Yes, it is possible for your favorite feline pal to have the same problem that many humans endure; asthma! This disease is defined as an airway disorder characterized by episodes of airway narrowing (bronchoconstriction) and airway contraction (bronchospasm). In most cases these episodes are stimulated by a particular “irritant.” Feline Asthma occurs in approximately 1% of cats and the Siamese and Himalayan breeds seem to be more predisposed. Clinical signs in cats are often subtle, but consistent and similar to those of people. You may notice vague symptoms including a mild hacking cough (similar to having a hairball), lethargy, anorexia, and weight loss. Being mild and indistinct, these symptoms may go on for months. However, an “attack” will be very noticeable, as it can be very intense. The pet exhibits severe coughing, labored open-mouth breathing, increased heart rate, wheezing, gagging, purple (cyanotic) colored tongue and gums, and fainting. This situation requires immediate emergency intervention by a veterinarian. Sometimes even the most prompt attention cannot save a cat that is having an asthma attack, but in the majority of cases, prompt treatment is successful, saving the pet’s life.
Making an accurate diagnosis is important to determine the proper treatment plan for your cat. Sometimes this can present a problem because many of the clinical signs seen in feline asthma are similar to those seen in numerous other feline maladies, such as infectious and degenerative lung and heart diseases, parasites, foreign bodies, and even cancer. During your visit to the veterinarian, it is important to report detailed information regarding your cat’s history. In addition to the physical exam, it may be necessary to perform laboratory tests, radiographs (X-rays), and allergy screening. Internal Medicine and Allergy Specialists are often utilized for the initial evaluation and emergency treatment phase of this illness.
The cause of Feline Asthma is often hard to pinpoint. Allergies, infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, mycoplasma etc.), parasites, and irritant substances (aerosol sprays cleaners, smoke, fumes) have all been linked to cases of feline asthma.
Management and treatment for feline asthma include identifying and decreasing exposure to the “triggering” substance, and controlling the body’s symptoms. Medications used are often a combination of oral, inject able, and inhaled drugs as well as the recent addition of homeopathic and natural remedies. Affected cats are usually “maintained” on these treatment plans to keep the asthma symptoms under control. Sometimes medications can be used on an “as needed” basis, but usually some treatment is necessary for the remainder of the cat’s life. In some cases, the use of de-sensitization; “allergy” shots can be helpful in minimizing reactions, and decreasing the need for medication. Feline asthma can be a tough ailment to recognize and diagnose, but thankfully, in most cases, your asthmatic pal can be effectively treated, so that he or she can enjoy a long and comfortable life
Please contact your veterinarian if you have any other questions.
Compliments of Dr. Jeffery Whall at Fairland Animal Hospital 301-622-2115
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