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Animal Hospital of Waynesville

Feline Asthma

What is Feline Asthma

Feline Asthma is an obstructive and allergic respiratory disease occurring frequently in cats. It can be described as a narrowing of the airways that lead from the trachea to the lungs.

What causes asthma?

Certain “triggers” or environmental irritants should be considered such as:

  • Cigarette, cigar and candle smoke in the home

  • Dusty or strongly perfumed cat litters

  • Carpet, cleaning products and air fresheners

  • Perfumes and hairsprays

  • Parasites – heartworms, lungworms and dust mites

  • Infectious agents

  • viruses, bacterial infections

Symptoms of asthma?

  • Coughing; may be confused with the cat trying to bring up a hairball or vomiting.

  • Rapid breathing.

  • Wheezing; loud breathing sounds.

  • Asthma attack – sudden breathing distresses, gasping, open mouth breathing. This condition can be life threatening and requires prompt veterinary care. 

How is asthma diagnosed?

Several tests are available to diagnose asthma and can be performed by your vet.

  • Thorough physical exam.

  • Chest x-rays to check for abnormalities in the lungs.

  • Bloodwork to check for elevated white cells (eosinophils) which can indicate an allergic response.

  • Stool sample to check for lungworms.

  • Heartworm test – not necessary for all cats since heartworms are less likely in some areas of the country.

  • Feline leukemia/Feline immunodeficiency virus test – can identify diseases that can affect the cat’s immune system.

Treatments for asthma

Like human asthma, feline asthma is incurable but can usually be managed depending on the severity of the condition. Some of the most common treatments are:

  • Steroid drugs (oral, injectable) to reduce inflammation in the airways.

  • Bronchodilators – to open up the airways

    These medications should be closely monitored as recommended by your veterinarian.

  • Avoiding any factors that may trigger breathing problems such as, eliminating exposure to smoke, using unscented, low dust brands of cat litter, minimize stress.

  • Laser therapy can help reduce inflammation in airways.

Cats with asthma can usually live normal lives with proper diagnosing, medication (s) and monitoring.