Asthma is a respiratory disease that can affect cats of both sexes. Asthma usually occurs when the cat is young or middle-aged and Siamese cats are affected more often than other breeds.
A cat with asthma gets strained breathing to varying degrees. Symptoms in the form of coughing, sneezing and the cat breathing with an open mouth also occur. The strained breathing is caused by the small airways in the lungs (bronchi) filling with mucus and / or the diameter of the airways being reduced. This leads to a reduced air flow. If the condition lasts for a long time and affects a sufficient number of trachea, it can in the worst case become life-threatening.
Cats that develop severe symptoms should see a veterinarian as soon as possible, however, the actual transport should be as stress-free for the cat as possible as stress can otherwise aggravate the symptoms further.
Diagnosis is made with the help of X-rays of the lungs, as other causes of difficulty breathing can also be ruled out, such as heart enlargement, fluid in the lungs (lung edema) or cancer.
The diagnosis can often be made on the basis of the cat’s medical history and lung X-ray, but sometimes analysis of cell samples from the lungs is also performed. Such a sample is taken via a thin tube that is inserted into the lungs through the trachea. Such sampling is performed under anesthesia or deep sedation (sedative medication). ¨
In case of breathing difficulties, the cat may need to be given extra oxygen, for example by being placed in an oxygen cage. Often sedatives are also given, so that stress does not aggravate the problems, as well as medication that dilates the bronchi and reduces inflammation in the lungs.
Ideally, the triggering cause of asthma should be identified and removed from the cat’s environment, so that the cat is no longer exposed to the substance. However, this can often be difficult and in these cases the cat can receive medical treatment to reduce the discomfort, often in the form of steroids and / or airway dilation. If the cat accepts it, the treatment can be given as an inhaled medicine 1-2 times a day, using a small mask that is placed over the cat’s nose. The advantage of inhalation medication is that it gives less side effects. However, both medicines are available in tablet form.
If treatment is started on time, the prognosis is good. Many cats are asymptomatic for several years.
Asthma can be aggravated by air pollutants such as cigarette smoke, pollen and dust from litter boxes or carpets. Stress can worsen the condition. It is therefore important that:
- Prevent the cat from being exposed to smoke
- Change filters in vacuum cleaners and any air conditioning regularly
- Reduce the amount of dust and mold in the home
- Minimize the use of perfume, hair spray and air freshener