If your cat has asthma, it is very similar to human asthma, which is an attack caused by the inflammation of your cat’s small passageway to the lungs. It is usually an allergen-caused upper respiratory condition that causes distressed breathing. It is also called feline bronchial disease. Bronchial spasms cause the bronchi to constrict or tighten and the swelling of the surrounding tissues puts the cat into a full-blown asthma attack.
As always, at the first sign of anything asthma-related, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Some of the symptoms of Asthma
Early symptoms of asthma are sometimes difficult to detect. You may hear a faint wheezing, which is more audible after vigorous exercise. Your cat may seem to tire easily, is coughing or wheezing, open mouth breath, labored breathing may proceed a serious attack.
A full-blown asthma attack may at first resemble a cat trying to cough up a hairball, or possibly choking on food. However, the body posture is somewhat different. With asthma, the cat’s body will be hunched lower to the ground and his neck and head will be extended out and down in an effort to clear the airway of mucous. The gagging may also be accompanied by a typical coughing sound, and possibly sneezing. Your cat will sometimes exhume foamy mucous.
These serious attacks may not happen frequently, which makes it easy to write them off as merely a hairball. Actually, they can be life-threatening, and a cat in a full-blown attack should be taken to a veterinarian immediately.
What allergens are more likely to trigger an asthma attack in cats?
Smoke, mold or mildew, household chemicals, dust, pollen, some types of cat Litter (Feline Pine is a great alternative), cod, and even moist air.
Your vet will perform one of the below tests to find out if your cat has asthma:
These are the quickest and easiest, and will detect infection, which often accompanies asthmatic bronchitis. They will detect macrophages, neutrophils, and mast cells, which are types of blood cells that help constitute the immune system. And blood work is also useful in eliminating other diseases with the same symptoms.
The chest x-ray is done in two stages: Lateral, with the cat on his side, and then lying on his back with limbs extended out of the way. Although many cats may accede to these positions, others may need a small dose of anesthesia to perform an x-ray. Otherwise, it is harmless and painless.
Treatment for Asthma
Daily steroid options
Most veterinarians will usually recommend prednisone, in pill form, and spaced out three times a day. It can also be administered with transdermal gel, or through injection. All three of these methods have their drawbacks.
Flovent is a good, effective alternative to steroids
The newest form of administration is with a metered dose inhaler, often Flovent, given through a special mask. The Aerokat Feline Aerosol Chamber was developed for this purpose, and is highly regarded by veterinarians who are familiar with it. The advantage of aerosol steroid administration over pills and injections, is that it goes directly into the lungs, rather than throughout the body, thus there are fewer side effects. Most cats readily accept the inhaler with little associated anxiety or nervousness, and administration of the medication takes only a few seconds.
The most commonly-prescribed bronchodialator is albuterol, which can also be administered through a feline aerosol container, such as Aerokat. Albuterol is only given as needed, when an asthmatic cat starts coughing and wheezing, and should not be used routinely. Excessive use can actually cause bronchial spasms. If your cat is having more severe attacks than you consider normal, take your kitty to your veterinarian for a reevaluation.
The prognosis of feline Asthma is positive
Feline asthma is often a progressive condition that fails to improve significantly over time, and affected cats may experience occasional asthmatic flare-ups that vary in intensity. Although cats can never be truly “cured” of asthma, by carefully monitoring their respiratory effort, keeping an eye out for coughing, and intervening with medication when they need help, owners can help their asthmatic cats live happily for years.
As with all health issues, the best way to manage your kitty’s asthma is to know your cat well, keep your eyes and ears open for changes in his breathing, give him his medications as prescribed, and get veterinary care when needed.
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