Animals

Asthma in cats - Symptoms and treatment

Asthma or allergic bronchitis in felines is a frequent respiratory problem that can worsen if it is not acted on time

  • Author: By EVA SAN MARTÍN
  • Publication date: June 16, 2015

The asthma or allergic bronchitis in cats It is more frequent and dangerous than you think. The felines that suffer from it cough, have difficulty breathing, snore or emit a low whistle when they expel the air. Cigarette smoke and even feline sand that releases too much dust can be the causes of this dangerous cat disease that can even end his life. This article deals with what is asthma in cats, what causes it, how to recognize an animal with respiratory problems (on video) and what to do if it is discovered that it suffers from this allergic bronchitis.

Asthma in cats: a dangerous disease

The cat coughs too often. Is it because of another ball of hair that the cat wants to get rid of? Maybe not. At least 40,000 cats in Spain suffer from acute or chronic asthma. They say data from the University of Cornell (USA): severe respiratory problems affect at least 1% of felines.

Asthma or allergic bronchitis in these animals is a respiratory disease caused by oppression in the airways and inlets of the air or bronchi, the tubes responsible for transporting air from the trachea to the lungs. These ducts are therefore essential for normal cat breathing.

The narrowing in your airways occurs when the feline's immune system overreacts to the presence of an allergen. "The cat's body with asthma responds by releasing stimulants that cause an exaggerated inflammation of the tissue that lines the bronchi, so the surrounding muscles also contract.", these scientists add. The dangerous consequence for the animal with asthma is that its airways narrow or irritate sharply and, therefore, breathe with difficulty (feline dyspnea), especially when it is time to exhale or expel the air from the lungs to the Exterior.

What causes cat asthma?

Cat's asthma is triggered by an exaggerated allergic reaction. But what are the most common causes of chronic bronchitis? "Exposure to tobacco already other air pollutants it is the most frequent cause of asthma in felines, "explain veterinarians of the International Cat Care Association.

The feline sand It is another of the household items that should be suspected, since it is a common source of dust that ends up in the airways of pets, making breathing difficult. The emerging vapors of some of the Cleaning products that are used in homes, as well as aerosols, air fresheners and even the pollen They can cause allergy in cats and lead to dangerous chronic bronchitis or acute asthma.

More frequent causes of asthma in felines? The grass and other plants that cause allergy, the mold and dust mites, the smoke from the chimneys and even certain cat food Y foods that cause feline allergy.

Is my cat's asthma serious?

Feline veterinarian Richard Goldstein of Cornell University explains that there are four levels of severity in cat asthma: "First grade or feline asthma mild occurs when asthma attacks or coughs occur intermittently but not daily and do not interfere with the animal's daily life. "

Asthma moderate or level two It happens when the attacks are not daily but they are more severe and debilitating, since they affect their usual activities. Asthma severe or level three It occurs when debilitating attacks due to respiratory problems of the cat are every day. Finally, "the level four Asthma implies a risk to your life, since the constrictions of the bronchial tubes can cause the death of the animal due to lack of oxygen, "adds the feline. In the most severe cases, the cat's pink tissues, such as lips and nose , turn blue due to the absence of oxygenation.

The appearance of any level of asthma in the feline implies a visit to the veterinarian, in order to track, determine the causes and improve your life. Symptoms usually worsen over time, so it is important to stop them as soon as possible. But before a serious attack, level three or four, the visit to the veterinarian is urgent and must be immediate, because the life of the cat is at serious risk.

The treatment It varies depending on the severity of asthma but, as with human asthma, it usually includes medications with corticosteroids, to reduce inflammation of the bronchi, and air bronchodilators to open the airways. This treatment is usually administered at home, under veterinary prescription.

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Asthma in cats

It is estimated that 1% of cats suffer severe respiratory problems, among them asthma, which is characterized by an oppression of the bronchi, which are respiratory ducts responsible for carrying air from the trachea to the lungs.

The oppression of the bronchi causes respiratory distress, which can have varying degrees of severity until the animal's breathing is compromised.

Asthma in cats is also known as allergic bronchitis, since it is the feline's immune system that overreacts to an allergen.

We could say that asthma is an example of allergy in cats that affects the respiratory system, since the reaction to the allergen is manifested by inflaming the tissue that covers the bronchi and by narrowing the airways, respiratory distress or dyspnea occurs.

This allergic reaction that affects the cat's respiratory system may have different causes, like the following:

  • Environmental pollution of the environment
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Feline sand
  • Mold and Mites
  • Chimney smoke
  • Cleaning products, aerosols and air fresheners

Symptoms of asthma in cats

A cat affected by asthma or allergic bronchitis will have the following symptoms:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Fast breathing
  • Noisy breathing
  • Persistent cough
  • Whistles when exhaling the air

If we observe any of these symptoms in our cat it is essential to go to the veterinarian as soon as possible, since if asthma is not treated, symptoms tend to worsen.

Diagnosis and treatment of asthma in cats

To diagnose feline asthma the veterinarian will rely mainly on clinical signs or symptomsHowever, a blood and stool test should also be performed to rule out that these symptoms are due to any other disease.

Finally a chest x-ray will be performed, although in the asthmatic cat this may be normal, the most visible bronchial tubes are usually observed due to their pathological alteration.

The treatment of asthma in cats will vary depending on each specific case and the severity, however, the following drugs are usually used, either in a single or combined way:

  • Corticosteroids: Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory that is used to quickly reduce inflammation produced in the bronchi and facilitate the entry and exit of air into the lungs. It is a drug that can cause multiple side effects.
  • Bronchodilators: Bronchodilators are drugs that act on the bronchi and allow them to dilate, making breathing easier.

This type of treatment can be done at home and it is important that the owner commits to administer it properly, yes regular visits to the veterinarian will be necessary to evaluate the response of our cat to the different drugs.

In addition to following the pharmacological treatment prescribed by the veterinarian, we recommend that you follow the advice that we show below, in this way you can Improve Life Quality of your cat:

  • Use a good quality feline sand, which does not easily give off dust.
  • If your cat, in addition to asthma, is over 8 years old, you should pay attention to the care of an elderly cat to provide a good quality of life.
  • Be very careful with the cleaning products you use, you can find out about organic products.
  • Help him to be cool in summer so he can breathe easily.
  • Do not give your cat dairy, they contain many antigens that interact with the immune system and can aggravate the allergic reaction.
  • Use a natural complementary treatment that helps strengthen your pet's defenses, homeopathy for cats is an excellent option.

This article is purely informative, at ExpertAnimal.com we have no power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any kind of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian in case he presents any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Asthma in cats - Symptoms and treatment, we recommend that you enter our section of Respiratory Diseases.

What symptoms does feline asthma produce? Is it easy to detect?

The main sign we are going to notice is that the cat coughs. The problem is to determine if the cat is coughing or is vomiting since in most cases a cough ends up arcading and this can be confused by the owner, thinking that he has eaten something he did not have when in reality It's cough Another characteristic symptom is respiratory distress (dyspnea), finding cats in a sphinx position, with the neck fully stretched and the mouth open, with very abrupt movements of the thorax and abdomen.

I want to take advantage here to comment that it is impossible not to have seen a dog breathe (or gasp) with his mouth open but if you see him in your cat, you have to run away.

On more serious occasions, your oral mucosa will turn a bluish color (due to cyanosis due to lack of oxygenation). When there is bacterial contamination, fever may appear, although this is already more rare and is associated with advanced stages of the process. And sometimes certain beeps are heard when breathing, sneezing or snoring. It is normal to see a cat that looks normal except when it has asthmatic episodes.

The problem is not very serious at the beginning and it is often taken for granted that it is an isolated episode. The problem is that it is a chronic process and that as time goes by it becomes increasingly serious and its episodes are stronger, longer and more frequent, producing irreversible lung lesions, emphysema and / or pulmonary fibrosis.

As asthmatic crises are not persistent, if they occur between periods of normality, we recommend you to record on video when you notice that your cat is breathing badly and that way we can identify what it is. On certain occasions, you try to explain to us how it happened but it is much more illustrative for us to have an image. To have a diagnosis of the disease, a chest x-ray will be performed as it has a characteristic radiographic pattern. The problem in these cases lies in the stability that the patient has when he comes to the office. If it comes with a fairly severe crisis, we will first have to stabilize it and make sure it breathes correctly before performing the x-rays for diagnosis. And now that we know what it is about ...

What treatment does feline asthma have?

If the cat unfortunately comes with a very acute problem, we will have to hospitalize it to stabilize it, to administer oxygen, bronchodilators, anti-inflammatories and other drugs that it may need. Once it is stable and a complete diagnosis has been made, these cats will need a lifelong treatment at home. You have to take into account that it is a disease that does not heal by giving some pills and that's it, it requires a continuous handling by you at home. In these cases, home treatment is based on inhalers to open airways, and others to relieve inflammation, depending on the case and severity.

Finally and as a very important recommendation, if you have an asthmatic cat, it is very important to avoid possible allergens and contaminants at home. You have to avoid that at home there is dust, remove the carpets, have your bed very sucked along with the rest of the house, that you are not exposed to cigarette smoke and that the sandbox substrate is not sand that gives off dust, but use another type of substrate that irritates your airways less. And of course, keep a good control of deworming and proper feeding to avoid being overweight, since an obese cat has an extra aggravating effect in the asthmatic process and will be more difficult to control the disease. I hope you found it interesting and avoid the occasional scare. For any doubt or suggestion you already know how to find me.

Diagnose Feline Asthma

The diagnosis of feline asthma can be complicated in some cases because the symptoms can overlap with chronic bronchitis, bronchial abnormalities related to lung parasites and other lung conditions.
The definitive diagnosis is achieved by observing clinical signs, physical examinations, chest radiographs (which in the clearest cases shows the presence of an evident bronchial pattern, with thickening of the bronchial walls, which are described as «donuts» in cross sections of the bronchus, or "train tracks" in the longitudinal cuts) and other laboratory tests.

This lateral radiograph demonstrates the classic characteristics of feline asthma.
Normally, in a patient with feline asthma, an x-ray may reveal evidence of disease, but however up to 23% of cats with asthma will have a normal chest x-ray.

And, due to the intermittent nature of asthma, the physical exam may not show anything abnormal.

That is why it is very important for us that you give us a description as detailed as possible of what your cat does, noises, postures (today it is very easy to be able to record it with the mobile) and if you have observed that it worsens when eating something concrete or when exposed to some product or go outside etc ...

Feline Asthma Treatment

As with asthma in humans, treatment focuses on controlling acute attacks and preventing inflammation caused by cough and breathing problems.
We can distinguish two types of management of feline asthma, acute cases and long-term control of chronic asthma.
The handling of acute asthma It focuses on quickly stabilizing the cat during an episode of respiratory distress, minimizing stress, providing oxygen and dilating the bronchioles to improve breathing.
Therefore, if respiratory distress can be seen, it is very important to provide fast-acting treatments, such as prednisolone or other steroids and bronchodilators that will help resolve asthma attacks.
On the other hand the management of chronic asthma In cats it focuses on reducing inflammation in the lungs and reducing bronchoconstriction.
Oral prednisolone and inhaled steroids are the most used treatments, but sometimes it is necessary to add bronchodilators if corticosteroids alone are not enough.

The administration of the medication by inhalation requires the use of an air chamber or spacer, which needs a simple training of the owner and an adaptation of the patient.
Specific spacers for cats are sold, but as you can see in the photo on the right you can make "inventions" with a plastic bottle.

Method of use:
- Shake the inhaler before attaching it to the inhalation chamber.
- Put the mask on the cat's face.
- Press the inhaler once.
- Allow it to inhale 7-10 times, which usually equals 10 seconds.
- IMPORTANT: Two presses, require two processes (press, inhale 7-10 times, press and inhale 7-10 times)
- If you are afraid of the sound of the inhaler, you can press first and then put the mask on your face, but this can cause less dose to be absorbed.

In the following video you can see how it works:

Additional measures

In addition to these medications there are a number of support measures that will help all patients. They consist of a series of additional measures to pharmacological treatment:
- It is important to avoid environmental irritants such as smoke, tobacco, dust, aerosols, aromatic candles, check and put filters in the air conditioners, take special care with the material of the cat trays, ventilate the environments, vacuum frequently, avoid raising dust when cleaning homes and also avoid sudden temperature changes.
- Weight control or its reduction is essential in those patients who require it, since intra-abdominal and intrathoracic fat deposits are in themselves an obstacle to normal breathing. In addition to the change to a specific feed to reduce weight, exercise must be increased. This is difficult to achieve in cats, being advised, for example, to hide small amounts of food in the house to motivate them to explore and "hunt" their ration and thus increase their physical activity.

In a short period of time we can offer stem cell treatments since recent studies offer very promising results.

Feline asthma is a cause for persistent cough in cats, which can be difficult to diagnose and treat, but once the right treatment is found, the symptoms are usually well managed.

What is feline asthma?

Feline asthma is a disease that has been increasing in recent years. It is considered a chronic, inflammatory and relapsing disease, which is characterized by an exaggerated reaction of the bronchi to various stimuli.
Many times, we minimize the clinical signs and do not go to the veterinarian on time, which results in chronic lung changes and a much more difficult and less effective treatment.
It is important to emphasize that if it is diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, if adequate treatment is established and if the treatment is carried out in the correct way, feline asthma is GOOD forecast.
However, minimizing the clinical signs, not going to the veterinarian, doing the wrong treatment or not doing it, self-medicating the cat, could lead to severe complications and put the animal's life at risk.

Who are more likely to suffer from the disease?

  • Cats of all ages
  • All breeds, although Siamese cats are more predisposed.
  • Obese cats
  • Sedentary cats

We must bear in mind that it is not a sedentary lifestyle that makes the cat asthmatic, but asthma that makes the cat sedentary, since feline asthma makes it impossible in many cases for the cat to move, which is why they also tend to be obese.

How to identify it?

There are different degrees of the disease. Not all asthmatic cats cough occurs very frequently. Cough presentation can be very mild and intermittent. It is the cat that coughs 1 or 2 times a week, or the one that reacts to environmental stimuli such as smokehouses and air fresheners.
At more advanced levels of the disease they begin to be intolerant of exercise or may even interrupt their nap to cough or breathe better.
In extreme cases, cats cannot sleep, are not able to lie on their side, permanently have their heads stretched as if trying to breathe better, and difficulty in breathing is evident. (Don't wait for your cat to be like this to take it to the vet).


If your cat has any of the symptoms just described, take it to the veterinarian. Surely he will do blood tests, stool analysis to rule out pulmonary or cardiac parasites, chest radiography, among others.
If your cat definitely has asthma, you should be consistent with the treatment. Remember that it is a chronic disease, that it is not cured and that with a good treatment it will greatly improve the quality of life of your little pussycat.