Cats With Frequent Cough Could Have Feline Asthma

Cats Don’t Cough Often, So Any Persisting Cough In A Cat Should Be Investigated

Is your cat having wheezing or coughing fits that last for just a few minutes, but otherwise he seems to appear active and healthy? Cats don’t seem to routinely cough as often as dogs or humans, so even a mild persistent cough could mean your cat has feline asthma.

While it can be a problem for cats of all ages, the onset of feline asthma usually occurs in early to late middle age. Asthma is an inflammation of the airways that is caused by an adverse reaction to airborne allergens. This inflammation causes a narrowing of the airways and irritation of the nerve fibers lining the airways, initiating a cough. It is usually very difficult to determine precisely which allergens will trigger a reaction, but pollens, house dust, smoke, sprays, litter dust or litter scents have been implicated.

Typically, a cat with a mild case of asthma will have a dry, hacking cough that is barely audible. These cats will have episodes of coughing and wheezing, yet can be perfectly fine in between coughs.

In more severely affected cats, the coughing and wheezing may become a daily occurrence and can be confused with gagging, retching, or vomiting up a hairball. When severe, their neck is extended and the elbows are turned outward. Some cats may experience breathing difficulties to such an extent that they start open-mouthed breathing with their tongue extended, and you may see that the normally pink mucous membranes are bluish or dark purple. This is an emergency requiring oxygen therapy and injectable medicines to combat the airway inflammation and constriction. Come to our Clinic or an to an Emergency Clinic immediately.

There are several other diseases that can mimic asthma. Heartworm disease, congestive heart failure, pleural effusion (fluid in the space around the lungs), cancer, pneumonia, and others can all show clinical signs similar to feline asthma.

For that reason, our Veterinarians turn to diagnostic tools such as chest x-rays, blood tests (complete blood counts, heart worm test), and tracheal and bronchial washings to collect cell samples for analysis.

Depending on the degree of severity, treatment of feline asthma can range from simple monitoring to symptomatic relief of clinical signs. Medications such as corticosteroids and bronchodilators are usually effective in bringing relief.

Corticosteroids are the most effective drugs for treating feline asthma because they rapidly reduce the inflammation in the airways of the lungs. For emergencies, steroids are injected, but at home, oral tablets or medicated chewable treats are given. This is effective, but some cats will develop side effects on longterm oral steroids. It is preferred to administer the steroids by an inhaler sprayed into a spacer tube with a cat muzzle shaped mask to place over the cat’s face. Many cats learn to accept this set up and it definitely reduces the potential side effects of longterm steroid use.

Bronchodilators are also used in some cases because they help to open up the air passages to make breathing easier.

While there is no cure for feline asthma, fatalities are extremely rare. Most cats can be controlled with medications and the prognosis for a longterm healthy life is excellent.

Our Veterinarians will tailor a personalized treatment plan for your cat that will fit your daily lifestyle.

Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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