While we may not think about asthma when it comes to our feline friends, approximately 1-5% of cats suffer from the condition. Today, our Norristown vets share the common symptoms of asthma in cats, what causes the condition, and how it can be treated.
Asthma in Cats
You may be wondering how you will know if your cat suffers from asthma. Coughing and wheezing are usually the first signs that your cat is having an asthma attack. Another common symptom is your cat hunching close to the ground with its neck extended forward as if trying to expel a hairball.
If your cat is experiencing a full-blown asthma attack you will likely be able to see your cat's sides going in and out as they work hard to breathe, and your cat might be drooling or coughing up mucus. Needless to say, all of this can cause your cat to become extremely frightened.
If you notice that your cat is having difficulties breathing, contact your vet immediately for assistance or call your nearest animal emergency hospital for assistance.
Signs & Symptoms of Feline Asthma
Some other signs that your cat may be having an asthma attack include:
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty breathing, or increased effort to breathe
- Open mouth breathing
- Blue lips and gums
- Persistent coughing or gagging
- Overall weakness
- Body hunched close to the ground with neck extended forward
- Frothy mucus while coughing
- Gurgling sounds from the throat
- Increased swallowing
Asthmatic cats may also breathe rapidly while sleeping. Your cat should normally take between 24 and 30 breaths per minute while at rest or sleeping. If you notice your cat taking more than 40 breaths per minute, contact your veterinarian or your local animal emergency hospital.
It's important to note however that snoring or breathing loudly when resting doesn't necessarily mean that your cat is having an asthma attack. Nonetheless, if you are concerned about your cat's breathing it is always best to contact your vet for further advice.
Causes of Asthma in Cats
So, what causes an asthma attack in cats? Asthma is most commonly caused by the cat inhaling an allergen, but it can also be caused by increased stress. Among the allergens that can cause asthma attacks in cats are:
- Dust mites
- Cigarette smoke
- Some foods
- Cat litter dust
- Household cleaning products
Pet parents should also be aware that there are a number of underlying conditions that could contribute to the severity of a cat's asthma attack including a genetic predisposition, a pre-existing heart condition, pneumonia, obesity, or even parasites.
Asthma Treatment for Cats
Is there anything I can give my cat to help with their asthma? When your veterinarian diagnoses your cat with asthma, treatment may include corticosteroid medications to reduce inflammation in your cat's lungs, as well as a bronchodilator to help dilate your cat's airways and allow them to breathe more easily. Your veterinarian can prescribe either of these drugs as an injectable, oral medication, or inhaler. The vet may prescribe a corticosteroid medication alone as a treatment for your cat's asthma, depending on the overall health of your cat; however, bronchodilators are not typically used on their own because they do not treat the inflammation that causes asthma attacks.
The Prognosis for Cats with Asthma
What is the life expectancy of a cat with asthma? Asthma in cats is an incurable and often progressive condition, which means that if your cat has asthma they are likely to experience periodic flare-ups that can vary in intensity from mild to life-threatening.
Having said that, asthma in cats is manageable with a little extra care from pet parents and appropriate medications. You can help your asthmatic cat live happily for years by monitoring his or her respiratory effort, keeping an eye out for coughing, and intervening with medication as needed.
What to Feed Cats with Asthma
What should you feed your asthmatic cat? Consult your veterinarian if you believe the food you are currently feeding your cat is causing or exacerbating your cat's asthma symptoms. Because obesity increases your cat's risk of having an asthma attack, feeding your cat a high-quality, vet-recommended food and assisting your cat in maintaining a healthy weight may help to reduce your cat's asthma symptoms or the severity of their asthma attacks. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the best diet for your pet and even calculate the number of calories you should feed your cat each day.Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.