Can Cats Really Get Asthma?

Asthma can be a debilitating disease in humans but did you know that our feline friends are also susceptible to this life-changing condition?

It helps to learn what to look out for in your feline friend.

 SIGNS TO WATCH OUT FOR: 

- Persistent coughing or wheezing (often bouts of coughing)
- Laboured and/or fast breathing
- Open-mouthed breathing
- Squatting with shoulders hunched, neck extended and rapid breathing or gasping for breath
- Lethargy and weakness

 THE DISEASE PROCESS 

Asthma involves the small airways in the lungs over-reacting to the presence of an irritant or an allergen. There is a subsequent inflammatory response, an increase in mucus production and a contraction of the small muscles around the airways causing them to narrow. Both the mucus and the narrowed airway means a cat will have significant difficulty breathing.

 WHAT CAUSES FELINE ASTHMA? 

Irritants such as cigarette smoke, pollens, dust from cat litter, perfume and moulds can all contribute to the condition. Parasites, heart disease and obesity may also play a role.

 DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT 

Blood tests, x-rays, bronchoscopy (using a camera in the lungs to evaluate the airways), or an airway wash to gather cells to look for inflammation or bacteria may be necessary to help diagnose the asthma.

Feline asthma can be successfully managed with medications that open up the airways or modify the inflammatory response. You may be surprised to learn that medication is often administered through a special inhaler, similar to those used in human asthma.

The most important point is that feline asthma can quickly become life-threatening, so any cat with a cough (or any of the signs mentioned above) needs to be seen by a Vet as soon as possible.