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Bronchial Asthma in Cats

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Asthma is a lung condition associated with airway obstruction caused by sudden narrowing of the bronchial tubes. In cats, asthma may also be known as "Feline Allergic Asthma", "Feline Allergic Bronchitis", "Feline Lower Airway Disease" or Feline Eosinophilic Bronchitis".

Typical symptoms include difficulty breathing (dyspnea), coughing and/or wheezing. These symptoms are caused by the spasmodic constriction of the bronchial tubes and increased production of secretions from the bronchial tree.

The cause of asthma in cats is not yet completely understood. Some type of hypersensitivity response is generally blamed; however, an inciting cause is often not identified. The symptoms can range from infrequent to recurrent to constant. In some cats the disease appears to be seasonal, while in others there is recurring and eventually relentless progression of respiratory signs. Some cats may be asymptomatic between bouts of acute airway obstruction, whereas severely affected cats may have a persistent daily cough.

In some cats the symptoms begin to resemble chronic bronchitis as might be seen with a human smoker's cough. Asthma can be very serious and some cats die from respiratory failure unless they are given prompt treatment. Even with treatment, the disease can progress.

Cats of all ages can be affected. The Siamese breed and obese cats may have an increased incidence of disease. Affected cats are often young to middle-aged at time of diagnosis.

Asthma may be triggered by stress or by some change in the environment such as move to new house or opening of an attic or basement, a new brand of kitty litter or a new smoker in the house.

What to Watch For

Some cats may have an acute onset of signs while other cats may have signs that come and go. Other cats will have persistent chronic signs. Symptoms may include:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Noisy breathing (such as wheezing)
  • Abnormal posture – your cat may sit with head extended and elbows back
  • Inactivity
  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Poor condition

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