If you need to know about asthma in cats you’ve come to the right place. It’s important to understand a little bit about your pet’s health just in case your cat becomes unwell. I’m not a vet and don’t have any medical training, but just want to share this information with you.
Though fairly common in humans not many people associate asthma with cats. However, it can be managed successfully with medication if diagnosed early. In this post you’ll discover what causes asthma in cats, signs to watch for, and how it’s diagnosed. You’ll also find tips on how care for an asthmatic kitty and lots more.
What is asthma?
If you’ve ever suffered an asthma attack you’ll know exactly how it feels. As someone with a dust allergy I have experienced asthma a few times. Though allergies are a common trigger it can also be caused by stress or even just catching a cold.
Asthma makes it harder to breathe with wheezing and shortness of breath as common symptoms. In severe cases it may even require hospital treatment.
Feline asthma is very similar to that experienced in humans, and can occur in any breed of cat. However, some breeds including Siamese are more prone to it.
Asthma is usually found in middle aged cats, but it can still occur in very young or elderly felines as well. Typically, cats are more likely to develop the condition between 6-9 years old.
What causes asthma in cats
As mentioned above, triggers for asthma are very similar to those for humans with many of the same allergens responsible. For example, cigarette smoke, pollen, dust mites, mildew and perfume odor. In addition, harsh chemicals used in cleaning can also trigger asthma.
Stress is another cause, though what you consider to be stress would be very different to that of your cat. Bullying from other pets, moving home, using a different brand of cat litter or even cat food could trigger asthma.
How do you know if your cat has asthma?
Though cats are masters at hiding pain, it can be fairly easy to spot an asthma attack once you know what to look for. If you start to notice your cat is breathing more rapidly than usual this may be a sign. Cats usually breathe between 20-30 times a minute, so anything faster is cause for concern.
Wheezing is a common symptom of asthma. so if you think your cat is having breathing problems listen for any faint wheezing sounds. In addition, if you notice your cat is lethargic after exercising this could be yet another symptom.
Does my cat have asthma or a hairball? This is a common question asked by cat parents as similar sounds are made with both. However, a hairball always produces a wadd of hair.
Coughing and retching noises are usually a sign your cat is about to throw up. But if you notice your cat doing this frequently with nothing to show for it, keep an eye on her.
The occasional coughing fit is normal, with a small particle of food or wisp of fur being the culprit. However, this normally resolves itself, and your cat recovers.
Do cats with asthma lose weight?
Though asthma itself doesn’t cause weight loss, your cat may lose her appetite. Breathing problems may make it uncomfortable to swallow food, as airways become congested. Of course there may be other reasons for your cat losing weight including hyperthyroidism. Any sudden weight loss is a cause for concern and should never be ignored.
How is asthma in cats diagnosed?
As there are several other reasons your cat may be experiencing symptoms of asthma it’s important to get a diagnosis. Something as simple as a foreign body stuck in your cat’s airway can cause breathing problems. Gasping for air, open mouth breathing and retching are common in both asthma and blockages.
Other causes can include airway parasites, pneumonia, heart disease, cancer, or even infections. Your vet may take x-rays, perform a bronchoscopy, take blood tests, as well as possible others. Procedures such as bronhoscopies require a general anaesthetic and a longer stay in the surgery.
How is asthma in cats treated?
After other possible causes have been ruled out your vet will discuss available treatments with you. The good thing about asthma in cats is it can be managed very well with many living long and happy lives.
One important thing to consider though is the removal of anything that triggers an asthma attack. If you or any of your friends smoke, avoid smoking in the house. Be mindful of using perfume near your cat, and try to use natural cleaning products where possible.
Use a pet vacuum cleaner with hepa filters to trap dust mites, and wash your cat’s bedding regularly. As it’s impossible to identify specific triggers with asthma in cats you need to assume any of the things that trigger it in humans could also in cats.
If your cat is overweight it’s essential you get her on a diet as it can contribute to asthma attacks. Not only that but your feline friend will be at greater risk of heart disease and cancer. Your vet will discuss this with you and create a plan.
Medication may include anti-inflammatory drugs. These can be given in liquid or tablet form and administered daily. Often these can be mixed in food but ask your vet first.
If your cat will be on medication long term, she may be prescribed a lower dose. This is to keep the asthma under control and help prevent flare ups.
Using an inhaler to treat your cat’s asthma
Inhalers similar to those used by people can also be used to treat asthma in cats. The only difference is the use of a spacer to administer medication. Spacers are used on babies and very young children and the same principle applies to cats. You can’t tell a baby or a cat to take deep breaths!
Most cats tolerate inhalers and probably feel great relief at being able to breathe easily. I’ve used one myself and know the great feeling it gives. Don’t worry about using it on your cat as your vet will show you how. Watch the video below as Dr Justine Lee gives a demonstration.
What can you do if your cat is having an asthma attack
Firstly, don’t panic and get stressed as your cat will become even more scared. Although it can be very distressing to watch your cat struggle to breathe you must act immediately.
If you have an inhaler, place it gently over your cat’s face as shown in the video. Keep your cat in a quiet space with plenty of ventilation. If it’s a severe attack call the veterinary surgery for advice. Be prepared to take your cat, so ensure you have the car windows open before placing her inside.
Can you use natural treatments?
While conventional treatments are usually the best option for your cat, you could also try complimentary medicine. Always get the advice of your vet first as you don’t want to risk your cat’s health.
Acupuncture is very safe and claimed to strengthen the immune system. In addition, Reiki is also very safe and good for reducing stress. Both those treatments can be used alongside conventional medicine but there’s no guarantee they’ll work.
Flower essences are a popular remedy but you need to look for quality products. One of the most well known is Rescue Remedy. Commonly used by people in times of stress, it’s also effective with animals as well.
However, there is a difference as the human version contains alcohol. Only ever buy products designed for animal use such as Bach Rescue Remedy For Pets. This one is veterinarian recommended and comes with a dropper. Simply add a few drops as directed into wet food.
Lastly, Feliway can be an effective product for calming cats and is available as a plug in. Though you won’t smell anything your cat will. Anything to reduce stress and keep your cat calm can help alleviate asthma.
Can asthma be prevented?
The best way to prevent further asthma attacks is by following the tips in this post and ensure your home is allergen free. As mentioned previously, it’s impossible to know what triggers an asthma attack in cats.
Modern homes are full of chemicals from cleaning products to air fresheners. Any one of them could be responsible.
Though there’s no cure for asthma either in cats or humans it can be managed. Always see a vet if you suspect your cat is having breathing problems. A severe attack could prove fatal, so getting your cat on medication is key.
Now you know all about asthma in cats I hope it’s helped you understand a little bit more about this condition. Most cats diagnosed with asthma can continue to lead active and happy lives.
It’s not the end of the world either for humans or their feline friends. With proper care and following the advice of your veterinarian your kitty should remain in good health. Feline asthma affects one percent of cats worldwide so is fairly rare.
If you own a Siamese or Persian the percentage is higher but shouldn’t stop you enjoying these beautiful cats. Just be aware and notice any signs.
If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful please share. Also, if you have any questions or would like to share any experiences of asthma in cats please leave a comment below.
Wishing you a purrfect day:)