What a prolonged case of wheezing in a cat.
I’ve been praying that it’s nothing more than a case of allergies in cats – or, in this particular case, allergies in Mittens.
Why not? After all, allergies are the most common cause of wheezing in cats.
Mittens, an affectionate if skittish, part-Siamese cat, has been wheezing for months on end. We still don’t know what’s causing her persistent wheezing.
Pixie, Mittens’ reluctant guardian (she acquired the cat willy-nilly), finally took her to the vet after weeks of foot dragging. (I hasten to add that Pixie is going through a turbulent time in her life, which has made it difficult for her to attend to things she normally would’ve managed easily.)
Wheezing in cats means there may be congestion in the lungs or sinuses. Congestion can be brought on by allergies or infection caused by bacteria, virus, or fungus. Another possibility is heart disease.
Mittens blood work was normal. Cat flu and pneumonia were ruled out. The vet told us that her chest x-ray showed an enlargement of the heart and “increased activities” in the area. Perhaps she had a tumor?
Based on her chest X-ray though, the radiologist thought that Mittens might have allergies. He gave her a cortisone shot, which immediately stopped the wheezing – for one day only, alas. Now, she’s back to wheezing. She sounds like she has a very, very stuffed up nose. Sometimes her breathing sounds completely normal; other times it’s quite labored, a gasping, high-pitched wheeze. Doesn’t appear to be any foreign object lodged in the nasal passageway.
The odd thing is that she has a healthy appetite and what appears to be a normal amount of energy. She has no nasal discharges, often a sign of respiratory infection. Except for the wheezing (which sometimes gets so bad that it interferes with my sleep, although apparently, not her sleep), she looks and behaves no different than when she was perfectly healthy.
Could it be asthma? It’s supposed to be one of the most common causes of wheezing in cats, and much more of a problem for cats than dogs. Asthma can be triggered by allergies. The wheezing sounds just like a person having an asthma attack.
Other causes of respiratory problems like wheezing in cats include:
Hairballs – Cats swallow fur when they groom themselves, and they sometimes cough and gag up hairballs. It’s not a problem usually, but if they look like they’re choking, take them to the vet immediately! An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of fur, as they say. Regular brushing can prevent the build up of hairballs.
Heartworms – Surprisingly, these parasites, which live inside the pulmonary (lung) arteries and the right side of the heart, can cause shortness of breath and coughing. Heartworms can be a serious condition leading to high blood pressure or heart failure. Preventing these nasty worms from growing inside your cat is your best line of defense because the drugs to combat these worms can cause side effects that can be quite dangerous to kitty.
Heatstroke – It’s easy for cats to get overheated if you leave them in a hot environment where they can’t escape or cool off. Cats can’t sweat like we do, so their international temperatures can quickly rise. The cat will start panting. If you can’t get the body temperature down quickly, the cat can collapse and even die.
In Mittens’ case, hairballs, heartworms, and heatstroke, have all been ruled out. So what is the cause of her wheezing? The vet didn’t seem to know.
Pixie suspects that Mittens has a tumor. If so, she would need surgery. And at 15 years of age, Pixie believes that Mittens is too old to benefit from surgical intervention.
I pray that the wheezing is nothing but allergies.