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What is a Bronchodilator and Why Should You Use One with Your Asthmatic Cat?

Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on February 2, 2019
Posted in Cat Allergies

Like humans, our feline friends can suffer from a great number of respiratory problems that result in labored breathing, coughing and lowered energy. One of the most common of these problems is asthma. Feline asthma can be difficult, if not downright scary, for pet owners to encounter and treat. Knowing the signs of asthma and what treatment options are available is important for keeping your kitty safe.

Recognizing feline asthma

Feline asthma is a respiratory condition related to allergies. When a cat develops asthma, its immune system creates antibodies that react to common substances like dust, perfume or cleaning supplies. Reactions to these allergens can trigger inflammation and thickened or narrowed airways, which results in your cat having a harder time breathing.

Asthma symptoms are typically brought about by a trigger, which can sometimes be physical exertion or the presence of an inhaled allergen. Some cats will have episodic asthma that only occurs occasionally, while others will suffer from chronic asthma that makes breathing quite difficult every day.

Symptoms may include routine coughing, open-mouth panting or labored breathing, gagging and vomiting. Asthmatic cats may also have asthma attacks, during which breathing becomes much more strained and rapid, and coughing and wheezing increase.

It can be quite scary for you to witness and for your cat to experience an asthma attack. Breathing can become quite rapid and difficult, and asthma attacks can sometimes be fatal in cats. Even if your cat’s asthma is not that severe, the condition may still reduce the quality of life your cat lives.

What is a bronchodilator?

One of the most common treatments for feline asthma is a bronchodilator. The meaning of the word stems from “dilation of the airways,” and a bronchodilator does exactly that to help your cat breathe.

Bronchodilators are medications that help open the airways and reduce inflammation or swelling. Different types of bronchodilator medications exist, such as salbutamol and albuterol.

Bronchodilators can be taken orally, injected or inhaled; injections and inhalation tend to work faster, but oral consumption lasts longer and is sometimes easier for pets to take. If you are giving the medication through inhalation, you will most likely be given an inhaler as well as a spacer device, which keeps the medication within a mask until your cat breathes it in. This device ensures the cat receives the full dose of medication, rather than wasting it if the cat does not breathe in as you administer the inhaler.

Bronchodilators must be prescribed by your veterinarian once your cat has been tested and diagnosed with asthma. They are helpful in the event of a severe asthma attack. Very few other medications and treatments are as fast-acting as bronchodilators, making them great for emergencies during which your cat is unable to breathe properly.

Alternative methods for treating feline asthma

It’s a good idea to have a bronchodilator on-hand in case of emergencies, since the medication works quickly and efficiently to help your cat breathe during an asthma attack.

However, if you’re looking for other ways to help your cat overcome asthma problems more naturally, here are a few more methods to implement into your daily routine.

  • Avoidance: Avoiding your cat’s asthma triggers is a useful step in managing its condition. Carefully watch your pet to see when it begins reacting to something within your household to try to narrow down what its trigger might be (a perfume, spice, cleaning product, etc.). Once you have an understanding of your cat’s triggers, it is much easier to avoid using those products to prevent your cat from having asthma attacks.
  • Natural supplements: Some natural supplements are packed with herbal ingredients that help promote proper lung function and dilate the airways for easier breathing. These supplements may be beneficial for the cat with mild asthma symptoms that worsen during certain times of the year.
  • HEPA filters: High-efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA filters) are able to filter out around 99 percent of all foreign particles in your home’s air. Using these filters in the rooms where your cat rests most often may help keep your home free of any potential inhaled allergens, reducing asthma symptoms.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: The consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is believed to reduce inflammation throughout the body because of their anti-inflammatory properties. By increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your cat’s diet, you may be able to naturally manage minor asthma symptoms.

With some care and attention to your cat’s asthma condition, you should be able to identify its triggers and avoid them as much as possible. However, it’s always a good idea to have a bronchodilator available just in case your cat’s symptoms turn to the worst. Bronchodilators, as well as the above-mentioned natural techniques, can help keep your cat breathing easily and living happily.

Read also: 17-year-old cat lives happily ever after when being diagnosed with cat hyperthyroidism and kidney disease

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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