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Can cats have asthma?

While we may not think our feline friends can suffer from asthma, about 1 – 5% of cats experience this condition. In this blog post, our Voorhees vets share common symptoms and causes of asthma in cats, along with treatment options.


Asthma in Cats

Asthma is a disease that affects the lower airways of the lungs. Most researchers and clinicians agree that feline asthma is caused by an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens, particles that stimulate a cat's immune system. 

When a cat susceptible to this disease first inhales in allergen, their system produces specific antibodies to target the antigen. When the cat is exposed to the same antigen again, these antibodies recognize the allergen, which triggers a series of events that bring many types of immune cells to the airways. 

These immune cells then stimulate the production of substances that promote inflammation, a condition that leads to swelling, irritation, and reactive constriction of the airways. As a result, airway diameter may decrease and mucus can accumulate within the passages. All of these processes result in a limited movement of air through the airways and cause the cat to experience breathing challenges. 

How will I know if my cat suffers from asthma?

Coughing and wheezing are typically the first signs that your cat is having an asthma attack. Your cat may also hunch close to the ground with its neck extended forward, as if trying to expel a hairball. 

If your cat is having a severe asthma attack, you'll most likely notice his or her sides moving in and out as they work harder to breathe. Your kitty may also drool or cough up mucus. As you might imagine, all of these symptoms can make your cat very nervous. 

If you see your cat having difficulty breathing, contact your veterinarian to arrange emergency care, or head the nearest emergency animal hospital right away. 

Signs & Symptoms of Feline Asthma 

Other signs that your cat may be suffering an asthma attack include:

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

Asthmatic cats may also breathe rapidly while they sleep. Your cat should breathe at a rate of 24 to 30 breaths per minute while resting or sleeping. If you notice your cat breathing more than 40 times per minute, contact your veterinarian or a local animal emergency hospital. 

However, just because your cat snores or breathes loudly, this does not mean they have asthma. Nonetheless, if you are concerned about your cat's breathing, always consult your veterinarian

Causes of Asthma in Cats

So, what causes an asthma attack in cats? Asthma is most commonly caused by the cat inhaling an allergen, but it can also be caused by increased stress. Among the allergens that can cause asthma attacks in cats are:

  • Dust mites
  • Grass
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Mould
  • Pollen
  • Some foods
  • Cat litter dust
  • Household cleaning products

Pet parents should be aware that underlying conditions such as a genetic predisposition, a pre-existing heart condition, pneumonia, obesity, or even parasites can all exacerbate a cat's asthma attack.

Asthma Treatment for Cats

Is there anything I can give my cat for asthma? What is in cat asthma medication? Once your veterinarian diagnoses your cat with asthma, treatment may include corticosteroid medications to reduce inflammation in your cat's lungs, as well as a bronchodilator to dilate your cat's airways and allow them to breathe more easily.

Your veterinarian can prescribe both of these drugs in the form of an injectable, oral medication, or inhaler. Depending on your cat's overall health, the vet may prescribe a corticosteroid medication alone as a treatment for asthma; however, bronchodilators are rarely used on their own because they do not treat the inflammation that causes asthma attacks.

The Prognosis for Cats with Asthma

What is an asthmatic cat's life expectancy? Asthma in cats is an incurable and often progressive condition, so if your cat has asthma, he or she will most likely experience periodic flare-ups ranging in severity from mild to life-threatening.

Having said that, asthma in cats is manageable with a little extra care from pet parents and the right medications. You can help your asthmatic cat live a happy life for years by monitoring his or her respiratory effort, keeping an eye out for coughing, and intervening with medication when necessary.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat showing signs of asthma? Contact our vets at Voorhees Veterinary Center to schedule an examination for your feline companion.

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Voorhees Veterinary Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of New Jersey's companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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