For as long as she's lived with us, our four-year-old kitty, Nacho (the tuxedo cutie seen here with her sister, Little) has had a chronic cough. It sounds kind of like a hairball cough, but it's not. Her vet has taken x-rays and done blood tests, but has never been sure what it was. Since the cough wasn't "interfering with her lifestyle" (the vet's words)--meaning she has a great appetite and runs around playing like a maniac--and a specialist would be quite expensive, the vet said we should mostly just keep an eye on it.
Over time, the cough has gotten worse. In the past week or two, Nacho was having at least a dozen coughing fits a day, and even when she wasn't coughing, her breathing was very loud and rattly sounding. We decided it was time just to suck it up, pull out the credit card, and take her to the specialist. The first step was to take her to her normal vet for some preliminary blood work.
Anthony had smartly taken video of Nacho having one of her fits to show the vet (because of course she never had one in the vet's office!). This, along with some new x-rays, has led the vet to believe that Nacho has asthma.
Yes, cats can have asthma! And apparently, it's not terribly uncommon. We're still waiting for results of another blood test to rule out one other possibility, but either way, the treatment is the same: steroids. The vet said we should try that, and if it works, Nacho wouldn't need the specialist after all.
On Friday, we started Nacho on a twice-daily dose of Prednisone, which she happily gulps down in a Pill Pocket. Well, it's only been 36 hours and I can tell you, the results have been dramatic. Already her breathing is much quieter, and she's only had four or five minor coughing spells, compared to the dozens (some pretty bad) she'd had in the previous 36 hours. It's amazing!
I reported the good news to the vet on the phone and she said our course of treatment will be to keep Nacho on this high dose of steroids for the short-term, and then we'll go from there. She might continue taking steroids regularly at a much lower dose (a high dosage can have bad cumulative side effects), or possibly just keep some high-dose pills in the house for times when she seems to be having a bad spell.
I hope Nacho's story can help some other asthmatic kitties and their people! Maybe you know a cat with similar symptoms and the vet, like ours, has been stumped about what is going on. Here are some links you might find helpful:
- YouTube video of a cat having an asthma coughing spell (notice the lip-licking and head-shaking--different from a hairball cough)
- Fritz the Brave, an extensive site with lots of useful info
- A cat named Rocky receiving asthma meds via an inhaler (yes, this is an option for kitties with severe asthma!)