What you need to know now, to to be on the lookout for asthma in your pets!
Have you ever heard your cat or dog coughing in the next room and you rush over,
thinking you’re going to have to clean up vomit, but when you get there…you see a
clean floor? If this happens frequently, it’s possible your fur baby could have
asthma. That’s right, asthma is not only limited to humans!
While both dogs and cats can suffer from this respiratory disease, it is much more
prevalent in cats than in dogs, with veterinary epidemiologists estimating that
approximately 1% of all cats currently living in American homes are affected. Now
1% may not seem like a lot, but when you consider that there are an estimated 80
million pet cats in America…1% turns out to be around 800,000 cats!
WHAT IS FELINE/CANINE ASTHMA?
This is one area in which humans and their four-legged companions are just alike:
asthma affects us both the same way. When the airways in your dog or cat become
constricted, inflamed and swollen, this is asthma, or respiratory bronchitis. There is
often an extra buildup of mucus that collects in the airways as well, forcing the dog
or cat to cough it up in order to breathe properly. This condition is more prevalent
in dogs and cats with “pushed in” or flat faces like Persian cats or Pug dogs. But it
can affect any breed.
SO WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms in cats and dogs are similar to human ones.
- Shallow, labored breathing
- Runny nose and frequent sneezing
- Gagging on mucous
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
Sometimes asthma in cats can look like a simple case of being unable to cough up
a hairball. So be sure to observe carefully and see if there is any wheezing or
discharge from the nose or mouth.
Here is a video of my own cat, Ranger, having an asthma attack:
MY FUR BABY MIGHT HAVE ASTHMA – NOW WHAT?
First and foremost: Take your pet to the veterinarian to be diagnosed. The
symptoms above can be indicators of other diseases and conditions as well, not just
asthma. You need to be sure of what you’re dealing with first, and that is where
your local vet comes in.
The good news is, most asthma (other than extremely mild asthma) can be seen on
a simple chest x-ray! You and your vet can actually see the swollen tissues in the
lungs. So diagnosing it is easier than you might think.
If it is asthma, here are some things you and your vet can do to help your beloved pet: Know the triggers of asthma and do your best to eliminate them from your home! They’re easy to remember because they’re the same as humans. The most common
- Dust and dander (including cat litter dust)
- Smoke from cigarettes or fireplace
- Molds and pollens
- Strong scents like perfume or cleaning products or even your scented plug-
If your cat or dog needs it, there are medicinal treatments as well. They include
systemic steroids and antihistamines to reduce inflammation, and also inhalers to
address the problem in the lungs and airways directly. Yes, inhalers. In fact, these
inhalers are the same medications that humans use: a bronchodilator like albuterol
or an inhaled steroid like fluticasone propionate (Flovent). But be careful! The
dosage for these medications needs to be prescribed by a veterinarian! So don’t just
go grabbing your own inhaler off the bathroom shelf. Getting the right dosage for
your pet’s body is extremely important.
I know what you’re thinking, “How on earth do I get my cat to use an inhaler?” It’s
actually not that difficult, using something called the AeroKat, an aerosol chamber
designed specifically for asthmatic kitties to help them inhale the medications they
need. Here is a video of my cat, Ranger, taking his medication using the AeroKat:
Now, not all cats are going to like having something put over their face, so before
even using the medication, it’s recommended that you get your kitty used to the
AeroKat. Start by placing it over his/her nose and mouth several times a day for
just a few seconds. Make sure to give them lots of love and/or treats when they
tolerate it well! Then gradually increase the length of time until they can take
several breaths with it over their nose and mouth. Veterinarians recommend the cat
take around seven breaths to get the full dosage.
For all you canine-lovers out there, don’t worry! There is a version for them too,
called the AeroDawg. Here are the links with information on how to use:
There are other versions of these aerosol chambers as well, if the
AeroKat/AeroDawg is a little out of your price range. Just make sure to do your
research and read the reviews to make the decision you think is best for your pet!
For more information regarding asthma in cats and dogs, you can visit these sites:
Author - Sarah Mann Title photo credit: Credit: "At the Vet's 5", © 2014 Anne Worner, Flickr | CC-BY-SA