Does My Cat Have Asthma? What to Look Out For in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Anywhere from one to five percent of cats can be affected by feline asthma. Feline asthma is nearly identical to asthma in humans. It is a disease that affects the lower airways of the lungs, making it difficult to breath. Early symptoms can often be difficult to detect so knowing some of the warning signs and what to look for could help save you, the vet, and your cat valuable time in getting them the help they need.
If your cat has been acting different lately and you’re asking yourself, “Does my cat have asthma?”, then read on to find out what you should be looking for. As always, if you’re unsure about something, the best step to take is going to the vet.
Feline Asthma Symptoms
Asthma symptoms in your cat are going to look very similar to human asthma symptoms. They include:
- Faint wheezing, especially after being active
- Tire easily
- Breathing through the mouth
- Heavy breathing, especially after being active
Asthma Attack Symptoms in Cats
All of the above symptoms could be a red flag that your cat is dealing with some asthma issues. There are also warning signs to alert you if your cat is having a full-blown asthma attack, which is a more serious and even potentially fatal issue:
- Squatting or hunched position, low to the ground, with neck extended
- Blue lips or gums
- Persistent hacking or coughing
- Open mouthed breathing
- Increased swallowing
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Frothy mucus while coughing
- Overall weakness
- Gurgling sounds from throat
At first, a full-scale asthma attack looks very similar to a cat coughing up a hairball. This is where paying attention to body posture becomes crucial. The cat’s body will be lower to the ground than when they have a hairball.
Their neck will also be fully extended out and down as they attempt to clear their throat of mucus. As they are “gagging” or coughing they may or may not cough up foamy mucus. You should call your veterinarian and bring them in to get the help they need.
Your Vet’s Diagnosis of Feline Asthma
Even if your cat doesn’t have asthma attacks like this with frequency, they can be life threatening and you should take your cat in to the vet immediately. Your vet will be better able to diagnose or identify how serious your cat’s asthma could be by running some tests. Your vet could run a blood test, which works to exclude problems anywhere else in your cat’s body and make sure they aren’t experiencing inflammation anywhere else outside of their lungs.
Your vet could also decide to run a chest, or thoracic, x-ray. This x-ray will help your vet to look at your cat’s lungs and see if they can note any visual abnormalities within your cat’s lungs. They could be able to see areas of chronic inflammation, unusual fluid build-up, or branching patterns across the x-ray. This branching pattern indicates an accrual of inflammatory cells within your cat’s airways.
Another useful procedure for identifying feline asthma is Bronchoalveolar Lavage, or BAL. This procedure is preformed by inserting an endotracheal tube into the cat’s trachea while they are under general anesthesia. This allows your vet to sample the fluids that are present within your cat’s lungs and airways. BAL can also diagnose other lung-related issues outside of asthma. However, as this procedure does require general anesthesia, it may not be a good recommendation for a cat who is extremely ill or in severe respiratory distress.
Treatment of Asthma in Cats for Fort Lauderdale Pet Owners
Your vet will likely recommend some anti-inflammatory medication such as corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation — which is often the main catalyst for your cat’s asthma issues — and/or bronchodilator medication which works to help widen your cat’s airways. You can also utilize antihistamine drugs if your cat isn’t responding to other treatments.
Medication is often going to be administered through an inhaler, but the medication can be given in a tablet or injection form if your cat isn’t the willing-to-use-an-inhaler type. Additionally, there could be some difficulty in instructing your pet to “breath deeply” so it may be easier on you to just skip the inhaler and go straight for the pills.
Feline asthma is a progressive disease that can take your cat from mild to life-threatening flare ups as they age, which is why it is crucial to keep up with your cat’s care and medication. With the right treatment and supervision, you can help keep your cat’s asthma in check.
It is important to note that while a vet can diagnose and recommend treatment for feline asthma often — like with human asthma — it is not a curable disease, merely one that can be managed. But the good news is, there are several steps you can take at home to help keep things under control!
Steps You Can Take at Home to Control Your Cat’s Asthma
After meeting with your vet, and working with them to get your cat the proper level of medical treatment, you can also take a moment to look around your environment and see if you can identify some allergens that may be triggering your cat’s asthma. Allergens that could be problematic include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Dust mites
- Household chemicals/cleaners
- Mold or mildew
- Cat litter particulates
- Pet food
Stress is a big factor in asthma attacks, both by causing them and by effecting how long they can carry on for. Perhaps one of the top ways to help your animal is to stay as calm as possible while they are having an attack. And, look at the list above and try to remove any stressors or potential allergen problems from your home in an effort to try and minimize the issues your animal could encounter.
Helping your cat maintain a healthy weight can also be a huge factor in easing or eliminating some of their asthma issues. Asthma is often triggered by exerting a large amount of energy. If you keep your cat at a healthy weight it will be easier for them to move, walk, run, and play, lessening the chances of their asthma flaring up due to the effort of being active.
Finally, you can take steps to keep a journal at home of your cat’s asthma attacks. This may seem like a lot of work, but it could prove incredibly helpful in providing a pattern of behavior that can later be used to help you and the vet identify how best to help your animal. Take note of the weather, the time of day, how severe it was, etc. You can even record a video of their asthma attack to show your vet later, which could help the vet decide on the best way to help your animal.
Keeping Your Cat’s Asthma Under Control in Fort Lauderdale, FL
At Central Broward Animal Hospital, we are proud to provide cat owners in Fort Lauderdale, FL with exceptional pet care and unmatched quality. If you notice your cat displaying any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above, don’t hesitate to call us and see what your next steps should be to get your feline friend back to feeling happy and healthy.