Feline Asthma and Bronchitis

Information about Feline Asthma/Bronchitis

Feline asthma/bronchitis is an inflammatory disorder of the lower airways that causes airflow limitation.  The symptoms of asthma/bronchitis can be dramatic, including acute wheeze and respiratory distress.  Sometimes however, the only symptom of asthma is a daily cough.

Feline Asthma: Diagnosis

Feline Asthma

Feline Asthma

Feline asthma/bronchitis is diagnosed by excluding other disorders that can cause daily cough (e.g. heart disease, cancer, parasites).  This usually involves obtaining a thorough history of the patient in addition to performing x-rays of the chest.

In the simplest terms, airways are tubes.  They may be thought of as the plumbing system of the lung.  The primary purpose of the airway tree is to bring air from the environment into the lung for gas exchange.  Although the potential cause of bronchitis and asthma are numerous, the airways are capable of responding to noxious stimuli in only a limited number of ways.

  • Swelling
  • Secretion of mucous
  • Constriction of smooth muscle

The resulting signs of cough, wheeze and lethargy are due to limitation of air flow from excessive mucous secretions, airway swelling and airway narrowing.

Feline Asthma: Treatment

Treatment is multi-factorial, and includes environmental change as well as drug therapy.

  • Corticosteroids (e.g. prednisolone, fluticasone): helps to reduce swelling, mucous secretions and inflammation of the airways.  This is a medication that will likely be required for the life of your pet.  It is important to regularly discuss this treatment with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet is receiving an appropriate dose.
  • Inhaled medication (Ventolin): relaxes smooth muscle thereby dilating airways.  This is usually reserved for when your pet has difficulty breathing or is having an asthma attack (e.g. cough, wheeze, collapse etc).  1 puff of Ventolin (into the spacer chamber, which is attached to the mask) is usually sufficient, and begins to have an effect within 1-5 minutes.  In an emergency scenario, Ventolin can be administered every 30 minutes for up to 4-6 hours without deleterious side effects
  • Environmental change: It is important to try and identify the allergen causing your cat’s reaction.  The search can be frustrating because the allergen may be one or a combination of many things, including pollens, mould and mildew, smoke, household products, cat litter, dust and dust mites, stress, exercise, cold and dry air, and food.  Check out this website for great info on the triggers of feline asthma: http://www.felineasthma.org/triggers/index.htm

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