Can Cats Have Asthma? What Park Ridge, NJ Cat Owners Should Know
You just adopted the most adorable British Shorthair with pretty grey-blue fur and bright yellow eyes from a local rescue in Park Ridge, NJ. When you met with the rescue to sign the adoption papers, the vet tech from the rescue told you that your new baby was showing some signs of feline asthma.
She reassured you that it is manageable and not to worry too much, but your vet should be informed too. You were confused: cats can get asthma? Really? Yes, cats can get asthma, just like people can. Read on for what you should know about cat asthma and what you can do to keep your cat healthy and happy in Park Ridge, NJ.
What is feline asthma?
If you’ve never experienced asthma symptoms yourself, it may be somewhat difficult to understand it. Asthma in cats is the same as in people: it is an inflammation of the part of the lungs that air passes through. The part of the lungs affected are called bronchioles, which normally are wide open and allow air to flow through easily.
With asthma, the bronchioles constrict or squeeze, which lets less air through. Sometimes fluid even accumulates in the bronchioles with asthma. As you can imagine, when the bronchioles are squeezed or have fluid in them, it is very hard to breathe. Wheezing and coughing can occur.
Asthma can be mild in cats, or, with acute asthma attacks, can be life-threatening. The good thing is that with cats, like people, treatments and environmental changes can help prevent asthma attacks.
What causes asthma in cats in Park Ridge, NJ?
In cats, it is still not 100% known what exactly causes asthma. Most vets agree it is probably an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions happen in cats just like in people: an allergen is inhaled through the nose or mouth and enters the body. The first time this happens, not much occurs that you can see visually.
What’s Triggering Asthma in Cats?
In the body, the immune system makes an antibody that recognizes the allergen as something foreign to the body that may cause trouble. The next time the allergen enters the body, it is remembered as potentially bad by the antibodies. An immune response starts, which means inflammation in the lungs. Inflammation leads to the bronchioles constricting, mucus (or white blood cells that combat disease) starts to form, and the lungs become irritated.
This leads to coughing, wheezing, or other signs of respiratory distress in the kitty. If the asthma cause is an allergy, it is usually something in the cat’s environment. Dust from cat litter is a big factor that can cause asthma in cats. If your litter is very dusty, try a different wheat or corn-based litter or even pelleted litter.
Always switch litter slowly and mix in increasing amounts of the new litter with the old for about a week. This will help prevent your cat from rejecting the new litter and litter box accidents. Other allergies in the kitty’s environment may include strong smells like perfume (including perfumes in laundry detergents or litter), exposure to secondhand smoke, seasonal allergies, or even food allergies.
Other Problems Associated with Feline Asthma
If you think you cat may have food or seasonal allergies, talk to your vet about possible treatments. Other problems or conditions that may lead to asthma in cats are being overweight (extra weight puts stress on the lungs and can contribute to asthma), stress, or parasites including heartworms.
Yes, kitties can get heartworms just like dogs can. Cats that spend significant time outdoors are most prone to heartworm, but if you’ve ever seen a mosquito inside your house, you know indoor kitties can get heartworms too. If you live in an area of high heartworm risk, your vet can prescribe a monthly topical medication to prevent it. Pre-existing conditions in cats, like heart disease, can also be a contributing factor for asthma.
What are the signs of asthma in cats?
Cats with asthma will usually hunch down on all 4 legs and stick their neck forward while coughing. (Sometimes cats will have this same posture before trying to cough up a hairball, too). Wheezing, hacking, or high-pitched noises are also common in cats with asthma.
Fast breathing (more than about 30 breaths/minute) or breathing with an open mouth can also be asthma signs (these are more severe signs of asthma and may require a veterinary visit). If your cat is coughing and has blue-tinged gums, they need to see a veterinarian ASAP.
This is a medical emergency and the cat is not getting enough oxygen. Other signs of asthma can include vomiting or spitting up. Asthma can cause your kitty to be more tired than usual.
Don’t Hesitate to Seek Help
If you notice any of these signs, you should talk to your vet. Asthma or other problems with the lungs can quickly turn into medical emergencies if not treated quickly. Remember stress can aggravate asthma, so try not to overreact or make your kitty more nervous.
Remain as calm as possible and try to soothe your cat. To reduce stress at home or in the car, pheromone sprays are available over the counter or online can help provide a calming feeling for your cat (they are cat-specific and have no noticeable scent for humans).
How is feline asthma diagnosed?
There is no one test that is a diagnosis for asthma in cats. Your vet will do an overall wellness exam and also do some blood work, which can show if your cat is having an allergic reaction to something.
X-rays are usually the best way to diagnose asthma. Your veterinarian will take a look for constricted bronchioles or fluid in the lungs, which can indicate asthma. Other diseases or parasites should also be ruled out before an asthma diagnosis.
How can a cat be treated for asthma?
The first treatment for asthma is usually steroid medications. Your vet may give your cat a steroid shot or oral medications. This will reduce overall inflammation and help your kitty start breathing better quickly. Note that steroids can cause your cat to eat and drink more as a side effect (and use the litterbox more).
Another medication used for asthma is a bronchodilator. This can be used along with steroids and will help open the bronchioles in your kitty’s lungs and help them breathe with less effort. Other medications include antihistamines (just like what humans take for seasonal allergies) that can help provide relief for breathing and also any allergies your cat may have.
Antihistamines can make your kitty sleepy (though in some cats, like in some people, they can cause hyperactivity!). For extreme asthma cases or if your cat does not respond to other medications (or if your cat cannot have certain medications) an inhaler or nebulizer treatment may be prescribed. These work best for calm cats that will allow you to administer them and for kitties that will hold still for the treatment.
Sometimes these same medications can be given in an injection or as an oral medication instead. Your vet in Park Ridge, NJ can help guide you with the best treatment options for your cat.
The Right Treatment Can Help Keep Your Feline Friend Happy
Feline asthma can be frightening and scary for Park Ridge, NJ pet owners, but there are many treatment options. Like all medical conditions, it is best to catch it quickly and start treatment in the early stages.
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