Oliver was born feral, and came with eye infection to his foster home. His foster mother also notices he has a very strained breathing, and the vet diagnosed him with a mild case of bronchitis. He was given three days of medicine and seemed to have improved.
After he came to his permanent home I noticed he had the occasional cough. But it seemed to always be after drinking, so I thought perhaps he had some trouble drinking from the water fountain. But as it continued I took him to the vet and, after x-rays, they confirmed he had again contracted bronchitis. This time two weeks of medicine and a new x-ray still showing signs of bronchitis. More medicine and more medicine. I felt like we were not going anywhere. Oliver would seem just fine, and I would think he was healthy, and then suddenly he would cough again.
Just before Christmas he seemed fine. No coughing for two weeks. I went on a two-week holiday to visit my family, while the furry boys stayed in the apartment and were looked in on by a neighbor. When I came home his cough was worse than ever. Long-lasting fits of coughing and wheezing where he was clearly trying to get something out. I decided to change hospital. The first vet was very nice and obviously loved animals, but I felt that communication was difficult because of her lack of English, and they would always give the medicine in very large capsules which were difficult for Oliver to swallow.
I chose a more fancy and expensive looking hospital where I knew they had English-speaking vets. They took blood tests and x-rays and told me Oliver had severe bronchitis. Since he had been struggling with it for so long, it was probably now chronic. He also told me that a part of his heart seemed to be larger than normal on the x-ray. When I asked him what I could do about that, he said “nothing” just take an x-ray every 6 months to keep and eye on it. Again we were stuck with the bronchitis medicine.
This whole process seemed very strange to me. I just couldn´t settle with accepting that Oliver was continuously going to be eating pills for bronchitis, and nothing could be done for his heart. So I started do research on the Internet, and very quickly found that bronchitis was generally the symptom of another illness. I looked up a well-recommended animal heart specialist in Busan, Korea and made an appointment. The two-hour drive was well worth it. She very quickly confirmed my worst suspicions; Oliver had HMC. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. His heart was the cause of his bronchitis. Finally i found someone who would help Oliver. She told me that he was in the beginning stages of the disease, so he would not require medication. But she gave me some Azodyl, which increases the blood flow to his extremities. That way his heart would not have to work so hard. She also told me that she had heard there was an herb she had heard had good results on cats, and recommended that I investigate. Please read our article Hawthorn for heart disease in cats.
I later spoke to my first vet and told her about Oliver’s diagnosis. She said she had suspected as much, but apparently that had gotten lost in translation and never been communicated to me.
Of course, I was in a special situation, being in a country where English is not a commonly spoken language. But this experience has also showed me that different vets have different ideas of what is and isn´t treatable. I experienced a similar attitude in my vet in Norway when my previous cat was diagnosed with HCM. “There is no cure, there is no guarantee that this medicine will prolong his life.” No, perhaps not. But should I just let him die without trying? What if it did work for him? What if he could live 10 more years? But he only lived 1 because I gave up. I cannot stand that kind of attitude from a vet. Yes, it is important to give realistic advice. But at least inform of the options. Let the pet-parent decide if they want to try or not.
The biggest lesson I take from this is to trust that I know my pet best. If you feel that something is not right, then get a second opinion, do some research and ask your vet about your findings. Being informed will aid your pet and yourself, and even your vet. Sometimes its just a matter of miscommunication.
I do not blame my local vets for not alerting me to Oliver’s heart issues in a more clear manner. I am sure there are a ton of reasons why. In the end Oliver’s life is my responsibility. Since moving back to Norway, I have made sure to chose a vet clinic with a heart specialist.
Do you have a similar story? Share with me, I would love to know.