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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
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
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
"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
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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