Most people are really good with noticing sudden changes in the behaviour or medical condition of their pets.
The problems start with conditions that develop and progress over time, chronic diseases, that often go unnoticed.
Daisy is one of those unfortunate animals that lives with a chronic problem that affects her entire quality of life.
Daisy is a lovely cat that came to board with us at Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital while her owners were out of town.
As always, I conduct a physical exam when a cat checks in to our boarding facility. I readily noticed with Daisy that her breathing was abnormal and laboured.
Daisy’s owners told me this problem has existed for the past six or seven years in varying degrees of severity.
Daisy’s owners are very dedicated and loving. They want all the best for their pets and will do whatever is required for their animal’s well being.
In this instance, they were not aware Daisy had a medical condition. They assumed that this breathing pattern is normal for their cat.
I am indebted to Daisy and her owners for that conversation, because that has made me realize how important it is to explain to pet lovers that no abnormality in their pet should be left untreated with the assumption that this is “just normal for the pet,” particularly one that is aging.
Most pet owners assume their pet is healthy as long as it eats, drinks and has a good mood.
Some diseases manifest with symptoms that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
One of the conditions in cats that may progress over time and go on unnoticed, as was diagnosed in Daisy’s case, is feline asthma .
Feline asthma is a common allergic respiratory disease in cats, affecting at least one per cent of all adult cats worldwide.
The disease has an acute form, in which the symptoms appear suddenly. More commonly, this disease has a chronic progressive nature.
The disease nature is similar to any other allergy. The body’s immune system attacks an object, it recognizes as foreign, triggering an inflammatory reaction.
This inflammatory reaction leads to the swelling and thus to the narrowing of the cat’s respiratory tract.
Common symptoms include wheezing, coughing, laboured breathing and potentially life-threatening constriction (narrowing) of the small airways.
While specific asthma-causing agents typically remain unidentified, suspected allergens include tobacco smoke, dusty kitty litter, vapours from household cleaning solutions and aerosol sprays, pollen from trees, weeds and grass, mold and mildew, dust mites, smoke from fireplaces and candles, and even some foods.
The disease has different degrees of severity, ranging from mild and intermittent to severe and life threatening.
The best diagnostic tool for diagnosing feline asthma, is by x-ray.
The x-ray exam allows the doctor to visualize the chest, assessing the size and shape of the heart and looking at the typical patterns in the lungs.
Additional tests such as blood panel and fecal test are often also helpful in reaching a definite diagnosis, and can aid with ruling out other causes of similar symptoms.
As with asthma for humans, unfortunately this condition has no cure, but it can be controlled with a combination of medications that suppress the immune system reaction and medications that dilate the airways.
Your pet can’t converse with you and tell that it suffers from pain or physical inconvenience.
So if you see a different physical or behavioural pattern, do not assume that this is normal for your pet.
There is a big chance that your pet suffers from some sort of abnormal condition, and most likely there is help.