Wednesday, 7 November 2007

One breath after another, slowly, slowly ........

Firstly, a brief update on our little Marmalade as so many people have emailed to see how she is. Well, the good news is that she continues to make steady progress, has put on weight and has learnt to pounce. Her latest trick is running up people's backs and sitting on their shoulders. She still has the snuffles, but we think it will be some time before those clear up fully. The best news of all is that the people who originally found her have offered her a home and will hopefully be collecting her this weekend.

Another cat for whom the future looks bright is Rosie. She was one of three cats brought in as strays in mid-October. The other two, Katie and Dexter were rampant extroverts, but Rosie was much more nervous and hid behind her bed for most of the time.

As is our custom with stray cats, we took no action to find them new homes at first, but advertised them in case any owners were looking for them. As is often the case, there was no response to our adverts. After a few days, the time came to have them neutered, and Katie & Dexter were loaded into the basket for their trip to the vets with no problems. When we came to pick Rosie up though, she ran from us but to our horror even a short run of about 3 yards left her struggling for breath. Full of foreboding we managed to get her into the carrier and off to the vets for a check up.

Sure enough, our worst suspicions were confirmed. Rosie was suffering from a ruptured diaphragm, or a diaphragmatic hernia. The diaphragm is the membrane which sits at the bottom of the rib cage, below the lungs, and acts as barrier to prevent the abdominal organs from moving into the ribcage/lung area.

In Rosie's case, this membrane was ruptured and an X-ray revealed that her liver, small intestine and half her bowels were residing in her lung cavity. No wonder she was struggling for breath. Our wonderful vets cancelled all their operations for the following day and brought in specialist equipment from their main surgery, as during the operation to repair her diaphragm, Rosie would be unable to breathe and a machine would have to take over the role of her lungs.

We were warned before the operation that Rosie may not survive as if the diaphragm was badly damaged it would be difficult if not impossible to repair it. However, Rosie was lucky. Most of the diaphragm could be repaired, and during the 90 minutes operation, the vet was able to patch it well enough to hold.

The next few hours were crucial. If it ruptured again there would be very little chance of effecting further repairs, and Rosie had to lay still and quiet for many hours. Fortunately Rosie is not a boisterous cat, and was quite content to lie still and be spoilt by the nurses at the surgery.

Thirty-six hours after her op, we brought Rosie home, and again she had cage rest for another couple of days. We monitored her breathing carefully, as any signs of distress or laboured breathing could have been an indication that the diaphragm had ruptured again, but no, Rosie's breathing remained steady.

We were over the moon. After three days we put her back in her pen, where she had room to stretch her legs and could watch what was going on outside.

The main thing we noticed was that Rosie stopped hiding. She started coming out to meet volunteers going into her pen and welcomed and looked for head rubs and strokes. The poor girl must have been in so much discomfort when we first got her that her instinct to hide came to the fore.

We asked our vets how she might have caused this damage, and they felt that it was likely to be a road traffic accident or a kick. They also felt that it could have happened several weeks earlier.

It isn't the most common injury but we have seen a couple of cases over the years, and it is worth knowing what to look for. The laboured breathing after minimum exercise is the biggest clue - and something we wish we'd spotted a couple of days earlier when she first came in.

Our heartfelt thanks must go to the wonderful team at Westmount vets who undoubtably saved her life. Rosie herself is gaining strength on a daily basis, and will be going back to the vets for a check up in about another fortnight.