Just like us, cats can get asthma. World wide, it is thought that feline asthma affects up to 1% of the cat population. It is a chronic and progressive disease and unfortunately, one for which there is no cure. Treatment is only symptomatic. That being said, with current treatments many cats can go on and live relatively normal lives.
Signs and symptoms
The most common symptom of feline asthma is coughing. If you search youtube, you can see the videos of what feline asthma looks like. If you have had a cat that has had furballs, a mild attack may look very similar. More severe attacks though are much more dramatic. They may involve coughing and wheezing while your cat squats with shoulders hunched and neck extended while attempting to breathe. You may also notice that they appear to be gasping for air or breathing very rapidly with their mouth open. Between attacks, cats may appear completely normal.
A diagnosis for feline asthma is based on a combination of medical signs, blood tests, radiographs, sometimes sampling of the bronchoalveolar fluid, and a positive response to treatment.
There are a number of other diseases that look similar to asthma and they need to be ruled out before making a diagnosis of feline asthma. Taking a video of your cat when they are having an episode is a very helpful way to assist the vet in making a diagnosis. As well as making a record of when episodes happen and what your pet is doing during them.
Feline asthma is managed with a combination of inhalers (given using special spacer chambers) and other medications designed to reduce the inflammation in, and open up the airways in the lungs. Also reducing possible allergens from the environment can have a positive impact on your pet’s disease. Allergens include pollens, dust, some perfumes and deodorizers, cleaning products, cigarette smoke, and dusty cat litter. Other contributing factors include obesity and stress.
What to do now
If you suspect your cat may be having asthma attacks, please book a consultation with us as soon as possible. If you witness an episode, try to video it, as this will give us a lot of useful information. I hope this information has been helpful, and if so please share it with your other feline owning friends. Knowledge is power.