Posted by on 14 April 2014

Case of the month: Monnie’s fight for life

Reason for visit:

Monnie is a 6 year old female spayed domestic shorthair.  Her owner had noticed over the previous couple of days that her breathing was looking and sounding a bit laboured, and she was frequently crouching down, gagging and looking like she was trying to vomit (in actual fact these were coughing fits). She was still eating and drinking well and otherwise her usual self.  Within a couple of hours Monnie suddenly deteriorated and her owner rushed her down to the clinic.


Examination findings:

Monnie breathing was extremely laboured, with wheezing and grunting sounds and her tummy area was distended with air (due to swallowing air when struggling to breathe).  She was having frequent severe coughing fits which were leaving her very distressed and on the point of collapse.  Based on these findings Claire was very suspicious that Monnie was suffering from acute severe Feline Asthma or had some kind of obstruction in her airway. Monnie was immediately put into an oxygen tent and given an anti-inflammatory steroid injection into her vein and a puff of Ventolin to try and dilate her airways. Luckily Monnie stabilized enough to enable us to very lightly sedate her and take some x-rays of her chest to help us work out what was going on.  X-rays showed a foreign body almost totally blocking her trachea (wind pipe) deep inside her chest. During this time it was touch and go, and on a couple of occasions Monnie stopped breathing and we had to breathe for her.




The options available to Monnie for removal of the foreign body were highly invasive and risky open chest surgery, referral to a specialist for bronchoscopic removal, or jokes aside, giving her a really good shake upside down to try and dislodge the object (highly unlikely to be effective given size and position of the object).  After discussion with Monnie’s owner it was decided that Monnie’s best chance was to refer her to Vet Specs.  Dr Aparna Tikekar was on call that Saturday afternoon.  She quickly assembled her team and Monnie was rushed across town.  Monnie's owner had been prepared for the fact that she might not survive the journey. Luckily Monnie was a fighter and on arrival she was immediately put under general anaesthetic and a flexible bronchoscope (basically a very narrow bendy hose with a camera on the end which is hooked up to a TV screen) was passed down her trachea to the level of the blockage.  The foreign body was hard and white and we initially suspected it was a fragment of bone.  After about half an hour of trying to grab the object with tiny grasping forceps Aparna finally got a good grip on it, and was able to very carefully guide it back up the trachea and out through Monnie's mouth.  Thankfully there was only a small amount of bleeding and no tears or perforations to the tracheal wall where the object was removed.  Post-removal chest x-rays were taken and also showed no damage. The object was a small white stone which we suspect was from the neighbours driveway.  Monnie was given antibiotic and anti-nausea injections and recovered well from her anaesthetic.  She was discharged later that afternoon with a couple of days of pain-relief medication.




Take home message:

An airway obstruction like this is very rare and extremely serious.  Without the expertise of the Vetspecs team on call 24/7 and their specialist equipment Monnie would not have survived.  We are very lucky to have such a great service available in Christchurch.  This standard of care is costly.  Monnie's treatment cost approximately $2100.00.  Unfortunately Monnie's owner did not have pet insurance.  Luckily she was able to quickly call on the support of her family to help cover treatment costs, and the outcome was successful.  Have a think about this situation and what might have happened if Monnie was your cat. Would you have been able to finance such a proceedure at short notice? With a good pet insurance policy Monnie's treatment would have cost her owner the standard excess of $100.00. Can you afford not to have pet insurance? See our FAQ's 'Why should i consider getting my pet insured' for more information.