In the News
As the allergy season is in full bloom (pun intended), many of us are struggling with itchy eyes, runny noses, and sneezing. For many severe allergy sufferers, asthma often can go hand-in-hand, which is also seen in the feline population. Like people, when a cat is exposed to an allergen, the immune system triggers an inflammatory response, resulting in irritation and constriction of the airways, which then limits the ability of air to move through the airways, causing a cat to have trouble breathing.
Cats of all ages can be diagnosed with asthma; however, it is often diagnosed in young cats. Cats suffering from asthma may present to a veterinarian with signs of difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, and often open-mouthed breathing (like a dog panting). Symptoms can range from being mild to severe, and some cats can develop quick and serious asthma symptoms, such as a blue tongue and extension of the neck to help take in more air.
Unfortunately, there is no specific test that can diagnose asthma. Often, a veterinarian will correlate the cat’s history and symp- toms as well as using X-rays to help arrive at a diagnosis of asth- ma. Occasionally, bronchoscopy (placing a camera in the airway) to visualize inside a cat’s lungs is helpful to come to a diagnosis of asthma. However, the specific lung pattern on X-rays is usually sufficient to obtain a diagnosis. Several diseases can present like feline asthma, such as heart disease, parasite infections, pneumo- nia, and cancer, and therefore, it is important to perform appro- priate tests to ensure the cat is not sick for other reasons.
Treatment of feline asthma can vary depending on the severity of the cat’s condition. Most veterinarians will prescribe a steroid to reduce inflammation in the lungs as well as a bronchodilator to help open the airways. Both drugs come in an oral and inhaled form. Specific cat inhalers have been developed to help provide an inhaled form of these drugs to minimize side effects from taking an oral medication. Both indoor and outdoor cats suffer from asthma, and during the warmer Minnesota months, keeping your cat inside and windows closed will help minimize an asthma flare-up.
Feline asthma is often a progressive condition, and affected cats may experience occasional asthmatic flare-ups that vary in intensity from mild to life-threatening. Although cats can never be truly “cured” of asthma, by carefully monitoring their respira- tory effort, keeping an eye out for coughing, and intervening with medication when they need help, owners can help their asthmatic cats live happily for years.