treats. I've been giving him sour cream after his pills because he loves that. It's a good idea to use it after the inhaler as well. Usually he'll sit there calmly enough with the inhaler for five or six breaths and then he'll really start struggling. Getting the AeroKat made a big difference because you can see their breaths as opposed to guessing but I'm still not at all sure how much medication he's getting.

As to the litter, I use Swheat Scoop. It seems quite low dust to me (especially as compared to the Fresh Step I used when the cats were young - like I said, young and stupid :o). Is it really though? Is that a good choice for him?

The cat he has been so aggressive toward has been peeing in places other than the litter box lately and I'm certain that it's because of the problems with Oscar's aggression. That's a really big problem and, although the Fluoxetine helps, I still have to watch him closely. He seems to get in these moods where he just stares Zander down and then jumps him. Since he's been in my lap once or twice, I've gotten some very bad scratches. I separate them when I see it coming but I don't always. I've got the house flooded with Feliway but that only worked for a couple of weeks.

I've recently switched to all green non perfumed cleaning products (within the last few months, I think) so hopefully that will help things.

I'm thinking a holistic vet is a necessity. I love my vet (she gave me her cell and home numbers so I can call her when I'm panicking about Oscar's breathing) but we really seem to have run out of ideas. Hopefully I can find one in my area - I wasn't very successful at finding a holistic doctor for ME in this area.

Maybe this is the excuse I need to move to Hawaii. After all, if it would help Oscar... :D

sugarcatmom
September 3rd, 2009, 05:12 PM
Thanks so much for your reply. The HEPA purifier, at least, is under control.

:thumbs up

Usually he'll sit there calmly enough with the inhaler for five or six breaths and then he'll really start struggling. Getting the AeroKat made a big difference because you can see their breaths as opposed to guessing but I'm still not at all sure how much medication he's getting.

What about trying shorter, more frequent sessions? You'll probably use up the inhalers faster, but if you were to only go with say 3-4 breaths each time and then stop before the struggling starts, and give him some sour cream after, hopefully it will become easier. I also really think adding Flovent to Oscar's regime as a preventative would be useful. It's preferable to try to avoid the asthma attacks rather than trying to treat them once they start, as I'm sure you know.

As to the litter, I use Swheat Scoop. It seems quite low dust to me (especially as compared to the Fresh Step I used when the cats were young - like I said, young and stupid :o). Is it really though? Is that a good choice for him?

The Swheat Scoop could be a factor, or at least it's a variable that you might want to rule out. I have heard of wheat-based litters being a problem for some asthmatics. For the lowest dust, I'd recommend unscented, Softer Texture Yesterday's News (http://www.yesterdaysnews.com/products.html). Not all cats go for the pellet texture (which is why the softer texture version is best), so you might have to do a slow transition, maybe starting with just a small amount underneath the Swheat Scoop. It's non-clumping so you'll need a different kind of litter scoop (sandbox shovels or garden trowels work well).

If that's a no-go with the kitties, Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Ultra (http://www.preciouscat.com/precious-ultra-p-2.html) is supposed to be one of the lowest-dust clay litters. Just make sure not to pour it with Oscar in the vicinity.

The cat he has been so aggressive toward has been peeing in places other than the litter box lately and I'm certain that it's because of the problems with Oscar's aggression.

Can you put a couple more litter boxes out, maybe even in the places that Zander is peeing? Doesn't have to be a permanent solution, but for the time being it would probably be easier than cleaning up cat pee. It could very well be that Zander was ambushed in the box or possibly his access to it has been blocked by Oscar in the past. You'll want to avoid too many more recurrences so that Zander doesn't start thinking that peeing elsewhere is a preferable choice.

That's a really big problem and, although the Fluoxetine helps, I still have to watch him closely. He seems to get in these moods where he just stares Zander down and then jumps him.

Did this only start since Oscar has been on the pred? Any sign of angst between your cats before that? I'm asking because sometimes asthma can be stress-related, and possibly their rocky relationship is a contributing factor. Either way, I think a good goal is to get Oscar off the pred, especially if it isn't doing the job anymore. The Flovent will hopefully pick up the slack, and it shouldn't cause any behavioural changes.

I've got the house flooded with Feliway but that only worked for a couple of weeks.

Would you be interested in trying some flower essences (http://www.copper-tree.ca/essences/index.html)? A holistic vet can give you more detailed help, but something like Rescue Remedy (http://www.rescueremedy.com/) rubbed on the back of both cat's ears may be useful (and spritzed on their bedding or common areas a few times a day). Some other possibilities are Bully Remedy (http://www.spiritessence.com/?action=product&act=view&id=58) and Easy-Breather (http://www.spiritessence.com/?action=product&act=view&id=76).

I hope you're able to find some better options for getting Oscar's asthma under control. I recently took my cat to a holistic vet for his arthritis, since the allopathic choices (ie drugs) have too many side-effects for my liking. It was so cool!! He had an osteopathy treatment done, and we might also try some acupuncture in the future.

Maybe this is the excuse I need to move to Hawaii. After all, if it would help Oscar... :D

Sounds good to me!! Hey, I have asthma, maybe I should go with you :D.

ancientgirl
September 3rd, 2009, 07:27 PM
Isn't Prednisone a steroid? Those tend to make people aggressive, so I can only imagine it would do the same for animals.

I thought Oksana had asthma a few months ago, but the vet said her lungs were fine. While I was looking for some information, I found a site that I have also seen referenced here on some threads.

Fritz The Brave (http://www.fritzthebrave.com/)

There's a lot of good information there.

rjesak
September 29th, 2009, 12:41 PM
I know it's been a while but a lot's happened.

First of all, the vet recommended that we stop the Albuterol inhaler and switch over to a prednizone inhaler. She said that usually the cats are less prone to side affects with the inhaled versions. It cost me about $160 :eek: but if it helps, it's worth every penny. That's what we've been doing and there's good and bad news (I'm mostly terrified but there is some good).

I took Oscar in and he's gone from 9.13 pounds down to 8.3 pounds! :cry: I'm frantic! They did some blood tests and said his liver value is elevated and his white blood counts (Eocenophils:confused:) were sky high. She said that since this generally is a sign of an allergic reaction or parasite, it's probably high because the asthma was not well-controlled. I'm taking him back in two weeks to see if the new inhalant is helping. We've also got him back on the anti-inflammatory.

Sugarcatmom, the suggestion about using the inhaler more frequently for less breaths has worked a dream. :lightbulb: He basically just sits still and lets me get on with it now. I'm also giving him as much chicken or turkey baby food as he'll eat because I'm utterly terrified about his weight loss. The baby food softens him up a lot since he likes it even more than the sour cream. :D

The aggression issue has gotten much, much better. He still has his moods, but they're fewer and farther between and there haven't been any actual fights - just some hissing and growling. They used to get along famously so here's hoping for a happy cat home in the future.

The peeing problem is still an issue. We can't really put a litter box where Zander pees because his favorite spot is... Yes, the middle of the dining room table. Occasionally the kitchen counter. Ugh. :yuck: Easy to clean up, I guess... I have added another two litter boxes to the household though so hopefully that will help. I've got litter boxes with Swheat Scoop and litter boxes with the pellets. I'm hoping I can transition all of them to the pellets, but the other cats have grumbled loudly about the change.

I've found a holistic vet but, unfortunately, it's an hour away. :wall: I'm thinking it might be worth a drive up once or twice but keeping my regular vet. I haven't figured out the logistics yet.

So tell me that his having lost almost 10% of his body weight is not something to be all wobbly over because I'm just a wreck. :pray: He seems to feel fine. He's lazy as a bear but he always has been so I can't say he's a lot less active. His personality is 100% intact aside from the aggression with Zander and that, as I said before, is improving.

Thanks so much for all your help guys. I don't know what I'd do without this site! :thumbs up