Feline asthma4th October 2016
What is feline asthma?
Feline asthma is an incurable, chronic condition affecting as many as 1% of cats. Around 100,000 cats in the UK are suffering from this debilitating condition.
Signs to watch
- Coughing - typically a cat will be suffering from severe bouts of a throaty hacking cough. They’ll stretch their necks out and cough repeatedly for half a minute or more.
- Wheezing – you may hear the unusual noises when your cat is breathing normally or just sleeping.
- Fast breathing – asthma will make it harder to breath, so you’ll find the chest movements more pronounced and faster.
- Exercise intolerance – this can sometimes be hard to assess, but if you notice your cat no longer wanting to play or follow you out into the garden, it may indicate they’re finding it harder to breath.
What are the causes of asthma?
Feline asthma is primarily caused by an allergic reaction in the bronchi, bronchioles and tissues of the lung. An excessive production of mucus and constriction of the airways leads to the coughing, wheezing and breathlessness. There are all sorts of allergens that can trigger asthma.
- House dust mites – these are in all houses, and almost impossible to eliminate.
- Smoke – from wood burning fires or cooking
- Cleaning agents and perfumes – be careful with many of the household sprays and perfumes.
- Parasites – migrating lungworms are common. Regular worming will reduce the chance of your pet being infected.
- Pollen – these come from grasses and trees. This is most often in the spring and summer.
- Molds – fungal spores can also contribute to feline asthma, and are more likely in the autumn.
How do we make a diagnosis?
- Listen to the lungs – we’ll carefully listen to the lung sounds checking for anything unusual
- Watch the breathing – an exaggerated breathing pattern may be seen, which in extreme cases may cause a cat to mouth breathe.
- Take bloods – we’ll often take a blood sample to look for a higher than normal level of white blood cells associated with inflammation. We can also send samples away to check for allergy indicators.
- Bronchoscopy – a diagnosis is generally confirmed by collecting fluid and mucus samples from the cat’s airways.
- Xrays – we can look for unusual patterns on the xrays that indicate inflammation.
Is there any treatment for asthma?
Whilst feline asthma can’t be cured, it can be managed well in many cases. If we catch it early we have a better chance of controlling the problem.
Our aim is to reduce the inflammation and control the airway constriction.
Steroids and broncho-dilators are the mainstay of feline asthma management
- Inhalers – you’ll probably be surprised to find we can use inhalers in cats, but we do. They are infact very effective and well tolerated. The inhalers can be used to deliver steroids to control the inflammation, as well as bronchodilators, which help to open up the airways.
- Antibiotics – 1 in 4 cases of feline asthmas will also have a secondary infection, so we may consider prescribing a course of antibiotics.
- Antiparasitic treatment – a significant number of cats develop feline asthmas from an allergic immune response to lungworms. Worming treatments will help control this.
What should you do?
If you suspect your cat is having breathing problems, don’t leave it untreated. Make an appointment to see one of our vets and we’ll make a detailed examination.