Asthma in cats is often an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens and affects approximately 1-5% of cats. Do you think your cat could be having an asthma attack? Our Animal Clinic of Benicia 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? The first signs that your cat could 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 could 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!
Another sign of asthma in cats is rapid breathing during sleep. While resting or sleeping your cat will normally take between 24 - 30 breaths per minute. If you notice that your cat is taking more than 40 breaths per minute call your vet immediately for assistance, or contact your closest 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.
Other signs that your cat could be having an asthma attack include:
- 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
Causes of Asthma Attacks in Cats
What can trigger asthma in your cat? Asthma attacks are generally brought on by the cat inhaling an allergen, or possibly due to increased stress levels. A few of the most common allergens to trigger asthma attacks in cats include:
- Dust mites
- Cigarette smoke
- Household cleaning products
- Some foods
- Cat litter dust
Several other underlying conditions 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
Do cats need inhalers? If your cat is diagnosed with asthma, treatment could include corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in your cat's lungs, and possibly a bronchodilator to help dilate your cat's airways. These drugs could be prescribed by your vet in the form of an injectable, oral medication, or inhaler. In some cases the vet could prescribe a corticosteroid medication only as treatment for your cat's asthma, however, 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? 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, the condition is manageable with a little extra care from pet parents and medication. By monitoring your cat's 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.
Diet & Asthma in Cats
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 think that a change of diet could help your cat's asthma symptoms, consult your vet. Helping your cat 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.