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Feline Asthma (Feline Allergic Bronchitis)

What is feline asthma?

Feline asthma is an inflammatory disease of the lower respiratory system that results in constricted airways and limited airflow. The disease occurs because of hypersensitivity to various allergens that are breathed in. Asthma is not contagious to other cats. Like human asthma, feline asthma is not curable, but is generally manageable.


How does a cat get asthma?

Affected cats are sensitive to allergens. Possible allergens include dust, house dust mites, cigarette smoke, molds, mildew, trees, cat litter, and household chemicals. Depending on the allergens, the asthma may be seen year-round or have a seasonal pattern. 


What are the symptoms of asthma in cats?

Affected cats have the following symptoms: cough, wheeze, and laboured breathing. Often the cat is open mouth breathing. Cats do not pant like dogs do—open mouth breathing is abnormal in cats and a reason to be concerned. Cats with asthma also have rapid shallow breathing as they can’t get air into their constricted airways. Some cats develop a severe life-threatening form of asthma called status asthmaticus.


Is there a test for feline asthma?

After a physical exam, and if the cat is not in too much distress, the most common test is a chest x-ray. A pharyngeal swab or bronchoalveolar lavage may be performed to examine cellular change and check for bacteria or viruses. Tests are important to rule out other causes of respiratory distress and coughing in cats.


Do we see feline asthma in Alberta?

Yes, feline asthma is diagnosed around the world. Your veterinarian will prescribe medications to control symptoms. Although there is no cure for asthma, symptoms can be controlled by controlling the environment and medication as needed. Treatment may involve the use of aerosol medication, and there are several inhalers adapted for cats i.e. AeroKat and Feline Breathe Easy.


How do I protect my cat from developing asthma or the asthma worsening?

  • Do not allow cigarette smoke in the cat’s environment
  • Use dustless cat litter
  • Consider non-topical insecticides; avoid flea collars and sprays
  • Regularly replace air filters at home