Asthma in cats is often an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens and affects approximately 1-5% of cats. Do you think your cat may be having an asthma attack? Our Weldon Spring vets share some of the most common symptoms of this condition, and how it can be treated.
Signs & Symptoms of Asthma in Cats
How do you know if your cat has asthma? Often the first signs that your cat may be having an asthma attack are coughing and wheezing. You might also notice that your cat is hunched close to the ground with its neck extended forward as if trying to expel a hairball.
If your cat is experiencing a full-blown asthma attack you will be able to see your cat's sides going in and out as they work hard to breathe, and you may also notice that they are drooling or coughing up mucus. All of this can cause your cat to become very frightened and stressed. If you notice that your cat is having difficulties breathing, contact your vet immediately for assistance or call your nearest animal emergency hospital!
Other signs that your cat may be having an asthma attack include the following:
- Difficulty breathing, or increased effort to breathe
- Open mouth breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Blue lips and gums
- Frothy mucus while coughing
- Body hunched close to the ground with neck extended forward
- Persistent coughing or gagging
- Gurgling sounds from the throat
- Increased swallowing
- Overall weakness
Rapid breathing during sleep is another sign of asthma in cats. Your cat will normally take between 24 and 30 breaths per minute while resting or sleeping. If you notice your cat taking more than 40 breaths per minute, contact your veterinarian immediately or your nearest animal emergency hospital.
Note: If your cat is snoring or breathing loudly when resting it doesn't necessarily mean that they are 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.
Causes of Asthma Attacks in Cats
What causes asthma in cats? Asthma attacks are frequently precipitated by the cat inhaling an allergen or by increased stress levels. Among the most common allergens that cause asthma attacks in cats are:
- Dust mites
- Cigarette smoke
- Household cleaning products
- Some foods
- Cat litter dust
There are also a number of underlying conditions that could contribute to the severity of your cat's asthma attack including pneumonia, obesity, parasites, a pre-existing heart condition, or a genetic predisposition.
Treatment for Asthma in Cats
What can I give my asthmatic cat? If your cat has asthma, treatment may include corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the lungs and a bronchodilator to help dilate your cat's airways. Your veterinarian may prescribe these drugs as an injectable, oral medication, or inhaler. In some cases, your veterinarian may only prescribe a corticosteroid medication to treat your cat's asthma; however, bronchodilators are not commonly used on their own because they do not treat the inflammation that causes asthma attacks.
What is the life expectancy of a cat with asthma? Asthma in cats is 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.
Nonetheless, with a little extra care from pet parents and medication, the condition is manageable. You can help asthmatic cats live happy lives for years to come by monitoring their respiratory effort, keeping an eye out for coughing, and intervening with medication as needed.
Diet & Asthma in Cats
What should you feed your asthmatic cat? There is a lot of information available about what you should feed your asthmatic cat. Consult your veterinarian if you believe a diet change could help your cat's asthma symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight for your cat while meeting all of its nutritional needs is a great way for pet parents to help their cat stay healthy. Based on your cat's medical history and overall health, your veterinarian will be able to recommend the best diet for your pet.