What is Asthma?
When you breathe, air follows a natural pathway to the lungs and after adding oxygen to the blood, comes back out in an exhale. For those with asthma, it’s not that simple. Allergens, cigarette smoke, a genetic disposition, changes in the weather or even exercise can trigger an asthma attack. Airways constrict so it’s harder to get air in. Coughing inflames the airways and makes it more difficult to breathe. It’s even worse for cats who can’t explain what’s happening.
Mark Gregory lives on a 300+ acre farm. Cats tend to wander in – word must get around that food is available there. Biddy was a tiny black cat, pregnant when she stopped by. After her litter of kittens was born and Biddy was spayed, she came back to the farm to live. Soon after, she began showing signs of developing asthma, a common ailment in cats. Her veterinarian prescribed prednisone for Biddy “Cat” Gregory. The pharmacy staff got a chuckle out of the label every time they filled the prescription.
While some asthmatics can respond with just prednisone, Biddy’s attacks worsened. She was next prescribed two inhalers, one for mild attacks and one used only in case of emergency. The inhalers were attached to a pediatric face mask so Biddy could inhale the medicine and breathe normally. As Biddy’s condition worsened, she was using the emergency inhaler almost daily.
Biddy’s family was taught how to give her prednisone shots to be administered “as needed”. “As needed” became frequent as Biddy worsened until she finally had an attack the Gregory’s couldn’t treat. Biddy was rushed to the emergency vet’s office, over forty miles away where she was put on oxygen. After a few hours, the attack passed. When the Gregory’s got the $400 bill, they had trouble catching their breath too. There had to be a less expensive way to keep Biddy breathing. Mark got creative.
Mark called a business that rented oxygen tanks for cutting torches. He was told to use the oxygen for Biddy would constitute medical use, even if she was a cat. Of course, if it was for a cutting torch… Mark picked up the tank and as he went out the door, the man said, “How’s the cat doing?”
A cat crate became an oxygen box, duct taped on the sides with a plastic covering over the door so Mark could see when Biddy’s breathing evened out. Holes in the crate at the rear let him attach the hoses from the tank. To get the tank refilled only cost $11, a far cry from the $400 at the emergency clinic. Mark added a regulator so the next tank lasted for two treatments. A second tank as backup gave the Gregory’s peace of mind.Biddy’s Inhaler
Each morning, Biddy would hop up on the bed, get a prednisone shot and a treatment with each inhaler. At night, she’d breathe from each inhaler again. It became her regular routine. Although a prescription is all many asthmatic cats need, Biddy’s asthma was severe. If the cat you want to adopt has asthma, don’t be afraid to go through with the adoption. If a cat you have develops asthma, there’s no need to panic. When you know the symptoms and what to do, the extra time and attention an asthmatic cat requires also becomes a bonding experience.
Biddy lived with the Gregory’s for seven years before she passed away. She is buried on the farm.
What is Prednisone?
Prednisone is the generic name for a corticosteroid. It is a fast acting and efficient anti-inflammatory medication. Long term use has a number of serious side effects but in a case like Biddy’s, being able to breathe outweighs any potential side effects. Prednisone also gives a feeling of added energy and reduced pain so the user can resume a more active and normal lifestyle. Although Biddy lived a shorter life than most cats, without these treatments from an attentive family, she wouldn’t have had a life at all.
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