Chronic Bronchitis in Cats

Chronic bronchitis occurs in cats when the bronchial tubes, which deliver air to the lungs from the windpipe, become inflamed. It can be the result of a lung infection, a deformity of the lungs or breathing passages, or cancer. Read on to learn more about chronic bronchitis in cats.

Causes and Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis in Cats

Any virus or bacteria that causes respiratory infection in cats can lead to chronic bronchitis. Parasites, allergies and certain respiratory diseases can all contribute to chronic bronchitis in cats. Some of the causes of cat bronchitis include:

  • Feline calicivirus
  • Feline herpesvirus
  • Feline bordetella
  • Feline chlamydia
  • Asthma
  • Heartworm
  • Lungworm
  • Inhalant allergies
  • Exposure to environmental irritants

If your cat develops chronic bronchitis, he will exhibit respiratory symptoms. Some of these include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Gagging
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing

Your cat may also experience fever, depression, lowered appetite and weight loss. These symptoms are most likely if your cat's bronchitis is due to a bacterial or viral infection.

Chronic bronchitis symptoms in cats usually worsen if the cat exerts himself. Symptoms may manifest differently at different times of day, or in the presence of environmental irritants such as chemical cleaners, cigarette smoke, hairspray, perfume, mold or pollen. If chronic bronchitis is severe, your cat's gums, lips and tongue may take on a bluish tint, and he may even faint after exercise.

Diagnosing Feline Bronchitis

Your vet will need a complete medical history and thorough physical exam in order to diagnose chronic bronchitis. Your vet might ask questions about your cat's diet, appetite, lifestyle and tolerance to exertion. Tell your vet if you smoke or use any vaporous chemicals, including perfumes or hairspray, in your home. 

Chest X-rays, blood tests and EKGs can help your vet determine the cause and extent of your cat's bronchitis. Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of your cat's condition.

Treating Chronic Bronchitis in Cats

Chronic bronchitis can be hard to cure, due its wide range of causes. If your cat's bronchitis is the result of a bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic infection, appropriate medications may be able to treat the underlying cause. If your cat's bronchitis can't be cured, he may need continued supportive care for the rest of his life. With treatment, most cats experience a significant reduction in symptoms and a vastly improved quality of life.

If your cat has been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, limit his exercise. Overexertion can place undue strain on your cat's weakened lungs, and cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and fainting. Do not allow your cat to wear a neck collar; if such a device is necessary, use a harness instead.

A vaporizer can help humidify the air inside your home, making it easier for your cat to breathe. Make sure your cat receives appropriate dental care, including regular cleanings and home dental hygiene, since oral infections could easily spread to his lungs. Help your cat maintain a healthy weight, and try to reduce dust, mold, pollen, chemical fumes and cigarette smoke inside the home.