Did you know that up to five percent of all cats on the planet have asthma? Although it is not as common as other respiratory conditions, this disease affects a cat’s life to the point that it can be debilitating or even life-threatening.
In today’s post, we’re looking at the symptoms of asthma in cats, its causes, how it is diagnosed and treated, and whether or not it can be prevented. Read on to find out more!
Clinical signs of asthma in cats
Asthma varies in terms of severity, which means that the symptoms you might see in one cat might differ from those shown by another. Cats that have severe forms of asthma show the following symptoms:
- Straining to breathe
- Rapid breathing
- Chronic coughing
- Vomiting due to continuous attempts to breathe properly
- General weakness
Another possible clinical sign of feline asthma can be breathing through the mouth, although it rarely happens. If you see this in your feline friend, go to the vet clinic as soon as possible as it is a clear sign of respiratory distress.
As for the rapid breathing that we mentioned above, we have to note that the normal respiratory rate in cats is 25 to 30 breaths per minute.
If you feel that your pet is breathing faster than usual, the easiest test to do would be for you to count her breaths per 60 seconds — if your cat takes 40 breaths but she just played with you, it can be completely normal. If she breathes 50-60 times per minute, it is definitely something to be worried about.
In asthma, the main problem is not that the animal breathes too fast, but that there isn’t enough air going into her lungs — that’s why besides the rapid respiratory rate, pet parents can also notice wheezing and a number of other concerning symptoms.
Also, asthma can usually evolve in attacks, which means that a cat can be asthmatic, but she might show no labored breathing whatsoever for days on end until she has an asthma attack — which can be life-threatening.
In this case, the pet requires veterinary assistance right away.
What causes asthma?
Some cats are simply genetically predisposed to respiratory health problems, including asthma (the Siamese are an example of this). Others can develop it as a result to being exposed to a number of allergens, such as the following:
- Tobacco smoke
- Household cleaners
- Candle and fireplace smoke
- Dusty cat litter
How is feline asthma diagnosed?
There aren’t specific tests that can tell for sure that your cat has asthma — but the symptoms and a variety of other tests can suggest this diagnosis. Plus, if you bring your cat in to the animal hospital, the vet can use several diagnostic methods that can tell just what type of respiratory issue your cat might be suffering from.
It is important to make a differential diagnosis between other respiratory diseases such as pneumonia or infections and even lung cancer and asthma. But the latter is typically idiopathic, meaning that its cause is not detected in a certain manner and it is diagnosed once everything else is ruled out.
Eliminating every other possible condition is extremely important, especially if the cat actually has asthma. Some of the drugs used in treating diseases such as chronic bronchitis or the presence of parasites inside the lungs might not be suitable to use on an asthmatic cat.
Can feline asthma be treated?
Yes, but the treatment is typically symptomatic. That means that although both pet owners and veterinarians would truly love to treat asthma and have it go away forever, your cat will always be at risk of having an attack.
Vets usually recommend corticosteroids, especially after an asthma crisis has taken place, but since these anti-inflammatory medications cannot be used in the long run, your cat might have to take a number of bronchodilators instead.
Preventing asthma attacks in cats is far more important, but since there can be so many things that can trigger one, it can be quite challenging. However, most cats that live in houses where allergens such as spraying perfumes, scented litter, or smoke exist can develop asthma or have an attack.
Eliminating all of these factors and talking to your vet about desensitization therapies can prevent your pet from having attacks frequently and in a severe way.
When should you take your cat to the vet?
If your cat is experiencing breathing difficulties and she has never been diagnosed with asthma, there could be something stuck in her throat or at the back of her mouth. In this case, vomiting might be another symptom — but in any case, you should get to the emergency vet hospital as soon as possible.
If you see your cat hacking or wheezing, it’s also time to call the vet. If you already have one, administer a bronchodilator and try to keep (yourself and) your cat as calm as possible. Move your feline friend to a cool and well-ventilated area (and as away from the allergen as possible, if you believe a trigger exists).
While it is true that cats can never be completely cured of asthma, they can live for many years thanks to the appropriate care they can get from their pet parents and vets.