Feline Asthma

Feline asthma has been called by many other names, including chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, and allergic bronchitis. Regardless of the name, it is a common feline ailment. Inhaled allergens cause sudden contraction of the smooth muscles around airways, leading to typical clinical symptoms. It is usually impossible to determine which allergens cause asthma in individual cats, but common ones include grass and tree pollens, cigarette or fireplace smoke, various sprays (hair sprays, deodorants, flea sprays, deodorizers), and dust from cat litter.

Feline asthma is found in all areas of the world and in cats of all ages. The prevalence in the general adult cat population is about 1%. The most common symptoms in cats with asthma are wheezing and coughing. The coughing has been described as a dry, hacking cough that could be confused with gagging or retching. Many cats are misdiagnosed as having hairballs! Paroxysms of coughing occur frequently. In mildly affected cats, coughing and wheezing may occur only occasionally. A few cats with asthma are asymptomatic in between acute and severe bouts of airway constriction. The most severely affected cats have daily coughing and wheezing and many bouts of airway constriction, leading to open-mouth breathing and panting that can be life threatening.

The symptoms of asthma can mimic other diseases, such as heartworm, pneumonia and congestive heart failure. A diagnosis is reached by using chest x-rays, a complete blood count, a feline heartworm test, and a technique to sample cells from the lower airways (transtracheal wash, bronchial wash, or bronchoalveolar lavage). Chest x-rays may be normal in some cats with asthma, while others will have signs of bronchial inflammation, collapse of the right middle lung lobe, and over inflation of the lungs.

Unfortunately, feline asthma is a chronic progressive disease that cannot be fully cured. Medications can reduce the symptoms of asthma a great deal, but may not be able to eliminate coughing fully. In recent years, veterinarians have found that the most effective therapy for feline asthma may be to use inhalers such as human asthmatics use. A mask and spacer system, called AeroKat®, has been invented to enable cats to use inhalers or puffers. This system is similar to the mask and spacer system used to treat babies and small children.  ........ [Read complete article]


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