Cat Asthma

Cat with asthma using a bronchodilator - Photo: by jivedanson

Cat asthma is feline allergic bronchitis. Bronchitis is the inflammation of the smaller bronchi. Bronchi are the passages of airways in the respiratory tract that conduct air into the lungs"1.

The inflammation is caused by a hypersensitivity to allergens in the environment and sometimes it may be due to heartworm. Causes are not that well known, apparently. Allergens are substances the can cause allergic reactions. Examples are:
  • drugs,
  • pollens,
  • foods,
  • dust,
  • smoke,
  • litter dust,
  • deoderants etc.
Humans are sometimes allergic to a protein in the cat's saliva called Fel D1 which causes itching.

Cat asthma is similar to human asthma. It affects about 1 in 100 cats. It affects a slightly higher percentage of Siamese cats. Siamese cats may have the greatest number of all the cat breeds of genetic diseases - diseases caused by the presence of certain genes - inherited diseases.

This may be due to its long history in the cat fancy resulting in more selective cat breeding in this breed than in most others. I am talking about the modern slender Siamese by the way.

Cat asthma can be seasonal depending on the cause. I am thinking of pollen for example. Human asthma suffers know all about the potential seasonal nature of asthma.

The symptoms are:
  • chronic long term cough
  • chronic wheezing
  • respiratory distress
An asthma attack begins with difficulty in breathing and coughing and wheezing. The muscles of the airways contract and are narrowed.

The cat's mouth may be open as he or she strains to inhale enough air. A lack of air results in a lack of oxygen in the blood leaving a bluish color to the mucous membranes. An example of a mucous membrane is the lining of the mouth that extends to the lips (oral mucosa).

Other diseases that cause similar symptoms are pleural effusion and pulmonary edema.

Chronically asthmatic cats are treated with "maintenance doses" of an oral corticosteroid (a steroid that is a hormone1). These drugs cause side effects or can cause side effects. They don't cure asthma. They simply reduce the symptoms.

You can use cat inhalers these days. A commonly used cat bronchodilator in the USA  is Albuterol (see header picture - not sure if the inhaler in the picture contains this drug however).

Everything to do with this condition should be vet supervised.

Something to consider for the full-time indoor cat is an air filtration device. House plants can also purify air.

Cat Asthma -- Note:

1. Wikipedia authors

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