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10.11.12

Managing Your Cat’s Asthma

As the merciless Texas heat finally begins to subside and temperatures start to lower, many of those that suffer from asthma or otherrespiratory problems will begin their yearly ritual of carrying inhalers and scarfs with them to help their lungs compensate for the cold air. Some may not know that cats are also susceptible to these respiratory problems in many of the same ways as people.

In humans, asthma during the winter is often triggered by the effects of cold air on the respiratory system, but other causes such as the declining quality of indoor air during the season and the increase of indoor allergens also plays a factor.

Asthma in cats can be triggered from many potential sources such as dust, cigarette smoke, andhousehold sprays.

"Many cats also suffer from seasonal allergies from molds, plants and mites" said Melanie Bolling, a clinical instructor on the primary care rotation at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

While it may be difficult to find what exactly initiates a cat's asthma, it is worth discovering as the cat's health can improve drastically by ensuring it isn't exposed to the respiratory irritant.

Signs of a cat suffering from asthma include noticeable exercise intolerance, changes in routine or behavior, open mouth breathing, intermittent coughing, or decreased appetite, Bolling said.

In extreme cases, wheezing and airway constriction can also occur. This constriction can ultimately be life threatening as the cat begins to pant heavily for air. If you experience your cat open-mouth breathing or coughing regularly, you should consult a veterinarian immediately.

"Many times, owners tell me that their cat is just quiet and not himself.  Cats are very secretive creatures, and they are very good at hiding their illnesses from us," Bolling said. "Unfortunately, this often means that owners don't know something is wrong until the cat is severely ill."

In most cases diagnostic tests are required to identify a cat with asthma, as many of asthma's symptoms can mimic other problems such as heartworms or pneumonia. Common tests used to diagnose asthma in cats are chest radiographs and trans-tracheal or bronchial wash, which takes samples of the cat's airways.

One of the most effective measures of keeping a cat from experiencing reoccurring asthma is through preventative measures to make sure it's respiratory tract does not become agitated. These measures include keeping cats away from all forms of smoke,freshly cut grass, moldy places such as basements or attics, and places that are exceptionally dusty. Also using humidifiers and air purifiers can help ensure that everyone in the home, including your cat, is breathing air free of allergens and irritants.

"Try using HEPA filters and changing the filters on the heaters/air conditioning vents often," Bolling said. "Cats with asthma should not live in homes where they are exposed to cigarette smoke."

While not curable, asthma in pets can easily be treated with a combination of medications approved by your veterinarian. These medications may be necessary to help lower the frequency and severity of a cat's asthma. In severe cases oxygen therapy, which provides supplemental oxygen to a feline's airway system by a mask worn on the cat's face, may be necessary.

Pets with asthma can live a long and happy life with the proper medication and care.

 

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Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at /pet-talk .

Suggestions for future topics may be directed to cvmtoday@cvm.tamu.edu .



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