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( Originally Published 1936 )
ALL RESPIRATORY DISEASES OF course cause disturbances of one sort or another in the breathing. In some of them respiration is quickened, in others it is labored and heavy. Abnormally fast breathing may of course result from other causes-from excitement, or fear, or exertion-but that is temporary. If you note that your cat in its own home, with nothing to frighten or disturb it, is having trouble with its breathing, then it is time to consult the doctor.
Difficult breathing may come from some growth that is pressing on the air passages, but that too calls for prompt action. Into a busy New York animal clinic, one day, two women brought a magnificent tiger cat. "He can't breathe," they said. "We think he must have swallowed something."' So the veterinarian made a swift examination.
"How long," he asked, looking pityingly at the cat, who was lying down, and struggling up, and panting, and stretching out his neck in the effort to suck oxygen into his tortured lungs, "how long has this been going on?" At first the women said they had only noticed it the day before, but then they admitted it had been longer. The doctor smiled rather grimly. "A tumor on the windpipe," he said. "His breathing must have been distressful for a month or two at the very least."
Poor Tiger died on the operating table. Probably he never could have been saved, but if his owners had been watchful and truly kind he might have had a quicker, easier end. Obstructed breathing, or dyspnea, which may come from disease but is oftener due to a growth or some foreign object in the nose or throat, can be distinguished from an ordinary increase in the number of respirations by the muscular effort that the animal makes to overcome it.
Of the respiratory diseases, bronchial pneumonia is one of the most dangerous to cats. It may come from any one of various causes. If when you give your pet medicine the liquid goes the wrong way and gets drawn into the lungs, pneumonia may supervene. Exposure to the cold or wet may bring it on; so may accumulations of mucus from bronchitis. Sometimes it just seems to spring from an enfeebled condition, as in the case of a beloved Persian of mine, a very old cat whose liver became affected as livers sometimes will in old age. She was apparently recovering, when one morning I noticed a curious little catch in her breathing, and knew it for pneumonia. The veterinarian did not advise medicines or a pneumonia jacket; sometimes, he said, nursing is the only thing. When I coaxed her she would raise herself and take a little chicken or scraped beef or beef juice from my hand, and I think nursing would have pulled her through, only she was so old, and the weather was cruelly hot.
Nursing is the best help, but medicines are sometimes necessary, and there is great value in applications such as Antiphlogistine (a clay which is used as a poultice) and in mustard plasters and other counterirritants. But use them only on the advice of a competent veterinary. Do not torture a sick cat with experiments.
To shave any part of a cat's body in order that the skin may be more easily reached is not, I think, a good thing to do unless it is absolutely necessary. It robs the animal of the covering that nature put there, and the coat takes a long time to grow again.
Signs of pneumonia are quick breathing, a heightened temperature, and sometimes a murmuring sound in the chest, which you may detect by pressing your ear against it. In the catarrhal form there is a short and painful cough, but in some forms there is no cough at all.
Pleurisy, which is an inflammation of the lining membrane of the thoracic cavity, generally comes on as a cold does, with listlessness and loss of appetite. As it develops the cat shows pain when moved or lifted; it uses the abdominal muscles as an aid to respiration; and if you listen closely you hear a rustling sound in the pleurae. Pleurisy is sometimes the first indication of tuberculosis in a cat.
Laryngitis, rather common among cats, is not so serious. Its symptoms are a dry cough, unwillingness to swallow solid food, and frequent retching. It may be serious if the parts swell suddenly; once I knew a cat that was saved from death by smothering only by the quick use of a tiny tracheotomy tube. But it is usually cured if taken in time, so if your pet shows an inclination to sit with its head outstretched, and coughs when you press a finger on its throat, you may guess laryngitis, and keep the cat warm and quiet, and send for the veterinary.
A symptom of bronchitis is a dry, deep cough. In this, as in most of these troubles, the medicated steam kettle brings great relief. Asthma, which most frequently attacks old cats, particularly if they have been allowed to get fat, is generally accompanied by a spasmodic cough; an asthmatic cat, like an asthmatic person, wheezes terribly at any exertion. There is not much to be done except to cut down the diet and guard against constipation. Of course if paroxysms of coughing occur, medicines are needed to relieve them.
But the best cure for respiratory diseases is good nursing; the best preventive is right feeding, sunshine, and fresh air.