My plate can only hold so much

Loki had his annual vet visit this morning.  Things are not looking so good around here at the moment, so you’ll pardon me if I don’t do much posting today.  In fact, after this one, I will probably post a photo of Loki and then take the rest of the day off as incommunicado.

Loki has been suffering from a persistent dry cough for the last several weeks.  I have generally believed it to be the result of shedding despite my brushing them each day.  If enough hair were swallowed to cause irritation without causing a hairball, coughing would be the result.  Until this last week, I was confident that was it.

Over the last week, the coughing has continued, but Loki has become less energetic than normal.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s been lethargic, but he’s not been the Satan I’ve come to know and love.  The vet, unfortunately, confirmed my increasing suspicion that something is amiss.

They could not give him his vaccinations — and I would not allow it.  At present, they pose too much of a risk to him.  With what we discovered, vaccinations may well have killed him.

The persistent dry cough he’s had for the last several weeks appears to be an indication of the very same daunting medical bifurcation Grendel faced in late 1997.  With an enlarged heart and swollen bronchioles in his lungs, not to mention the sudden loss of weight, all findings we came across after many tests this morning, there are two likely and viable options: asthma and heart disease.

Grendel has asthma, as you know, and Loki is his biological brother, so that at least lends credence to asthma being Loki’s problem.  However, Loki is over nine (9) years old and it is highly unusual for asthma to present this late in life.  Grendel began showing signs near the end of his first year.  Loki will be 10 years old in early 2007.

Given age and indications, it is far more likely he has heart disease.  If it is heart disease, it is acute.  If it is asthma, it is probably late-age chronic-acute.  Grendel’s asthma is seasonal acute.  Loki’s version would be significantly worse than his brother’s.

For the next seven days, Loki will be given the same asthma medication Grendel takes, except he’ll receive it four times as often as his brother does.  If he has asthma, this may help improve his condition, but it’s also possible we’ll have to extend the test another week since inhaled steroids do not act as quickly as systemic ones.

Systemic steroid treatment is utterly out of the question.  If he has heart disease, steroidal treatment of that nature would increase the burden on both his heart and lungs, both of which already show tremendous signs of strain.  In fact, his heart rate and breathing were so dramatically above where they were last year that the vet originally considered admitting him.  The situation became worse when he was taken back for x-rays and began heavy mouth breathing.  That is, for cats, not a good sign.

On the other hand, if it is asthma and we treat him for heart disease, the treatment will greatly increase the burden on his lungs, which, as I mentioned, are now under great strain.

It’s a lose-lose situation regardless of which one we treat him for.  That leaves us only one option: inhaled steroids.  While they take longer to get asthma under control, they are better for his overall health as they only affect his lungs and will not exacerbate a heart condition.  This is the only choice available.  I hope that in a week we’ll see improvement.  If they are minor, we will continue the medication for another week.  Additional improvement will verify he has asthma.  No improvement will indicate heart disease, and then he will need a cardiac ultrasound to identify specifically how bad it is and how best to treat it.

Aside from something very uncommon not yet considered, there is one additional option that is far worse than either asthma or heart disease alone: that he has both.  If that is the case, I’ve already mentioned why treatment for one will only irritate and worsen the other.  The only hope would be to get the asthma under control with inhaled steroids before beginning treatment for heart disease.  Even then, treatment for the latter would only make the former worse and harder to treat.

His age in this case would point toward heart disease.  He is at that perfect stage in life where cats would normally begin demonstrating the ailment.  Much to my dismay, it is very rare for a cat to begin demonstrating asthma at this age.  The redeeming quality is that Grendel has asthma and the two are biological brothers.  Still, the odds are very much against that diagnosis.  Let’s hope betting against the odds in this case is a winning proposition.

Unlike Grendel, Loki does not do well with the inhaler.  In fact, he’s never been good at taking any medication.  The only experience with that either of us has is from after his being neutered.  Aside from that, he’s never been sick.  Ever.  If he must take medication regularly, I hope it’s the inhaler since pills are far more difficult.  And dangerous — for me.

This week started out looking so promising.  It has since rapidly spiraled downhill.  There are significant financial concerns that were unplanned with regards to the cats.  The stress of Loki’s trip to see the vet obviously poked a stick into the eyes of a sleeping dragon; that beast awoke right there before us and showed precisely how much danger it posed to He Who Steals Souls.  That means there is the increased stress on Loki with Vazra in the house that only in hindsight seems like a really bad idea.  There is my significant lack of restful sleep due to Vazra’s schedule both before and after his capture.  There is stress from the job search and sudden realization of dramatically increased money outflow without compensating inflow.  There is adult feline integration to be managed that is never easy for anyone involved.  There is, in light of Loki’s sudden health crisis, the increasing concern over Kako‘s health given stress can easily activate her deadly UTI problem, and all of them can feel my stress, and that subsequently increases their stress.  And, stress is bad for Grendel’s asthma as well, not to mention whatever ailment Loki is suffering with.  There is the loss of another pet at the family farm: one of Mom’s cats.  A dog was lost there not to long ago, and a cat shortly before that and another cat shortly before that and another cat shortly before that.  The list goes on, but I already tire of this exploration of my life’s vicissitudes.

The more’s the pity…

So, now I’m signing off for the day.  Be good to each other, poppets, and be good to those you love regardless of how many legs upon which they walk.  Time is a predator and has no qualms with exercising malicious intent at the drop of a hat.

Oh, I still have one more cat to take to the vet.

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