By Donna Stead & Heidi
How would you react if your vet turned to you and told you your cat has asthma?
For me it was disbelief…cats don’t suffer with asthma do they?…it’s a human disease?
Around the time of my tabby cat Heidi turning two years old she began “coughing” every now and then, it was as if she was trying to bring up a fur ball but nothing was ever produced, but within a few weeks the cough became more frequent. So, like the majority of cat parents I did a spot of internet research by typing in ‘my cat has a cough’, all of the results basically advised you to take your cat to a vet as soon as possible. Of course I made a vet appointment, one of many actually, as feline asthma is so difficult to diagnose, after many examinations, x-rays, blood tests, information gathering and finally being able to show the vet a video of Heidi coughing we were finally given the feline asthma diagnosis.The coughing episodes she was having were an actual asthma attack. In cats they hunch their bodies close to the ground, thrusting their neck and head forward while licking their lips, coughing and struggling for breath.
Heidi was prescribed Prednisone steroid tablets and initially we saw an improvement in that the asthma attacks were becoming less frequent. At this stage, which was five years ago now, the vet couldn’t give me much advice on asthma and I was left to research as much as I could to educate myself on how best to help Heidi. It was a huge learning curve but everything I read, every video I viewed helped me immensely. I’m pleased to say these days there is more information and support networks available.
As quickly as within a few months the asthma attacks were starting to become a daily occurrence and with further check ups and information gathering our vet informed me that we should research the inhaler treatment which would be the best form of treatment in the long term for Heidi as the inhaler medication goes directly to where it is needed. The vet advice I was given was to check YouTube to see if there were any videos about how to train a cat to use an inhaler. There wasn’t much to go off but I knew that we could do this for Heidi and help her to live with asthma better.
I ordered the Aerokat inhaler online and once it had arrived I got to work on training Heidi on how to feel comfortable with it before even attempting to put it anywhere near her face and adding the medication part. I developed my own technique which was based on a very slow process for her to go near the inhaler herself using treats. For sure I didn’t want to rush anything and her be afraid of it and never use it. I broke the Aerokat chamber down into a mouth mask and chamber and decided the best plan of action was to leave it laid around with her toys so she could accept it as something that belonged to her.
She would often go over to it and give it a sniff or a prod with a paw and that was when I introduced placing treats near the mouthpiece. This way she was placing her mouth and nose close to the mouth mask voluntarily. Slowly, slowly I introduced the chamber
and mouth mask to her face for one second, then two seconds and so on and so on until I could see via the Flow-Vu she was taking in 8-10 breaths. At this point I was happy she had accepted the apparatus and so we ordered the inhaler medication to begin treatment. Being incredibly patient with the training and offering praise and rewards really paid off.
I’m sure the strong bond we share also helped as I believe she truly knows that I’m trying my best to look after her and keep her healthy.
Heidi now takes her inhaler treatment daily in a very calm manner.
Not only does being on the right medication help to ease your cats asthma but there are many things you yourself can do around the home to make life more comfortable and manageable for your furry friend. So here are some handy hints and tips for you to follow if your cat is diagnosed with feline asthma…
First, don’t panic, your cat will sense your stress and stress can bring on an asthma attack.
Speak to your vet about all of the treatment options that are available and ask as many questions as you can.
If you are advised to use the inhaler treatment, order the chamber as soon as possible and start the training process before introducing the new medication.
Look at what you can do around the home, for example, make sure you are buying a good dust free litter, vacuum and clean more frequently to keep dust
levels down, invest in a humidifier to pump more moisture into the air, do not use fragranced candles, air fresheners, plug ins etc and also do not use hair sprays and deodorants in a room your kitty frequents, make sure to feed them a healthy and grain free diet, keep their weight under control with daily exercise, go for regular vet check ups and it’s vital to monitor and report any changes in their behaviour or symptoms.
Feline asthma is very serious and you must remember that it cannot be cured but can be controlled to help cats live happily for many years. An attack can happen out of the blue and as a devoted cat mum I always worry when the next one will occur…what if I’m at work/fast asleep/on holiday…it’s so difficult, but because of the right level of care, medication, support and close monitoring of Heidi’s health we seem to be on the right track at the moment.
So, when I say the right support, what I mean by that is the support from the Cats of Instagram Community, I try to raise as much awareness as I can of feline asthma via Heidi’s Instagram account @heidi.kat it is so important to us to get the message out there through powerful images and describing our experiences, we have helped so many cat owners already and we have discovered so many other cats around the world that have asthma too. We can all support each other and talk about our experiences. It really amazes me when we share a post or a story relating to our feline asthma experience how much of an incredible response we get. The cat community on Instagram is a truly wonderful thing.
So, please feel free to check out Heidi’s daily adventures, updates on how she is doing and her hint and tips on training and do and don’t’s on her Instagram, we are always happy to hear from people who would like to know more about asthma, maybe have a cat going through diagnosis or just living with it in a daily basis like Heidi.
Heidi is currently 8 years old and takes her treatment daily with no fuss. I’ve learnt so much and continue to learn more and more on the disease. She is a very happy, playful and cheeky girl. She is truly my world. You can follow her adventures on Instagram.
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