I’ve heard that pets often take on characteristics of their owners, but I never expected mine to pick up my health issues. She did, though!

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on my couch participating in a conference call for a national team of volunteers I work with at the Sierra Club. I noticed that my cat, Daisy, who was on my lap keeping me company, seemed to be breathing heavily. At one point she jumped down and looked like she was attmepting to bring up a hairball, but failed to do so. When my call ended and she still seemed “off,” Brian and I decided it was best to call the vet.

They said they wanted to evaluate her right away, and although she might not be in immediate danger, we were expecting what was predicted to be a fairly heavy ice storm starting the following morning, so it made all the more sense to make sure we would not be stranded at home if the roads were too bad to travel the next day.

When we arrived they took her in back right away to put her on oxygen, then once they told us she was stable they were able to do a chest x-ray. While they were working on all of this, we sat in a little waiting room with our other cat, Pinto, who had jumped in the carrier and come along, apparently for moral support, or perhaps out of habit since they usually travel together to the vet. I am not accustomed to spending much time in waiting rooms, it’s usually Brian taking me to the doctor. He said he usually has a tv to watch, but we didn’t have such a luxury at this visit.

The chest x-ray was inconclusive, so they asked to keep her overnight. They wanted her to remain on oxygen and wanted a specialist to take a look in the morning. They said it might be asthma, which they would treat with steroids, but could be an infection, which could be worsened by steroids. Now they were speaking my language, that all sounded really familiar! They let us pop back to tell her goodnight… she was in a little clear box that they can control the air in to give her oxygen. (I had been picturing a little hose wrapped around her nostrils like a human, and this made so much more sense!)

Throughout the next day the doctor called me to say what testing they wanted to run… an ultrasound to rule out heart disease, bloodwork to check for infection, a tracheal lavage, which involves anesthesia and shooting saline down her throat to collect cells from her windpipe (suddenly a pulmonary function test doesn’t sound so bad). Each test was more expensive than the last. By the end of the day, they were able to confirm her diagnosis: asthma and chronic bronchitis. “What are the odds?!” I thought. (About 1% of domestic cats have asthma, it turns out.)

It took another day of oxygen, albuterol, and steroids before they let me bring her home. So far she’s been doing great. I’m glad she’s feeling better, and hopeful that giving her pills will eventually get easier!

Daisy resting at home

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