HEALTH & CARE

Cat Asthma: How to Treat it and Reduce the Risks

cat asthma
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Asthma is one of the conditions that is becoming more and more common in the urban areas. Pollution, exposure to aggressive chemicals, and lack of green mass are some of the factors that increase the chance of catching this disease. Not only humans are at risk, though—our pets can feel the consequences of the big city lifestyle as well. Cat asthma affects one in every ten cats, and those numbers seem to be increasing.

Feline asthma is an allergic respiratory disease which means that, even though some cats are more susceptible than others, certain stimuli are to blame for the illness occurring in the first place. What is asthma to begin with? Simply put, it is an immune response to the normal airborne matter. The immune system overreacts to pollen, dust, and other allergens, and causes inflammation.

Before you start seeing enemies to your cat’s health all over the house, make a break and read this article carefully. There is no need to completely change your lifestyle and ban half of the cosmetic products you own. There are adjustments that need to be made, but the situation is far from dire.

First of all, make sure that you are not mixing feline asthma with something acute. We are going to tell you about the symptoms and what an asthma attack looks like, just so you can be prepared and learn how to recognize the signs. We are also going to give you some useful tips on how to fight this condition with both medication and natural remedies. And lastly, we will discuss the life expectancy and the quality of life of a cat with asthma.

Cat Asthma Symptoms

cat with opened mouth

In this section, we will introduce you to the common cat asthma symptoms and teach you how to recognize an asthma attack. These things are very important to know for every cat owner because the symptoms can be easily mistaken for a benign everyday activities, like coughing up a hairball.

A full-blown asthma attack is far from harmless, so it is important to spot the red flags and react in good time.

Although asthma is somewhat hard to recognize in the early stages, there are signs that are dead giveaways.

  • Wheezing. It might be very faint and a barely audible sound coming from your cat’s lungs, but this is a typical symptom of asthma. Listen to your cat’s breathing after an exercise; if the wheezing becomes audible, you have a reason to be concerned.

  • Labored breathing. Asthma patients often have a very shallow and restricted breathing pattern because the airways in the lungs are narrowed or obstructed by the mucus. The heavy breathing can precede a serious attack, so if you see this happening to your cat, keep an eye on her and call the vet as soon as possible. It might not be asthma, but it is definitely a red flag.

  • Low levels of energy. A cat that used to zoom around the house freestyle gets tired after a bit of jumping at the rope? Yes, she might just be feeling hot or especially lazy, but go that extra mile—get close and listen to her lungs. If you hear a wheezing sound, maybe it is time to do some tests.

  • Open-mouthed breathing. This is not a clue on its own, because this can just mean that the cat is overheated or sleeping with her mouth open. But combined with other symptoms, it is a sure sign or respiratory problems.

  • A persistent cough. Chronic coughing can also mean a lot of things, but it definitely deserves your attention. Do not hesitate—take your beloved kitty to the veterinarian and run some tests to find out what is bothering her.

See Also: How to Tell If Your Cat is Sick

An asthma attack is very similar to a cat coughing up a hairball. However, there are a couple of differences. A cat suffering from a full-blown asthma attack is hunched and walks very close to the ground like the cat is trying to “grab” the floor.

The head and the neck are extended and directed downwards because the cat is trying to get rid of the mucus in the airways.

Your cat might also gag, sneeze, and cough. Sometimes the cat will expel foamy mucus of yellow or green color. This can be a life-threatening event, so make sure to take your cat to the vet immediately. The vet will tell you how to act.

Predispositions and Risk Groups

siamese cat with asthma

Scientists in the veterinary field agree that feline asthma is an allergic reaction to airborne allergens. Cats that are prone to allergies are at a higher risk of getting asthma.

Most cats are diagnosed with this disease between the age of two and eight, so there is really no relation to a specific age group or gender for that matter.

There is some evidence that Siamese cats might be predisposed to asthma, but the conclusion is not definite.

Obese cats are definitely at a much higher risk of having a more severe case of asthma if other predispositions are already there.

4 Types of Cat Asthma Based on Severity

gray cat with asthma

What happens in the lungs when asthma appears? The inflammation of the alveoles (these are very narrow and small airways in the lungs) leads to constriction, hence making it more difficult for the cat to breathe.

The allergic reaction also triggers the production of mucus, which obstructs the pathways in the lungs even more. The sensation is very close to that of suffocating.

There are four types of asthma:

  • Mild asthma. The symptoms are very rare, and the attacks are mild, sometimes reduced to coughing from time to time. Although you should keep an eye on your cat, rest assured this type of asthma isn’t reducing your cat’s quality of life.

  • Moderate asthma. The incidents are still rare, but the cat will suffer an occasional full-blown asthma attack, which can be life-threatening if not addressed properly.

  • Severe asthma. The symptoms occur daily and are very serious. This type of asthma significantly reduces your cat’s quality of life, and she should be put on medication.

  • Life-threatening asthma. This stage is where the cat asthma attack is so severe that it can be lethal. The airways get so constricted that oxygen deprivation occurs.

Cat Asthma Treatment

In this section, we will discuss methods that treat or reduce asthma symptoms. Unfortunately, this is not a curable disease, but it can be reduced to very rare and mild incidents with proper cat asthma treatment. Diagnosis during the early stage is always better, and your cat will have better odds, so make sure not to neglect any possible signs of asthma.

In severe cases, your cat can be prescribed daily medications to improve her quality of life. These are given at specific times spans and should not be missed. You should keep them somewhere easily accessible at all times.

#1: Commercial Medication

Prednison

Traditional cat asthma medication practices include giving the cat Prednisone, a drug which relieves allergic conditions. It is usually given three times a day and can be in pill, gel, or injection form.

All these methods have their pros and cons, so it is best to consult your veterinarian. He or she will decide on the best method for your specific case.

#2: Cat Asthma Inhaler

Cat asthma inhaler

This is a relatively new practice that has been praised by many veterinarians. The advantage of using a cat asthma inhaler over the traditional methods is that the drug goes straight to the lungs, acting much quicker and with more efficiency.

This “Feline Aerosol Chamber” consists of a chamber for the medicine and a mask specially designed for cats.

There are two types of drugs that can be administered this way. One is a prescribed, day-to-day medication like Flovent, a corticosteroid that is used as a long-term asthma treatment. The second one is a bronchodilator, a drug that is given as needed, during an asthma attack or when the cat has trouble breathing.

Needless to say, your vet will decide on the frequency and dosages.

#3: Removing Allergens from the Environment

orange cat sitting

Removing allergens from the environment is a definite must when it comes to asthma treatment. This doesn’t mean that you need to flip your home upside down, but you might need to sacrifice a couple of habits for the sake of your furry buddy.

  • Smoking. We hope you are not a smoker yourself, but even if you are, make sure to keep the cat out of the smoking area. Cigarette smoke has a devastating effect on asthmatic lungs, so even a short exposure can lead to a full-blown asthma attack. If it is possible, smoke outside.

  • Fireplace smoke. This is also one of the well-known asthma triggers. Try to provide good ventilation in the room, or just treat yourself to an electric fireplace.

  • Change the cat litter. Some types of cat litter produce a lot of dust while the cat is doing her business. This dust goes directly into the lungs and might cause complications to those who are more sensitive. Just beware—changing the type suddenly can leave you with a very fussy feline, so make sure to add the new litter gradually before switching to it entirely. Extra tip: never use scented brands.

  • Dust mites, dust, and pollen. Yes, more cleaning will be involved. There is an important rule of thumb for every house with an asthmatic resident: keep unwashable things at a bare minimum. This means that items that can’t be shoved into a washing machine should frequently be vacuumed and aired. Wall to wall carpets are the worst possible items you can have. Old, heavy curtains should be washed regularly, and you should include your upholstery while vacuuming. An air purifier is also a very good idea if you can afford it. It is especially useful during the pollen season because this is something you can’t avoid, but at least you can keep the exposure to the minimum.

  • Mold, mildew, and humid air. Thorough cleaning is the only way to go about this one. This will be a bit of a drag, but is very beneficial for the both of you! If you are not sure how to get rid of mold and other microorganisms, you can consult a professional business that offers deep cleaning. Humidity is an enemy to everyone with asthma. If it is possible, try to keep the air dry and the rooms well aerated.

  • Scented candles, incense, and air fresheners. All of these can cause your cat’s condition to worsen. Avoid them at all costs. You can use essential oils instead, and some owners even say that pine oil is beneficial to asthmatic cats.

  • Chemicals. A lot of household chemicals are very harmful to the environment and health. Consider switching to one of the many green products or start making your own cleaning products. DIY can be tremendously fun and creative!

  • Reduce body weight. If your cat is overweight, it might make the condition even more serious. Obesity causes extra strain on the heart and the lungs, so make sure to reduce your sweetling’s body weight to a healthy maximum.

#4: Hypoallergenic Food

Hypoallergenic food for cats

Although this might not sound like it is directly related to asthma, it can help to reduce your cat’s overall immune response to allergens. You can consult your veterinarian about the brands that offer a truly good nutrition profile.

See Also: How to Make Homemade Cat Food

#5: Natural Remedies

slamon and and black cat

While medication has certainly proven to be effective, there are many side effects that can just make another condition pop up. For example, commercial asthma drugs are known to cause diabetes and pancreatitis. This is far from ideal, you would agree.

The whole idea behind the natural approach is to boost the immune system. In the last couple of years, many have testified about the effectiveness of some cat asthma natural remedies and praised their noninvasiveness. In this section, we are going to introduce you to a couple of home remedies for cat asthma which have proven valid and helpful.

  • Acupuncture. Medical acupuncture is said to be a successful way of bringing relief to asthma sufferers, as well as bronchitis. The downside to this method is that not all cats are patient and docile enough to undergo acupuncture.

  • Omega 3 fatty acids. A diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids is a known remedy for inflammatory conditions. Foods that are rich in them are very beneficial for improving the overall health condition of your cat and helping to boost the immune system. Fish is one of them. Salmon, sardines, and trout are all considered “oily” fish because they are rich in Omega 3. Another beneficial additive is freeze-dried krill, which you can mix into your cat’s regular food. Seaweed also has anti-inflammatory benefits, but you should consult your vet about the dosages because it is also super rich in iodine.

  • Grain free diet. Removing grain from the diet can significantly lower the immune response to common allergens. Wheat, corn, rice, and other grains are things you should avoid and see if it makes a difference.

  • Coconut oil. One of the best food additives for cat asthma is coconut oil. Cat asthma coconut oil has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties. And it is very tasty! It will help regenerate the lung tissue and bring some much needed fatty acids to the digestive system. Start by adding one-quarter of a teaspoon to your cat’s food twice a week. You can gradually increase to giving it daily, but do keep an eye on your cat’s weight. Coconut oil is very rich in calories, and as we already said, obesity is your enemy. It is very important to use only organic, unrefined, extra virgin oil to make sure all the nutrients have been preserved.

Life Expectancy for Cats with Asthma

siamese cat and vet

Generally speaking, for cats with asthma life expectancy is not reduced. If you make sure your cat gets regular treatment and check-ups, you shouldn’t be worried. Keeping your cat in a low-risk environment and maintaining good hygiene is an absolute necessity, of course.

Wrap Up

gray cat lying

Feline asthma is a chronic condition and there is no real cure for it. This is why it is very important to diagnose it early on and to react properly. It is not much of a hassle if you think about it—keeping the house clean and low maintenance can benefit you as well. If there is a need for medication, there are many options to choose from today.

We hope this article helped you find the best solution that will help you spend many more beautiful years with your furry friend. Let us know if you have any other solutions you think should be included in this article. Also, check out our piece on how to treat dry skin in cats in case this condition is afflicting your cat too.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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