Asthma is a fairly common disease among cats. It can manifest itself in a mild way, with coughing and breathing difficulties, but there will also be severe cases in which the cat is out of breath.
Detecting symptoms early will help us to better control the disease , seeking appropriate treatment to help you lead a completely normal life.
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What is feline asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease in which the airways of our cats become inflamed as a reaction of hypersensitivity to different irritants. The bronchi, which are responsible for carrying air to the lungs, are compressed to block the passage of the irritant, while producing mucus to envelop it and cough to expel it. Inflammation, contraction, and mucus narrow the airways, making it difficult to breathe .
It is a pathology that can be seen in cats of any age. It seems that Siamese kittens are more likely to suffer from it and that obesity favors its appearance. It is also known by names such as eosinophilic bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, allergic asthma, allergic bronchitis, chronic bronchitis or COPD, although for some authors they are different diseases.
Noticeable symptoms in a cat with asthma
Although the presentation of asthma is variable and in some cases so mild that it goes unnoticed, the appearance of the following symptoms stands out, more or less intense and with a shorter or longer duration:
- Cough of more than five minutes, which appears more than twice in an hour, more than three times a day or in specific episodes for 2-3 weeks.
- Breathing problems – Respiratory effort.
- Breathing sounds such as wheezing.
- Breathing with the mouth open after exertion. In severe cases the cat will also stick out its tongue.
- Rapid, shallow abdominal breathing.
- Exercise intolerance
- Difficult swallowing of mucus that can be mistaken for nausea or vomiting.
- Cyanosis, that is, bluish coloration of the mucous membranes due to lack of oxygen.
- Respiratory collapse, which is a veterinary emergency, as the cat could die.
- Pulmonary emphysema with very advanced disease.
Diagnosis and treatment for feline asthma
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, which is made by ruling out other causes such as external parasites , foreign bodies, heart or lung disease, PIF or pneumothorax, the veterinarian will use anti-inflammatories and bronchodilators to open the airways so that the cat’s respiratory distress is solved .
X-rays are usually done but can be completely normal. Bronchial lavages and cytologies provide relevant information for confirming the diagnosis. The bronchial lavage requires general anesthesia and is to introduce and recover normal saline through the trachea.
The treatment will alleviate the symptoms but it is not strange that the picture recurs. Cats with an acute presentation that cannot breathe should urgently receive oxygen, corticosteroids, to reduce inflammation, and bronchodilators, in addition to extremely careful handling, since stress aggravates the condition . For this reason, in some cases it is necessary to sedate.
The inhalers and aerosol are preferred to oral medication to minimize side effects and act quickly. Inhalers work by pressing them, removing a dose of the drug. They are used with inhalation chambers where the medication is concentrated for the cat to breathe. Aerosol therapy serves to thin the mucus, so it is removed more easily.
There is no home treatment or homeopathy for this health problem in cats, do not waste your time while your cat’s health worsens.
How to care for a cat with chronic asthma
If the symptoms persist, the veterinarian will reconsider the diagnosis, in case the condition was caused by tumors, parasites or heart problems. Although on many occasions it is not possible to know what triggered the asthmatic reaction, an attempt will be made to locate an allergen through allergy tests. If you find it, you can get vaccinated.
Allergens include smoke , air pollution, dust, mold, pollen, aerosols, mites , scented candles, cleaning products, etc. Environmental control is always important to avoid possible triggers. But, we insist, contrary to what happens in human asthma, in most cases an allergic origin is not confirmed.
The veterinarian will prescribe corticosteroids at the lowest possible dose and drugs administered by inhaler . Medication has the drawback that it can be difficult to get the cat to get it on, although for many it will be easier than administering a pill. There are cats that are scared by the noise it makes. Depending on each case, the veterinarian can add drugs such as antibiotics, bronchodilators, etc.
Recommendations for the control of the environment
Measures such as the following are recommended:
- Avoid exposing the cat to fumes.- Ventilate the house well.
- Vacuum frequently.
- Remove rugs or carpets.
- Do not use aerosols in their presence.
- Feed the animal a quality diet. In the case of feed, it should not have suspended particles or broken croquettes.
- The sand cannot raise dust either, so silica is more advisable than paper, sawdust, sepiolite or the like.
- If the cat is overweight, it is very important that, together with your veterinarian, we establish a dietary plan to return it to its ideal weight or, at least, get as close to it as possible.
What is the prognosis for a cat with feline asthma?
The prognosis in this disease is highly variable and will depend on how quickly treatment is started, since the longer the time passes, the more damage will have occurred in the respiratory system.