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Asthma in Cats - What You Need To Know

Many cats will experience asthma attacks as a reaction to an inhaled allergen. In fact, it is estimated that asthma affects approximately 1-5% of cats. Are you concerned that your cat may have asthma? Our Cordova vets share some symptoms of this condition, and what you should do if you think that your cat may have asthma. 

How can I tell if my cat has asthma?

Often the first symptoms of asthma in cats are coughing and wheezing. You may also notice that your cat is hunched close to the ground with their neck extended forward as if trying to expel a hairball.

If your cat is having a particularly serious asthma attack you will notice that your cat's sides are going in and out as they work hard to breathe, and you may also notice that they are coughing up mucus or drooling.

Needless to say, having such a difficult time breathing will likely cause your cat to become very stressed and frightened. If you notice that your cat is having difficulties breathing, contact your vet immediately for assistance or call your nearest animal emergency hospital!

Signs and symptoms of asthma in cats include:

  • Difficulty breathing or increased effort to breathe
  • Body hunched close to the ground with neck extended
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Gurgling sounds from throat
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Blue lips and gums
  • Frothy mucus while coughing
  • Persistent coughing or gagging
  • Increased swallowing
  • Overall weakness

Another sign that your cat may be suffering from asthma is rapid breathing during sleep. While resting or sleeping your cat will normally take between 24 - 30 breaths per minute. If your cat is taking more than 40 breaths per minute contact your vet immediately for assistance, or contact your closest animal emergency hospital.

It is important to note that snoring or breathing loudly when resting doesn't necessarily mean that your cat is having an asthma attack. That said, 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 causes asthma in cats?

Asthma attacks are frequently brought on by the cat inhaling an allergen, or possibly because of increased stress levels. Some of the most common allergens to trigger asthma attacks in cats include:

  • Grass
  • Dust mites
  • Mould
  • Pollen
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Household cleaning products
  • Some foods
  • Cat litter dust

Beyond allergens, there are also a number of underlying conditions which could contribute to the severity of your cat's asthma attack including pneumonia, obesity, parasites, a pre-existing heart condition, or a genetic predisposition. 

What can I give my cat for asthma?

If your cat appears to be experiencing asthma it is important to see your vet for an accurate diagnosis. As mentioned above, there are a number of serious health conditions that could be at the root of your cat's breathing difficulties.

If your cat has asthma, treatment may include corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in your cat's lungs, and possibly a bronchodilator to help dilate their airways. These drugs can be prescribed by your vet in the form of an injectable, oral medication or as an inhaler fitted with a mask designed for use with cats. Every animal is different and in some cases the vet may prescribe a corticosteroid medication alone as treatment for your cat's asthma. 

What is the life expectancy for cats with asthma?

Asthma in cats is typically an incurable and often progressive condition, which means that cats with asthma are likely to experience periodic flare-ups that can vary in intensity from mild to life-threatening.

However, with the right medication and a little extra care from pet parents, asthma in cats is manageable. By keeping a watchful eye on your cat's respiratory effort, looking out for the symptoms listed above, and intervening with medication when needed, you can help your asthmatic cats live a happy life for years to come.

Will changing my cat's diet help to prevent asthma attacks?

What should you feed your cat with asthma? There is a lot of advice out there as to what you should feed your cat if they suffer from asthma. If you believe that a change of diet could help your cat's asthma symptoms, consult your vet. Certainly helping your cat to maintain a healthy weight, while ensuring that all of their nutritional needs are met, is a great way for pet parents to help their cat stay healthy. Your vet will be able to recommend the right diet for your pet, based on your cat's medical history and overall state of health.

Symptoms of asthma in cats should never be ignored. If your cat is having an asthma attack urgent veterinary care may be required. Contact our Cordova vets to schedule an emergency appointment or visit your nearest after hours emergency animal hospital.

Signs and symptoms of asthma in cats, Cordova Animal Hospital

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