One moment, your kitty is relaxing peacefully on the couch without a care in the world. A few seconds later, she is coughing, wheezing and struggling to get a breath of air. Asthma attacks can strike suddenly with potentially fatal consequences if left untreated. Recognizing the symptoms of asthma and getting your cat to the vet immediately may help save her life in the event of a severe attack.
Feline Asthma Bronchitis Complex
Asthma in cats is also known as feline asthma bronchitis complex, which describes a variety of respiratory conditions that produce similar symptoms. There are many possible triggers for the disease, including parasites, injury and allergies. Feline asthma bronchitis complex is characterized by the narrowing of the tube-like bronchi, which connect the lungs and throat. This condition makes it difficult for the cat to exhale, causing expired air to build up inside the lungs. It's estimated around 1 percent of domestic felines in the United States suffer from asthma, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Asthma Attack Symptoms
Changes to your cat's breathing pattern is the first sign of an imminent attack. The rate of inhales and exhales increases over several minutes as the available oxygen supply is depleted. This symptom may be followed by attempts to breath through the mouth. Mouth breathing can indicate a serious asthma attack, so you should seek medical attention immediately. Pay close attention to your cat's underside. Her belly and chest will rise and fall abnormally as she tries to force air in and out of her lungs. Coughing is also a common indicator of an asthma attack. It's common for affected cats to squat down and extend their neck as they cough.
There is no cure for asthma, but the disease usually can be treated successfully with help from a veterinarian. The first step is to diagnose the condition with X-rays of the chest cavity or liquid samples from the lungs. Treatment usually begins with steroids to suppress the immune system and lower the amount of mucus clogging up the cat's respiratory system, according to All Feline Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics in case of infection and medicine to encourage the airways to open up. He also may request information to try to identify the trigger agent.
Preventing Asthma Attacks
If your veterinarian was able to identify the exact cause of your cat's asthma, avoiding that substance can prevent future attacks. Whether you know the source of the attacks or not, you should avoid smoking, spraying aerosols or using air fresheners near your kitty. Change the filters on your heating, ventilating and air conditioning system as recommended by the manufacturer and put the cat in another room when you vacuum or clean. Keep her away from attics, garages and other dirty areas with a high concentration of irritants. Be sure to notify caretakers and family members of your cat's condition, so they can seek medical help in the event of an attack in your absence.
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