Wheezy older cat?
April 17, 2014 11:29 AM   Subscribe

For the last several of months our 21 year old Sita has become increasingly wheezy. In January and February, we only noticed the wheeze after a glucosamine treat in the mornings. Starting around the end of February/beginning of March, she became really wheezy when she purred hard. It sounded...wet? The wheeziness would get really bad, she would swallow/take a big gulp of air and then go back to a "normal" amount of wheeze.

We took her to the vet in mid March. The vet listened all around her lungs and throat and could hear some whistling and nothing too terrible. After taking an x-ray, the vet told us that there was a large amount of air in her stomach as well as a slightly enlarged heart. We were sent home with Prednisone steroid to help decrease any inflammation that could be causing the wheeziness and immune boosting treats. The first week, the steroid helped slightly and the vet said to continue her on it and increase to 1/2 tablet from a 1/4 tablet for three days if we notice it getting worse or not getting better. When we increased the dosage, her wheeziness became remarkably worse. She stopped wanting to be around us because EVERY time she would purr, she would immediately start gasping for air and breathing primarily out of her mouth. We went back down to the 1/4 tablet and her wheeziness returned to "normal" and we go back to the vet. The vet took another x-ray and noticed that her heart has enlarged by a small amount in the 3-4 weeks she has been on the steroid (and her weight went from 8lbs 2oz to 8lbs 8oz!). The vet was worried the steroid might be causing heart disease and wanted to schedule her for a heart echo.

We tapered the Cat Butt Monster off the steroid and brought her in for the echo yesterday. She has a small murmur, but no other signs of heart disease and she has a nearly clean bill of health (ongoing early stage kidney disease). The internist, who preformed the echo, recommended that we go back on the steroid as well as a bronchial dilator. Today we are starting her on the 1/2 tablet of the steroid with a twice a day dilator which, thankfully, are small enough to give with treats and we don't have to shove pills down her throat. I voiced my concern about her wheezing getting worse on the higher dosage, but the vet thinks with the dilator, it should help quite a bit. As as side note, we are moving from New England to Alberta, Canada soon and the vet mentioned that our cat might have grown sensitive to some dust/mold/spore in the air here and this all might clear up once we get her to the fresh mountain air.

My question is - has anyone else gone through this with an older cat and can share any experience or words of wisdom or something else we can try? We have a humidifier in the room she hangs out in the most if the dry winter air was a cause, but I could see any difference with or without it going. I hate watching her not be able to catch her breath and I worry about putting her back on the steroids.
posted by source.decay to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
At 21, I don't think I'd do steroids. She sounds like she was doing basically ok. All my cats eventually become snorers, so probably their airways get looser (and/or more mucus-ish).

But really, she's going to go from something in the next few years, and it won't be her wheezing. I wouldn't screw with her whole system to try to fix it. Imagine that she has allergies and develop a good family joke about it. And give her lots of reasons to pur.
posted by acm at 11:56 AM on April 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you considered getting an air purifier and putting it and her into a very clean (allergy-cleaned) room to see if it helps? If so, you'll learn something valuable, and you might be able to pet her more when you're all in there. The more you can learn before changing vets, the better, since your vet knows her history.
posted by amtho at 12:11 PM on April 17, 2014

Look for a low-dust cat litter. All that digging can kick up a ton of particulate matter that can get into your cat's lungs.

Personally, I use Dr. Elsey's as per the recommendation on the catinfo.org site. The litter box page includes discussion of a few different low-dust litter types.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:55 PM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If she's having allergies, what about putting her on allergy meds? You'd have to ask the vet of course, but my Corgi took hydroxyzine for many years for pollen allergies, so I'd imagine that cats can take something similar.
posted by radioamy at 1:31 PM on April 17, 2014

Aww, kitty.

I have an asthmatic cat, so I have some experience with wheezing and coughing cats. And also steroids and cats, but with a different cat. I am not a vet.

I would take kitty off steroids, especially if your observation is that they are making her breathing worse. Fuck that.

The bronchodilator may help. Do you know which one it is? Did the vet discuss an inhaler at all? If you want to throw money at this, that's what I'd suggest next. You get a people inhaler and then use an aerokat to dispense to the cat.

The other thing is that our cat would get a thick sounding purr/thick sounding breathing when she had an upper respiratory infection. It sounds like the vet ruled that out? URIs are pretty easily treated with antibiotics.

posted by misanthropicsarah at 4:04 PM on April 17, 2014

I have a 19 year old kitty, also in early stage kidney disease, and recently had her in to the vet for a similar issue. She had been on a lysine supplement previously because the vet had said that cats can have a form of the herpes virus that can flare and cause respiratory distress. The supplement had cleared the distress in the past but didn't seem to be helping this time and she was getting worse. She also had a very fast heartbeat.

I took her in again and the vet said that older cats can be extremely sensitive to dust and other particulate matter in the air and did an ultrasound to rule out tumors etc. He then put her on zeniquin oral antibiotic and tobrex nasal (opthalmic) antibiotic for 2 weeks, the thinking being that a bronchial irritation had progressed to an infection. It cleared her up quickly and she's back to her old self.

I hope Sita feels better soon.
posted by lunaazul at 12:54 PM on April 19, 2014

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