in cats is also called allergic airway disease or allergic bronchial
The two main changes that occur are:
(1) Inflammation of the airway tubes (bronchi); and
(2) Constriction (narrowing) of these airways.
The main signs cats show can be coughing or wheezing, loud breathing
and in severe cases, difficulty breathing. These signs can be caused
by other conditions such as heart disease, chest infections and
even cancers so it’s important for a proper diagnosis to make
sure of the cause.
Testing for asthma in people usually focuses on blowing into a
‘peak flow meter’ which checks mostly the degree of
narrowing of the airways. Of course, this isn’t practical
for cats so we reach a diagnosis by confirming there is airway inflammation
(with radiographs) and finding out what that inflammation is due
to with a bronchial wash.
Asthma is a condition that we manage, as
opposed to fully treat, so cats usually need lifelong medicating
to some degree.
The treatments are to:
(1) Reduce the inflammation (with cortisone type medications); and
(2) Open up the airways (bronchodilators).
Treatments can be given orally but it is better to aim the treatments
at the airways specifically with inhaled medications. We use puffers
just like those used in people! Cats can’t be taught to take
a deep breath from the puffer as people can, so we use a ‘breathing
chamber’ identical to those used for asthmatic children (who
also can’t take deep breaths). Many cats can have a secondary
infection to their asthma and will usually need an initial course
of antibiotics, also.
Just like people, signs can be worsened by exposure to pollens
or fumes such as cigarette smoke, incense or powdered carpet cleaners.
With regular treatment, many cats can lead normal lives but some
occasionally have flare-ups at certain times of the year.
IMPORTANT: If your cat is showing any signs
of breathing difficulty, seek IMMEDIATE veterinary attention.
By Randolph Baral BVSc MACVSc
Paddington Cat Hospital - www.catvet.com.au