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Asthma in Cats - Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Often caused by an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens, asthma affects between 1-5% of cats. Our Bartlett vets share the symptoms of asthma in cats and how this condition is treated. 

How do you know if your cat has asthma?

Coughing and wheezing are often the first signs that your cat is struggling to breathe and may be having an asthma attack. You may also notice that your cat is holding their neck out straight with their head close to the ground. During a full-blown asthma attack you will be able to see your cat's sides go in and out as they work hard to breathe, and they may drool or cough up mucus. Needless to say, all of this can cause your cat to become very frightened and stressed. If you notice that your cat is having difficulties breathing, it's time to call your vet!

Other common signs of an asthma attack in cats are:

  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing, or increased effort to breathe
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Persistent coughing or gagging
  • Increased swallowing
  • Frothy mucus while coughing
  • Overall weakness
  • Body hunched close to the ground with neck extended forward
  • Gurgling sounds from throat
  • Blue lips and gums

Another sign to watch for is rapid breathing while your cat is sleeping. Normally, when resting or sleeping your cat will take between 24 - 30 breaths per minute. If you notice that your cat is taking anything more than 40 breaths per minute call your vet immediately for advice, or contact your closest animal emergency hospital.

If your cat is snoring or breathing loudly when resting it doesn't necessarily mean that they are suffering from asthma, however if you are concerned about your cat's breathing it is always best to err on the side of caution and contact your vet for further advice.

What triggers asthma in cats?

An Asthma attack is often brought on by an allergy or stress. Some of the most common allergens to trigger asthma attacks in cats include:

  • Dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Grass
  • Mould
  • Home cleaning products
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Cat litter dust
  • Pet food

A number of underlying conditions may also contribute to the severity of your cat's asthma attack including obesity, parasites, a pre-existing heart condition, genetic predisposition, or pneumonia. 

What can I give my cat for asthma?

If your cat is diagnosed with asthma, treatment may include corticosteroids prescribed by your vet to reduce inflammation in your cat's lungs, and possibly a bronchodilator to help dilate your cat's airways. These drugs may be prescribed in the form of an injectable, oral medication or as an inhaler. While your vet may prescribe a corticosteroid medication only as treatment for your cat's asthma, bronchodilators are not generally used on their own since they do not treat the inflammation that causes the asthma attacks.

What is the life expectancy of a cat with asthma?

Unfortunately, if your cat has asthma it won't go away. Asthma in cats is an incurable and often progressive condition, meaning that cats with asthma are likely to experience occasional flare-ups that can vary in intensity from mild to life-threatening.

That said, the condition is manageable with the right care and medication. By carefully monitoring your cats respiratory effort, watching for coughing, and intervening with medication when needed, you can help your asthmatic cats live a happy life for years to come.

What should I feed my cat with asthma?

There is a lot of advice out there as to what you should feed your cat to help reduce the number and severity of their asthma attacks. If you're concerned that your cat's food may be triggering asthma attacks, consult your vet. Helping your cat maintain a healthy weight, while ensuring that all of their nutritional needs are met, are essential factors in helping your cat stay healthy. Your vet will be able to recommend the right diet for your pet, based on your cat's medical history and overall state of health.

If your cat is showing any of the signs or symptoms of an asthma attack listed above call our Bartlett vets at Hillcrest Animal Hospital. Our compassionate vets are here to help your pet feel better. 

Asthma in Cats - Signs, Symptoms and Treatments, Memphis Vet

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