Feline asthma is a condition that afflicts roughly one percent of domestic cats. While no one is sure what exactly causes this chronic respiratory condition, most veterinarians agree that it is an allergic reaction to pollutants in the air.
If you suspect that your cat may suffer from feline asthma, watch for these signs:
- Periods of dry coughing, which can be severe. This can mimic the type of cough that results in a hairball or vomiting, and sometimes the cat will indeed vomit because of the severity of the coughing.
- Wheezing sounds, or difficulty breathing.
- Open-mouth breathing and frequent panting.
- Slow, labored breathing or fast, gulping breaths.
These attacks can occur several times a day, or there may be weeks between each attack. If they happen infrequently, try to make note of any environmental changes that your cat may be having an allergic reaction to, such as cigarette or fireplace smoke, pollen in the air, or aerosol sprays such as hairspray or air freshener.
Since feline asthma can lead to other, more serious health problems and complete restriction of the airways, it's important to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you see symptoms. There are several different treatment options available, though the condition is incurable and will remain chronic throughout your cat's life. Here are some things to consider regarding diagnosis and treatment options.
- Feline asthma can be difficult to diagnose because it mimics other feline diseases like pneumonia, bronchitis, heartworm, and even congestive heart failure. A veterinarian can pinpoint feline asthma through a chest x-ray, blood tests, and other tests to rule out the various other diseases.
- Treatments for managing feline asthma can include medication in the form of pills or steroid-based injections to open the bronchial tubes. These may be prescribed regularly or intermittently, depending on the severity and frequency of asthma attacks.
- Some veterinarians will prescribe an inhaler for sudden attacks. The inhaler works just like those for humans, but resembles an oxygen mask.
- With early diagnosis, any damage done to the airways and lungs due to feline asthma can be repaired; this is why it is crucial for you as a pet owner to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you suspect something is wrong.
- To help relieve symptoms of feline asthma, keep your home free of dust, smoke, and aerosol sprays as much as possible.