Feline Asthma Diagnosis

Because feline asthma only affects roughly one percent of all cats, it is considered a rare occurrence. While no cat is off limits from developing asthma, it appears to be more common in female cats, Siamese cats and Himalayan cats. Asthma is only considered a life-threatening condition in severe cases or when it is left untreated. The most important step to ensure a healthy life for your cat is to recognize the signs of feline asthma and get an accurate diagnosis.

Feline Asthma Attacks

When there is an excessive amount of mucous buildup in the airways of the lungs, the bronchial tubes become inflamed and restricted. This causes a spasm in the muscles that line the walls of the bronchial tubes. When all of those factors exist, an asthmatic attack occurs.

Causes of Feline Asthma

Several things can attribute to the development of feline asthma. Allergens, pollutants and viruses are responsible for contributing to an asthma attack. While the tissue of the bronchial tubes is more sensitive in some cats than others, any time irritants or allergens are present, the possibility of asthma exists. Here is a list of some asthma causing irritants that are known to affect cats:

  • Smoke
  • Flea sprays and powders
  • Perfume
  • Allergic reactions to food

Symptoms of Feline Asthma

The most presentable symptom in your cat may be a consistent coughing or wheezing. This comes from their inability to expel airflow from the lungs in a normal fashion. While your cat is trying to expel the excess of air in his lungs, he may appear as though he is panting and breathing with his mouth open. In severe cases, you'll also notice shallow breathing and gasping.

Feline Asthma Diagnosis

Normal testing such as blood tests, bacterial cultures and heartworm testing will be used to rule out any other conditions that can present asthma-like symptoms. In order to make an accurate diagnosis, a chest radiograph will be performed.

The chest radiograph will show any constriction of the bronchial tubes. When the lungs of an asthmatic cat are examined on radiograph, the lungs will show a blown up or inflated appearance. However, a chest radiograph might not always be accurate if an asthma attack is not occurring at the time of the testing. Your cat’s medical history and current symptoms will still be valid clues in diagnosing feline asthma.

The misdiagnosis of asthma could be life-threatening to your cat, so it's of the utmost importance that it is recognized and treated.

Feline Asthma Treatment

In a case where asthma is not a chronic condition and simply a response to an environmental irritant, the only treatment necessary may be to reduce the amount of exposure to the irritant. However, in mild chronic cases, treatment can be given through what is known as a meter-dose inhaler. Albuterol is a common inhalant medication that can be given to cats to alleviate their symptoms. However, the ultimate treatment of feline asthma is the reduction of mucous buildup in the bronchial tubes. A corticosteroid is usually effective at reducing the inflammation and eliminating the mucous. In the event of a severe asthma attack, a small dose of pure adrenalin can reverse life-threatening effects very quickly.