Feline Asthma in Cats
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How do you treat a cat with feline asthma?
A feline asthma episode can sometimes be seen as a hairball or perhaps choking on some food. Asthma can cause your cat to cough and then he will appear fine, but it is a slow-progressing disease that does not improve. A coughing cat should be examined by a veterinarian to diagnose the problem and ensure proper disease management.
What is feline asthma?
Like human asthma, feline asthma is a respiratory disease caused by an allergen that causes difficulty in breathing.
Some cats' immune systems overreact to an inhaled allergen. The resulting immune response causes an overproduction of substances in the bloodstream that cause intense inflammation of the airways.
The swollen and inflamed airways secrete excess mucus and constrict, making it difficult for the cat to breathe.
Feline Asthma Symptoms
The first symptoms can be difficult to detect. You may hear a slight hiss, which is more audible after vigorous exercise. Your cat may seem to tire easily.
A full-blown asthma attack may initially resemble a cat trying to cough up a hairball or perhaps choking on food.
With asthma attacks, the posture of the body is somewhat different. With asthma, the cat's body will lean further to the ground and the neck and head will extend outward and downward in an effort to clear the airways of mucus.
The "gagging" can also be accompanied by a typical coughing sound and possibly sneezing or vomiting. The cat may or may not pass foamy mucus.
These serious attacks may not occur often, which makes it easy to call them "hairball."
In fact, they can be life-threatening and a cat in the midst of an attack should be taken to a vet immediately. Even a cat showing one or two of the first symptoms should be examined.
Once diagnosed, there are things you can do to help your cat with any of these attacks.
Causes of feline asthma attacks
Stress can cause or worsen a feline asthma attack. For this reason, you should always try to be as calm as possible when your cat has an asthma attack.
Many of the same allergens responsible for asthma attacks in humans are responsible for feline asthma attacks, including:
- Cigarette smoke
- Mold or mildew
- Household chemicals
- Cat litter particles
Diagnosing feline asthma
Your vet will use various diagnostic tests to diagnose asthma in your cat. The most common diagnostic tools are:
- Blood tests: Blood tests will help your vet rule out other diseases and show if there is inflammation anywhere on your cat's body.
- Chest X-ray: Also called a chest X-ray, this diagnosis will help your veterinarian see any abnormalities in the lungs, such as areas of chronic inflammation or unusual fluid buildup. Sometimes cats with asthma will have bright branching patterns visible on their chest X-rays. This indicates an accumulation of inflammatory cells in the airways. Pulmonary overinflation is also sometimes seen in feline asthma.
- Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL): This can be an extremely helpful procedure. It is performed by inserting an endotracheal tube into the cat's trachea under general anesthesia. This allows your vet to directly take a sample of the fluids in your cat's airway. In addition to asthma, BAL can diagnose other lung conditions. The downside to BAL is that it requires general anesthesia, which is not recommended for a cat with severe or very ill respiratory distress.
Feline asthma is a chronically progressive disease with no cure. Instead, your vet will work on developing a medication management plan to keep your cat as comfortable as possible.
The basic and most common management strategies for feline asthma include a steroid to help reduce inflammation in the airways and a bronchodilator to keep the airways as open as possible so the cat can breathe more easily.
Sometimes these drugs are given orally, but another way of administration is by using a metered-dose inhaler, often Flovent, delivered through a special mask.
The Aerokat Feline aerosol chamber was developed for this purpose. The advantage of administering aerosol steroids over pills and injections is that they go directly to the lungs, rather than the entire body, so there are fewer side effects.
If your cat has more severe attacks than you might expect, you should take him back to your vet for a reassessment and possible medication adjustment.
As with most feline health problems, the key to successful management of feline asthma is knowing your cat well, keeping eyes and ears open for changes in breathing, administering prescription medications, and obtaining veterinary care when indicated, that is, routine emergency intervention checks.
How to prevent feline asthma attacks
Once your cat is diagnosed with feline asthma, you have several options for lifestyle changes that can help reduce recurring asthma attacks, depending on the severity of the case.
The first and most obvious thing to do is try to eliminate the environmental allergens that cause breathing difficulty in your cat.
Some will be easy; others more complicated or more expensive. Some of the more common feline asthma triggers include:
- Smoking: If you smoke, you will need to do so outdoors in the future. Better yet, consider quitting smoking, for your own health and for all the creatures that share your home.
- Mold and Mildew: Do a deep clean. While it may seem contraindicated, a steam cleaner does a good job cleaning mold and other allergens from solid surfaces like tile floors, showers, and walls. Professional services are indicated for cleaning central air ducts.
- Dust and mites: Vacuuming frequently can help reduce dust and mites. Although expensive, HEPA air purifiers are great at removing dust mites and mold spores from the air. Consider a room purifier in the room your cat occupies most often. A HEPA purifier will also help during pollen season.
- Household chemicals: try to limit their use to a minimum. Use organic products for the benefit of your cats, your own health and the environment of your home. This includes avoiding most plug-in air fresheners and stovetop medleys, which can cause respiratory problems in sensitive cats.
- Cat litter: Due to the dust that is raised from cat litter, most of them are not good for cats with asthma. Some owners have used Feline Pine to good effect, although some cats are allergic to the smell of pine. The same goes for scented silicone glass sand. Consider using unscented kitty litter, and trial and error may be your last resort. Remember that cats often find it difficult to change litter boxes, so introduce new litter gradually.
Enjoy The Video Tutorial about Symptoms & Treatment of Feline Asthma
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