Feline Asthma

rivkadrApril 10, 2009

My 14 year old kitty slowed down her eating last Thursday -- didn't stop completely, but had to be coaxed into eating her food, and just generally was off. I had also just become aware that she had lost more weight than is good -- I've had her on a diet for months now, but she appears to have lost about 3 or 4 ounces in about 4 weeks (much more than her usual 1 ounce a month that we've been steadily doing for the last year).

So I took her to the vet, who said that Fred was laboring a bit to breath, and asked if I had noticed her wheezing or coughing. I guess I have noticed her breathing a little more heavily over the last couple of months, but honestly didn't think much of it...she's fat and old, you know? She's always kind of breathed heavily. Well, the vet took X-rays, and they showed a bunch of white splotches on her lungs, which the vet said could be either asthma or cancer. Yikes.

She sent us home with some prednisone, and said if Fred wasn't feeling better within a few days, then we'd do an ultrasound and try to find the source of the cancer (i.e. if she responds to the prednisone, it's likely just asthma, if not, something more serious).

On the upside, Fred did respond to the prednisone -- she's eating much better now, and seems to be her happy normal self. I wish her overall breathing was a little better, though, as it still seems a little fast and labored.

Anyone got any thoughts on this or have a cat with asthma? Is there anything I should be watching for or doing for her on top of giving her the meds? My husband and I have debated whether or not to go ahead with the ultrasound, just to be safe -- she has responded to the prednisone, so it seems likely that it is asthma, and we've already spent $400+ on the X-rays, meds, etc., and an ultrasound won't be cheap...on the other hand, better to be safe than sorry? What would you do?

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I would ask the vet how learning whether it is cancer will affect the treatment. If the Pred is working (helping the wheezing symptoms) that may be all you can hope for. If it is cancer (let's hope it isn't), what can you do? Is there a treatment for lung cancer in cats? If there isn't, getting the diagnosis won't affect the treatment. Is there anything else the splotches could be?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 9:53PM
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they showed a bunch of white splotches on her lungs, which the vet said could be either asthma or cancer.

Same thing showed up on my 13-year old cat's X-rays. He had no breathing problem. The vet said that those 'white splotches' may indicate cancer originating somewhere else (metastasized from somewhere else). My cat was losing weight slowly (at first), but was at a healthy weight. Eventually, months later, X-rays showed a tumor in the pelvic area. He also had kidney issues. We never did an ultrasound (vet did not see the point then--plus we would have had to travel 2 hours at best).

Anyway, looks like Fred is doing better on prednisone. That's a relief. I would be more worried about her becoming diabetic (prednisone common side effect, especially considering her weight and age), than anything else at this point... Just keep monitoring her weight, and watch for any changes.
My very best to your kitty,

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 1:02AM
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I would not be so convinced that response to pred=asthma and not cancer. Prednisone can have appetite stimulating effects and make a pet feel better no matter what the disease is. Pred is a common part of chemotherapy because of that fact. Most lung cancers cause some degree of inflammation, and pred will help resolve that. It also resolves the inflammation associated with asthma. Obviously we all hope that your kitty has asthma and not cancer, but response to pred certainly does not provide a diagnosis.

I guess the thing to consider is what would you do if she did have cancer? If you would treat her- surgery, chemo, radiation which could add up to thousands of dollars and lots of stuff for kitty to put up with- then by all means proceed with diagnostics. If you would be more inclined to just make her feel better for as long as she has, well, you are already doing that. May not be worth the diagnostics if there would be no change in treatment, unless you just *have* to know.

Cats tolerate low-dose chronic prednisolone better than dogs as far as diabetes and iatrogenic Cushings, so that is working in her favor. The most obvious sign of diabetes in cats is usually increased urine volume. Some cats develop cataracts, but usually clients notice the urination changes first.

I hope she is OK, glad she feels better.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 6:26PM
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meghane, thanks for responding. I hoped you would -- you've given my husband and lots to think about.

We tend to do whatever is necessary for our cats -- when Freddie had her bout with Hepatic Lipidosis a few years back, we spent something like $4k on her, which at the time was definitely worth it. It's given us a few years more with her, and we've treasured every minute with her.

With something like cancer, though, we're kind of unsure. Is it worth it to spend thousands of dollars on an uncertain outcome, that might only give a few months, maybe another year or two to an elderly cat? And that is likely to include uncomfortable procedures (with a cat that is already a major bear to take to the vet -- she has a "caution!!" sticker on her chart). I don't want to make whatever time she has left an ordeal for her. But then part of me feels that I'm rationalizing because I don't want to spend tons of money right now, and as a good pet owner, I should do everything in my power for my pet. It's a conundrum, and I don't really know what the answer is right now.

I'll talk to my vet on Monday, and see what she thinks -- if Fred really does have cancer, what would the options be, and what would be the possible treatments and outcomes, and is it worth it to even be looking down that road.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 7:52PM
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please post what happens if you can....i'm going thru a very similar experience with our most recent resuce....his breathing has improved somewhat with the prednisone, but his behaviour has changed too.....much more aggressive with the other guys.....but for now, since we're moving soon, (to a new city and a new vet) we've opted to just stick with the pred until we figure out what's next.....but we're in the exact same boat....and i'd love to hear what happens with you guys....

and hope all it turns out well

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 9:29PM
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My cat Mary has seasonal asthma and this year it occurred before the snow went away. (too bad for me) She is on .10 mg prednisone which will eventually be dropped to half. I bought the inhaler and Flovent for cats but she wants no part of it. Since she is also overweight, research said the inhaler is the best way to go. She also has buteral with the inhaler for emergencies. The first year before I knew it would come back in the spring, Mary was wheezing and having trouble breathing, of course on a Sunday, so I forced her to take the inhaler with buteral and started her on the prednisone. It worked almost immediately. Then begins my 8 months of daily prednisone. She started to hate getting the pill but now I give her a few greenies to wash it down, which made her much happier about it.

I hear there are shots also but my vet doesn't believe in them. I'm off on vacation next week and have to board her at the vet so someone can pill her. I feel so bad about it. She's afraid of strangers and is very comfortable at home. My other guys will stay home.

My cat is only 7 years old. Although the daily pill is a pain, it really works.

Good Luck with your cat.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 1:21PM
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sduck2, our vet compounded the prednisone into a liquid form. I find that a lot easier to give then a pill -- I just sneak up on her when she's sleeping, and squirt it into her mouth before she realizes what is happening. Maybe your vet could compound it for you as well?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 1:27PM
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I just spoke to my vet, and she confirmed that doing an ultrasound would really just be to know for sure if it's cancer or not. If she did have cancer, the likelihood of being able to do a lot would be slim since it would have metastasized already to her lungs. The vet says that if we feel comfortable just treating her symptoms, that's totally fine, and that since there is still a possibility that it's asthma, we may be doing just the right thing. For now, we're just going to play it by ear.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 4:35PM
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rivkadr, I heard the pred has a very bitter taste. We tried ordering it inside a treat and Mary only fell for it the first time. I usually sit behind her on the couch or bed (her usual spots) and open her mouth from behind and drop it as far down as I can. Then she leans forward to complain but there are GREENIES waiting and all is forgiven.

My prayers are with Fred.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 1:18PM
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Just wanted to give an update on my cat's situation -- it's become increasingly obvious over the past month or so that my poor kitty has cancer. She's been dropping weight like crazy despite eating regularly, and over the past weeks her activity level has dropped quite a bit. She's taken a very bad turn for the worse over the past couple of days (stopped eating, stopped engaging with us, and it's clear she's in a lot of pain), and it seems very likely that we'll have to put her to sleep within the next few days. It's been very difficult for us (and for her), but we're so glad we had these last couple of months with her :(

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 3:00PM
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I'm sorry your going through this. I'm glad you had the extra time with her. Its an awful decision to have to make. To me this is the very worst part of having a pet.
Prayers and sympathy go out to you and your family.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 7:43PM
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