Feline Asthma

cat in black and white image
Feline Asthma – This cat photograph is here to decorate the page, no more. The photograph by Sebastián LS. © under a creative commons license.

This condition is also called Feline Allergic Bronchitis. This disease resembles human asthma. The disease can be chronic (long lasting) or become a medical emergency requiring urgent attention. Cats with chronic asthma have a noticeable and persistent hacking cat cough that can last for a long episode.

The fight for air is not because of a physical blockage in the ordinary sense (which sounds as if it might be the case) but due to the airways becoming irritated and inflamed and becoming narrower, the muscles around the airways tighten and the airways produce a mucous that further narrows the passage through which air passes making it harder to breath and giving the impression that the cat is choking, which in effect is what is happening.

If the cat is not choking the alternative is a shortness of breath or both happen side by side.

What triggers an asthmatic attack can be the inhaling of airborne allergens such as pollen, cigarette smoke, litter dust and mold for examples. The inhaling of allergens is an important part of Feline Allergic Bronchitis. There are, though, a wide range of possible substances (containing allergens), which are not always airborne, however. {see Feline Allergies for a discussion on allergens}. A number of specialists believe that food allergens are a factor.

From the standpoint of diagnosis it is not only allergens and asthma that cause coughing. For example, Lungworm in cats can cause a cat to cough. Cancers in the respiratory tract and heart problems can also cause a cat to cough. Diagnosing feline asthma is the job of your veterinarian.

The mechanics of an allergic reaction is complex but I think it fair to say that it is caused by a immune response that harms the body rather than protects it. This is an imperfect immune system, which perhaps in a million years will evolve into a more perfect mechanism. The Feline Allergies link above touches on the subject.

Asthma in cats is managed and not, it seems, cured. The same can be said for humans. One area that is fairly easy to manage is our cat’s diet and is something that can be addressed first, subject to other obvious causes being apparent.

Treatment will of course depend on the veterinarian managing the case. But they include:

  • switching to a hypoallergenic food diet (wet food diet) or a home made raw food diet prepared with skill.
  • drug therapy including:
    • bronchodilators – these enlarge the airways.
    • cortisone – inhalant steroids – these deal with acute attacks
    • corticosteroid therapy – Prednisone – this is an immunosuppressant.
    • antihistamines – Drs Carlson and Giffin say these should not be used as these drugs interfere in the removal by the cat of secretions.
    • cyclosporine an immunosuppressant drug that reduces the immune response where the first line of treatment fails and the treatment is more problematic.
prednisone chemical structure
Prednisone chemical structure – published under a Wikimedia license

I am not a veterinarian. I don’t usually remark on treatments. A vet will decide the treatment. The treatments referred to here are set out in published work designed to be read by non-veterinarians and with something like feline asthma there will quite possibly be a need for the cat keeper to become involved in administering drugs as chronic asthma can require lifelong support.

Feline Asthma to Cat Health Problems

Sources:

  1. http://asthma.about.com/
  2. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlson and Giffin
  3. Your Cat by Dr. Hodgkins
  4. Wikipedia for drug information
  5. Wikimedia

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