A Breath of Fresh Air: The Story of Connor

While humans and our canine and feline companions are very different in some ways, it may be surprising how anatomically similar we are.

Many conditions suffered by humans are also found in the dog and cat world. One of these conditions is asthma, which was recently diagnosed in my own cat, Connor.

From abandoned to adored

I adopted Connor in June of 2017. His story is a truly sad one and has made giving him the best life possible even more important to me. Connor was dumped at an animal shelter’s property on a cold winter night by a previous owner. He was then adopted, but then abandoned by that adopter when she moved out of her home. Having spent up to a week in the home alone with no food or water, Connor became extremely dehydrated and emaciated, requiring emergency hospitalization for several days.

The staff at the emergency hospital worked hard to return him to health, and he was eventually brought back to the shelter’s clinic, where I worked at that time, for continued care. This is when I developed a bond with Connor. He is the sweetest cat I have ever met, and I was amazed at the fact that though they had failed him twice in a row, he still wanted to bond with humans.

Before Connor could go up for adoption again, he needed to gain weight. I jumped at the opportunity to foster him—but after having him for about a week, I knew I couldn’t give him up, so I made the decision to adopt him.

Another battle begins

Getting Connor to gain weight was easy. Within a couple months he was at a healthy weight and I thought his troubles were over.

However, Connor began coughing off and on. Initial x-rays showed slight changes in the lungs, but nothing overly concerning.

When evaluating patients with illnesses, doctors choose from an array of available testing to find the answers they need.

Fecal testing is vital in sick and wellness care for pets. By examining stool regularly, veterinarians can monitor for parasites that may not even be causing symptoms. Parasites such as giardia, roundworms and tapeworms can be present for quite some time before symptoms such as diarrhea are present.

Stool testing showed that Connor had a parasite called lungworms, so we treated him with a dewormer and hoped that would cure the cough. But it continued, and by January his cough developed into episodes of hacking, during which he would stretch out and cough forcefully for about ten seconds.

I brought him back to Eastown, where Dr. Neher examined Connor and recommended repeating chest x-rays.
The x-rays taken at that time were worse than prior x-rays. There was congestion in his lungs, and the pattern looked suspicious for asthma.

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that is triggered by hypersensitivities to allergens such as dust. The body reacts to the allergens, causing inflammation of the airways. This makes breathing difficult, leading to wheezing and coughing. If the reaction is severe enough, asthma can be fatal.

Connor’s chest x-rays. The arrows indicate areas of inflammation and congestion

Tricky treatment

Treatment for asthma varies by patient. Much like humans, cats can be treated with inhaled corticosteroids. Corticosteroids work by reducing the body’s natural immune response and decreasing inflammation. Administering inhaled steroids to cats requires a device called an aerosol chamber. This device contains a mask on one end and a chamber at the other. An inhaler is attached to the chamber, and as the inhaler is depressed, the mask is held over the cat’s nose and mouth for 7-10 breaths to allow for inhalation of the medication.

An aerosol chamber allows for administration of inhaled asthma medications

Getting Connor comfortable with the spacer has been challenging and has required some creativity. But thankfully Connor is a great patient, and though he wiggles, he is becoming more accepting of the treatment.

Asthmatic cats require many special considerations. Anything that could trigger an allergic response must be eliminated as much as possible from the environment. His cat litter must be fragrance- and dust-free, and plug-in air fresheners and strong perfumes must be avoided. We use humidifiers in the home to keep the air from being too dry, as dry air can trigger asthma.

Keeping a close eye

The prognosis for asthmatic cats varies. In most cases asthmatic cats can live long, normal lives if the condition is caught early before permanent damage is done to the lungs.

Should an asthma attack (respiratory distress) occur, asthmatic patients must receive prompt medical treatment, which usually requires emergency respiratory medications and oxygen therapy.

Connor has responded well to the steroids. He runs and plays like a normal cat, and enjoys spending time grooming his feline housemate, Simon.

Regular wellness exams will help ensure that Connor will continue
to enjoy moments like this with his brother, Simon.

Connor will need to be monitored for the rest of his life, and any signs of respiratory distress must be taken very seriously. Regular wellness exams will be vital so that his doctor can listen to his lungs and check his blood, stool and urine to quickly detect any changes that might not be showing externally.

Many conditions, such as kidney disease, can begin long before they are detected. Routine bloodwork will monitor Connor’s kidneys, which could be affected by steroids.

Connor has been failed by humans many times in his life. I have promised him that now when he needs a human more than ever, I will not fail him.

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Celia’s Story: Outdoor Pests on An Indoor Pet

Celia’s Story: Outdoor Pests on An Indoor Pet

Most people are familiar with common outdoor parasites affecting our pet dogs and cats. But what you may not realize is how easily those parasites can come indoors.

Eric Pehrson brought his cat, Celia, to Eastown Veterinary Clinic in February, after noticing that her back end seemed painful.

“She had a rather sensitive spot on her hindquarters,” Eric said. “When I would pet or brush her in the area I could tell she was in pain.  Eventually, it got worse and even the slightest touch would nearly floor her, and she would let me know not to touch there.  Something was obviously wrong and I was concerned.  I thought it was something internal perhaps.”

Dr. Natalie Neher examined Celia and found an unexpected cause of the seemingly painful response. Celia had fleas!

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Loki’s Story

Adopting a new pet is an exciting experience. But for one family, the joy of having a new addition was clouded by a serious illness lurking in their new dog’s bloodstream.

Loki Smith, a 2-year-old Border Collie, arrived at Eastown Veterinary Clinic on Oct. 23, 2017. He had been adopted from an animal rescue just days prior by Rick Guerra and Abigail Smith.

“We already have two female cats, so I was pushing for a medium size, athletic male dog as the searching guidelines,” Rick says. “When we met him, he was very sweet and pictures did not do his good looks justice.”

While Loki seemed outwardly healthy, Abigail noticed that Loki wasn’t quite as active as she expected him to be. “The first day we brought him home, he was lethargic for his breed,” she remembers. “So I had concerns.”

At Loki’s first appointment at Eastown, Dr. Lynn Happel performed a thorough physical exam. She found him to be underweight but there were no other obvious health problems. As is routine at Eastown Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Happel recommended blood testing for Loki, including a heartworm test.

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Lola’s Story

Behind every smile is a story. Lola Medina’s perfectly imperfect smile tells a story of observant owners, proactive veterinarians and one determined little dog.

Lola, an 8-year-old Corgi, developed a strange lump on the right side of her jaw in October of 2017. Her owners were concerned, and brought her to her veterinarian for an exam.

Upon examining Lola’s mouth, her veterinarian found a mass on her lower jawline. It didn’t seem painful at that time, but her veterinarian was concerned about the possibility the mass could be cancerous.

Eastown Veterinary Clinic owner and veterinarian Dr. Lynn Happel is known for her veterinary dental expertise. Lola’s veterinarian recommended that she be taken to see Dr. Happel for an evaluation.

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Rocky’s Story

We’ve all had that moment, when an adorable dog or cat gives us what we think are sweet kisses, only to find out their breath smells just shy of a garbage dump. What many people don’t realize is that stinky breath can be caused by dental disease, a serious disease that can be not only treated but prevented. Dental disease can lead to pain and difficulty eating, and can even affect pets’ internal organs.

Dental disease in dogs and cats is far more common than most people realize. It is estimated by the American Veterinary Medical Association that up to 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some level of dental disease by age three.

Rocky Herbert, a 13-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, arrived at Eastown Veterinary Clinic in October of 2017 with a severe case of dental disease that needed serious attention.

Rocky’s owners, Tim and Joan Herbert, noticed swelling of Rocky’s face in October, and made an appointment to have him examined by his veterinarian in Fruitport.

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