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Feline Asthma

Feline Asthma

Asthma is one of the most common respiratory diseases that affects cats. It is also known as bronchial disease or bronchitis. It is similar to human asthma and just as serious a condition. In most cases an allergic reaction causes spasms in the lungs, which produces inflammation and swelling that restricts airflow and causes respiratory distress.

What causes feline asthma?

There is no know exact cause for feline asthma, however genetics may predispose your cat to the condition. The asthmatic cats respiratory system is hyper-sensitive, making it hard to pinpoint the exact cause. In most cases, feline asthma is triggered by an allergic reaction to an irritant. This can include pollen, dust, cat litter, smoke, perfume, hairspray, cologne, etc. In a few cases feline asthma can be caused by an infection or parasites.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

The most common symptom of feline asthma is coughing. This can range from an occasional bout of coughing to a chronic persistent cough. Coughing can also be accompanied by wheezing. During an attack, you cat will stand with its head stretched forward, its abdomen will also appear to spasm. It will look like your cat is attempting to cough up a hairball, but nothing will come up. In a more severe attack, you cat may go into respiratory distress with open-mouthed breathing, labored breathing, increased respiratory rate and blue lips and gums. In this case you will want to seek immediate emergency care by your veterinarian.

How is feline asthma diagnosed?

There are several things your veterinarian may do to diagnose feline asthma, including:

  • Chest X-Rays
  • Blood Tests
  • Heartworm Test
  • Bacterial Culture

How is feline asthma treated?

Treatment of asthma is done to control mucus secretions, improve airflow and reduce the symptoms. Cats with very mild versions of the disease, those that suffer symptoms only on an occasional basis, are normally treated with weight reduction/management and avoidance of allergens and irritants (such as cigarette smoke).

Cats who have mild symptoms on a daily basis can be treated with a bronchiodilator, such as albuterol. The albuterol is delivered through a spacer, similar to one for humans. With the inhaler at one end, put your cats nose and mouth in the other (this may take some getting used to for both you and your cat). Press the inhaler to release the medication. The spacer keeps the medication suspended, allowing your cat to inhale it.

Very severe cases of feline asthma may be treated with home oxygen therapy. Some veterinarians may also use corticosteroids, such as flonase or prednisone to treat your cat.