Allergic Bronchitis in Cats

Allergic bronchitis is also known as asthma and may occur in cats with sensitivity to different irritants. Felines are affected by asthma and no more than 1% of cats suffer from this respiratory condition. Certain cat breeds are more often affected by allergic bronchitis. The condition is chronic and manifests through sneezing, coughing or wheezing and these symptoms may be more serious during certain seasons. Allergic bronchitis is a condition that may be managed.

Allergic Bronchitis Triggers

The triggers of allergic bronchitis may be various and may range from pollens to bleach. The cat’s immune system may develop an allergic reaction to different substances that are inhaled:

  • Pollens
  • Grasses
  • Smoke
  • Mold
  • Dust mites
  • Household chemicals
  • Perfumes
  • Pet sprays and powders
  • Cat litter dust

The cat will have an allergic reaction when encountering the irritant. However, in some cases, the irritant cannot be identified.

Allergic Bronchitis Symptoms

A cat that has allergic bronchitis may have mild symptoms or more complicated ones. An asthma attack will be signaled by breathing problems, wheezing and coughing or sneezing. The muscles that are near the bronchi will contract, making the air passages narrower, which will cause the cat to have difficulties in catching his breath.

In severe cases, the cat may have hunched shoulders and keep his mouth in an open position, straining to breathe. You may also notice that the gums and the mucous membranes will have a bluish hue, as the cat will not have enough oxygen.  

These symptoms may be experienced in the case of a heart attack or a pleural effusion, so the cat needs to be properly diagnosed.

Diagnosing Asthma

The vet needs to take a look at the cat; ideally this has to happen immediately after an asthma attack, so that the vet can establish if the cat has asthma or is affected by a different condition.

The vet may first rule out heart or pulmonary problems before suspecting allergic bronchitis.

Treating and Managing Allergic Bronchitis in Felines

When an asthma attack occurs, the cat needs to get immediate help. If the attack is severe, the cat needs to get an epinephrine shot, which will relax the bronchial muscles.

In less severe cases, bronchodilators such as terbutaline can be administered. Corticosteroids may also be effective.

The cat shouldn’t receive antihistamines or antitussives, as these may not work in the case of asthma.

If the cat’s condition cannot be stabilized through medication, the cat needs to be hospitalized and get oxygen or be placed in an oxygen cage, so that he is no longer exposed to the allergenic environment.

Preventing Asthma Attacks

In order to prevent asthma attacks you need to figure out what is causing the allergic bronchitis attacks in your cat. The triggers may be seasonal (i.e. pollens, grasses) or may be present in the cat’s environment (i.e. chemicals). You should limit the cat’s exposure to these asthma attack triggers as much as possible.