Common Indicators of Cat Asthma

Cat asthma symptoms are usually triggered by an allergic response. Other triggers can include tobacco smoke, pollen, dust, stress and cold air. Feline asthma is one of the most common cat breathing problems; though attacks can be scary, cat asthma usually responds well to treatment.

Risk Factors for Feline Asthma

Cats aged two to eight years are most at risk for developing feline asthma. Females are twice as likely as males to develop this feline respiratory disorder. Siamese and Himalayan breeds seem more vulnerable to feline asthma. Less than one percent of cats will develop asthma at some point during their lives.

Causes of Feline Asthma

It is believed that cats suffering from feline asthma have a chronic inflammation of the bronchial tissues that line the insides of the lungs. Such inflammation may cause these tissues to hyperreact to allergens, viruses or infections, causing increased inflammation and mucus secretion. This triggers a narrowing of the air passageways and a worsening of symptoms.

Some of the things that can trigger cat asthma attacks include:

  • Smoke
  • Insect and hair sprays
  • Dust
  • Feather pillows
  • Perfumes
  • Christmas trees
  • Pollen
  • Food allergies
  • Bacterial or viral infections

Symptoms of Asthma in Cats

Cats with asthma may be asymptomatic most of the time. When symptoms appear, they may look like this:

  • Wheezing or rapid, heavy breathing
  • Persistent cough, similar to hairball coughing but unproductive
  • Squatting with shoulders hunched, neck extended and chin low to the ground
  • Frothy mucus
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Labored breathing after exertion
  • Upward extended neck and gasping for breath
  • Lips and nose turn from pink to blue

Symptoms can vary in severity. They may be infrequent, occasional or constant. Even mild cat breathing problems are a serious matter; your cat's lungs could become permanently scarred or even collapse.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Cat Asthma

Vets look at symptoms and take chest x-rays to rule out other cat breathing problems and diagnose feline asthma. A complete diagnostic workup, including a blood count chemistry profile and parasite screening, should be performed, as there are many other conditions exhibiting the same symptoms as feline asthma.

Treatment of cat asthma aims at controlling mucosal secretions, improving airflow to the lungs, and reducing or eliminating symptoms. Cats with mild, occasional symptoms are usually treated with a combination of weight loss therapy and the elimination of asthma triggers, such as smoke or pollen, from the environment. Cats who experience mild symptoms daily are now being treated with medications delivered through an inhaler. Cats with severe symptoms may require a round of oral steroids until symptoms improve; cats experiencing a severe asthma attack may require hospitalization.

Inhalation therapy allows vets to administer higher doses of medication directly to the lungs, while avoiding or reducing side effects. Inhaled medications eliminate symptoms faster than oral medications. Some inhaled medications commonly used in the treatment of feline asthma include albuterol and fluticasone.

Inhaled medications are administered using the Aerokat, an inhaler designed specifically for cats. Most cats will need to be introduced to the inhaler over a period of time. Familiarize your cat with the inhaler by placing it over his face for a few seconds, without administering medication, and then giving a treat. Repeat this process until your cat has become familiar with the inhaler.