Can my cat get asthma?
You bet! Cats have thousands of tiny airways in their lungs that extract oxygen from the air. Like us, those airways can become obstructed causing shortness of breath, distress and even death.
The most obvious and immediate of symptom of asthma is difficulty in breathing. You may notice a wheezing or a high-pitched whistling sound that is caused by a narrowing of the airways. You may notice short, shallow breathing or a hacking cough, especially after exercise. In the longer term, you may also notice a general decline in energy and a loss of appetite. In severe cases you may observe a bluish tint to their gums and tongue due to a lack of oxygen. In this situation it is essential to get your cat to the vet immediately.
One of the most common causes of asthma in is exposure to environmental allergens such as dust, pollen, and mould. These can trigger an allergic reaction, causing inflammation and closing of the airways.
Genetics may also have a role. Some breeds of cats, such as Siamese and Himalayans, may be more predisposed to developing asthma and cats that have a family history of asthma may be more at risk too.
If you cat has become stressed by moving to a new home, by the addition of a new pet or family member, or changes in their routine, this can trigger asthma symptoms.
If your cat is overweight, this can put added stress on the respiratory system, making it more difficult for them to breathe and potentially contributing to the development of asthma.
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis of asthma in cats will, typically, involve a physical exam by a vet, blood tests, and x-rays or ultrasound. Treatments may include medications that open the airways (bronchodilators) and corticosteroids that reduce the inflammation.
The best long-term solution may be identifying and removing the causes in the cat’s environment. The list of likely candidates will be familiar to human asthma sufferers. They include cigarette and wood smoke, cleaning products, scented aerosols, perfume, pollen, mould, grass and dust mites.
A trip to your vet to check out your cat’s breathing problems might also eliminate other potential causes of lung issues such as food allergies, parasitic infections, heartworm and bacterial infections.
As always, watching out for any obvious changes in your cat’s usual behaviour is your best alert that something might be amiss. Take a careful note of what you are seeing and report it to your vet.
If you’d like to find out more about feline asthma, have a look at this page from Cat Health.com
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