What You Need to Know About Asthma in Cats

Cat With Asthma
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Lance is a 5-year-old, neutered male cat who suffers from chronic coughing.

Over the course of several months, his veterinarian prescribed antibiotics and antihistamines, but his cough did not subside. When Lance began wheezing, his veterinarian performed a series of diagnostic tests, and he was diagnosed with feline asthma.      

Asthma is a common feline condition, so veterinarians see cats like Lance every week.  

Here's a look at why it happens — and what veterinarians will do to combat the problem.  

What Is Feline Asthma? 

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes the narrowing of the airways in a cat’s lungs.

Inhaled particles known as allergens are believed to be the cause of feline asthma. Once cats have been exposed and sensitized to a particular allergen, they develop the following classic features of asthma:

  • Airway inflammation
  • Over-secretion of mucus
  • Airway narrowing, known as bronchoconstriction

What Are the Symptoms of Feline Asthma?

The common symptoms of asthma include:

  • Coughing
  • Gagging or “hacking”
  • Wheezing
  • Lethargy and exercise intolerance
  • Difficulty breathing, such as shortness of breath or open mouth breathing

Cat owners often confuse asthma-induced coughing with vomiting or "hacking up” a hairball. Felines who have asthma will forcefully cough, and this is often followed by retching or gagging. In some cases, the asthmatic coughing may even produce foam, saliva or regurgitated food. 

How Do Veterinarians Diagnose Asthma in Cats?

Veterinarians will use a combination of medical history, bloodwork, fecal tests, chest X-rays and an airway sampling to confirm a diagnosis of feline asthma.

It's also important to look at other potential underlying medical conditions — such as heartworm disease — that can affect the lungs and cause similar signs in cats. 

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