Just like their human companions, cats can suffer from asthma. It is thought that currently about 1% of all cats suffer from this condition but that number is increasing with increased environment pollution. Feline asthma, or feline bronchial disease (allergic airway disease or allergic bronchitis) is caused by a spasm of the small airways in the lungs, the bronchii. This spasm is usually caused by an allergic reaction to something inhaled and causes inflammation and swelling. This restricts the airflow and causes life threatening respiratory distress within a matter of minutes. The lungs also secrete excess mucus when this occurs and the cat’s breathing space become clogged. Your cat needs immediate attention or he will die!
Asthma attacks can also cause permanent scarring of the lungs. Asthma is generally triggered by an allergen in the cat’s environment. Common allergens are molds and mildew, smoke, house dust, cat litter, and household cleaners. Food allergy, vaccines, exercise and cold dry air can be triggers for some cats. Asthma attacks can be mild or severe. The cat may cough and stand or sit with his neck extended, or breathe quickly with his mouth open. Open mouth breathing is never normal in cats! You may hear wheezing or gagging, see bluish lips or gums or notice things like lethargy and soft coughing. Mild attacks may not even be noticed by the owner. Some cats will have more mucus secretions from their eyes. If your cat has these symptoms, he needs to get to the veterinarian immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis of asthma can be difficult as the symptoms may look like many other things including cancer, heartworm, respiratory infections, heart disease, or lungworms. Your veterinarian will want to do blood work and radiographs and may wish to do a broncho-alveolar lavage (a tiny sample of mucus is taken from the bronchioles).
If your cat is in distress, the first course of treatment will be oxygen and likely intravenous fluids and steroids. If radiographs show confirm asthma then a puffer may be used on the cat as well as other medication to open the airways. Continuing treatment for these cats may be prednisone orally and the use of an AeroKat Inhaler with steroids or bronchodilators.
Acupuncture can be used along with conventional medication to reduce the severity of the attacks and the amount of steroid that is used. It helps to reduce bronchospasm and rebalance the immune system.
Other supplements can include Omega 3 fatty acids for inflammation, Vitamins C and E, Co-enzyme Q10, Vitamin B and L-Lysine.
Asthma can be a life-threatening condition. If your cat has this condition you need talk to your veterinarian and have an emergency plan incase of an attack. It just might save your cat’s life.