Approximately 1-5% of cats in the US develop asthma. This can be a tricky condition to navigate for pet owners as it is not commonly diagnosed and treatment might seem daunting. In this post, our Laguna Beach veterinarians explain what asthma looks like in cats and how owners can treat it.
How do you know if your cat has asthma?
Coughing and wheezing are often the first signs that your cat is struggling to breathe and may be having an asthma attack.
During a full-blown asthma attack, you should be able to see your cat's sides heaving in and out dramatically and mucus escaping their mouth or nose. Needless to say, an attack can cause great stress in you and your kitty.
Other common signs of an asthma attack in cats are:
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty breathing, or increased effort to breathe
- Open mouth breathing
- Persistent coughing or gagging
- Increased swallowing
- Frothy mucus while coughing
- Overall weakness
- Body hunched close to the ground with neck extended forward
- Gurgling sounds from throat
- Blue lips and gums
If you notice that your cat is having difficulties breathing, it's time to call your vet!
If your cat is snoring or breathing loudly when resting it doesn't necessarily mean that they are suffering from asthma, however if you are concerned about your cat's breathing it is always best to err on the side of caution and contact your vet for further advice.
What triggers asthma in cats?
An asthma attack is often brought on by an allergy or stress. Some of the most common allergens to trigger asthma attacks in cats include:
- Dust mites
- Home cleaning products
- Cigarette smoke
- Cat litter dust
- Pet food
A number of underlying conditions may also contribute to the severity of your cat's asthma attack including obesity, parasites, a pre-existing heart condition, genetic predisposition, or pneumonia.
What can I give my cat for asthma?
If your cat is diagnosed with asthma, treatment may include corticosteroids prescribed by your vet to reduce inflammation in your cat's lungs, and possibly a bronchodilator to help dilate your cat's airways. These drugs may be prescribed in the form of an injectable, oral medication or as an inhaler. While your vet may prescribe a corticosteroid medication only as treatment for your cat's asthma, bronchodilators are not generally used on their own since they do not treat the inflammation that causes the asthma attacks.
What is the life expectancy of a cat with asthma?
Unfortunately, if your cat has asthma it won't go away. Asthma in cats is an incurable and often progressive condition, meaning that cats with asthma are likely to experience occasional flare-ups that can vary in intensity from mild to life-threatening.
That said, the condition is manageable with the right care and medication. By carefully monitoring your cats respiratory effort, watching for coughing, and intervening with medication when needed, you can help your asthmatic cats live a happy life for years to come.
What should I feed my cat with asthma?
If you're concerned about your cat's food triggering asthma attacks, consult your veterinarian on appropriate things to feed them. Your cat's feeding schedule and the height of their bowl can also be important factors in helping your asthmatic kitty.