Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs and lower airways.
The airways become thick, and mucus production increases, which constricts the airways. This makes it difficult for the cat to breathe.
Asthma sometimes develops spontaneously for no known reason. Other times, it is an allergic reaction from inhaled irritants (cigarette smoke, dust, perfume, etc.).
- Exercise intolerance
- Difficulty breathing
- Shallow, rapid breathing
- Open-mouth breathing
Asthma can turn into a respiratory crisis. Sudden breathing difficulty due to narrowing of the airway can be life-threatening. If you notice any of the above signs, call your veterinarian immediately.
Your veterinarian will perform the following tests:
- Physical exam: wheezes may be heard
- Chest X-rays: to check for a constricted airway
- Tracheal wash: sterile fluid is flushed in and out of the airways, and then the cells and debris are examined under a microscope
Most veterinarians will recommend the following treatments for cats with asthma:
- Remove irritants: do not allow contact with cigarette smoke or perfume, and purchase dust free cat litter
- Corticosteroids: oral or injected medication to decrease inflammation, which is the cause of the constricted airways
- Inhaled steroids: inhaled steroids may be prescribed to prevent continued inflammation without the side effects of oral or injected steroids
- Keep your cat away from cigarette smoke, incense, scented candles, and perfume
- Use dust-free cat litter (recycled newspaper or wheat litter)
- Open windows in rooms when using solid cleaners, and remove the cat from the room until the smell goes away
- Remove the cat from any home undergoing construction or painting
Cats with asthma usually need lifelong medical treatment. Your veterinarian will probably reduce doses gradually.
As asthma is a chronic condition, complete control may not be possible, but with the proper treatment, your cat can enjoy a good quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM