Asthma In Cats
6 May, 2014

It’s hard to imagine that our beloved felines could have Asthma, but unfortunately is it not uncommon.  Just like human asthma, feline asthma is an allergen-caused upper respiratory condition that causes distressed breathing. It is also called feline bronchial disease. Bronchial spasms cause the individual bronchi to constrict or tighten and the swelling of the surrounding tissues puts the cat into a full-blown asthma attack.

What allergens are more likely to trigger an asthma attack in cats?

Smoke, Mildew or Mold, Household Chemicals, Dust, Pollens, Some types of cat Litter, Cold, and even moist air.

How to recognize an asthma attack in your cats

Early symptoms of asthma are sometimes difficult to detect. You may hear a faint wheezing, which is more audible after vigorous exercise. Your cat may seem to tire easily. Labored breathing may proceed a serious attack.

A full-blown asthma attack may at first resemble a cat trying to cough up a hairball, or possibly choking on food. However, the body posture is somewhat different. With asthma, the cat’s body will be hunched lower to the ground and his neck and head will be extended out and down in an effort to clear the airway of mucous. The gagging may also be accompanied by a typical coughing sound, and possibly sneezing. Your cat will sometimes exhume foamy mucous.

These serious attacks may not happen frequently, which makes it easy to write them off as merely a hairball. Actually, they can be life-threatening, and a cat in a full-blown attack should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Even a cat showing one or two of the early symptoms should be examined. Once diagnosed, there are things you can do to help your cat during one of these attacks.

How Your Vet will determine if your cat has Asthma

Blood Tests

These are the quickest and easiest, and will detect infection, which often accompanies asthmatic bronchitis. They will detect macrophages, neutrophils, and mast cells, which are types of blood cells that help constitute the immune system. And blood work is also useful in eliminating other diseases with the same symptoms.

Chest X-ray

The chest x-ray is done in two stages: Lateral, with the cat on his side, and then lying on his back with limbs extended out of the way. Although many cats may accede to these positions, others may need a small dose of anesthesia to perform an x-ray. Otherwise, it is harmless and painless.

Treatment for Asthma

Daily Steroid Options

Conventional veterinary practice is the administration of prednisone, in pill form, and spaced out three times a day. It can also be administered with transdermal gel, or through injection. All three of these methods have their drawbacks.

The newest form of administration is with a metered dose inhaler, often Flovent, given through a special mask. The Aerokat Feline Aerosol Chamber was developed for this purpose, and is highly regarded by veterinarians who are familiar with it. The advantage of aerosol steroid administration over pills and injections, is that it goes directly into the lungs, rather than throughout the body, thus there are fewer side effects. Most cats readily accept the inhaler with little associated anxiety or nervousness, and administration of the medication takes only a few seconds.


The most commonly-prescribed bronchodialator is albuterol, which can also be administered through a feline aerosol container, such as Aerokat. Albuterol is only given as needed, when an asthmatic cat starts coughing and wheezing, and should not be used routinely. Excessive use can actually cause bronchial spasms. If your cat is having more severe attacks than you consider normal, he should be taken back to your veterinarian for reevaluation and possible adjustment of his medications.

For tips on how to best use an inhaler, the VCA Hospitals offers some good step by step instructions:

Click here to see the step by step instructions!

As with most feline health issues, the best way to manage your kitty’s asthma is to know your cat well, keep your eyes and ears open for changes in his breathing, give him his medications as prescribed, and get veterinary care when needed.

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