Asthma is one of the most common respiratory diseases of the cat. It is most commonly developed by cats between the ages of two and eight, and characterized by hyperactivity, inflammation, and obstruction of the airways
Asthma is one of the most common respiratory diseases of the cat. Feline asthma is a disease that is described as involving hyperactivity, inflammation, and airflow obstruction of the airways. The symptoms will generally spontaneously reverse or respond to treatment. In other words, one of the characteristics of feline asthma is that it comes and goes and is treatable.
Cats between the ages of two and eight years are the most likely to develop asthma. Female cats are twice as likely to get it as male cats. Siamese and Himalayan breeds appear to get asthma more frequently than other breeds. It can occur any time of the year and there does not appear to be an increased incidence in any one season, although individual cats may have more severe symptoms at certain times of the year. It is estimated that less than one percent of all cats will ever develop feline asthma.
The most common symptom is coughing. The symptoms vary widely in severity and range from an occasional episode of coughing and wheezing to chronic and persistent coughing and wheezing. Cats often stand with their head stretched forward while they cough. Sometimes it may appear that they are coughing something up. In more severe attacks, the cat may suffer from acute respiratory distress and open mouth breathing. In cases where the coughing is severe, the cat may vomit after coughing spells.
There appears to be several different factors that may be involved in the development of feline asthma. Studies are currently being done to help further pinpoint the exact cause. It is felt that cats with feline asthma have a chronic inflammation of the tissues that line the bronchial walls in the lungs. The tissues may hyper-react to certain allergens, viruses, or infections, causing inflammation and increased mucous secretion. The increase in inflammation and secretions causes a decrease in the size of the airways and the symptoms worsen as a result. Allergens and other triggers that have been linked to an increase in symptoms of asthmatic cats include smoke, insect and hair sprays, dust (flea powders, litter, carpet fresheners), feather pillows, perfumes, and Christmas trees. Other studies have shown that ragweed pollen may cause attacks. In addition, some cats may have asthma attacks in response to food allergies, particularly fish-based foods that may be higher in natural histamines. Bacterial infections, mycoplasma, and viruses may also contribute to attacks of feline asthma.
The goal of treatment is to control secretions, improve airflow, and reduce the symptoms. Cats with mild disease and only occasional symptoms are often treated with weight reduction, avoidance of allergens, and reducing the exposure to substances that may exacerbate the condition (such as cigarette smoke).