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Feline asthma

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory process of the bronchi and bronchioles. It is a type of allergic process (hyper reactivity). The changes in the bronchi and bronchioles consist in a thickening of their walls, narrowing (bronchoconstriction) and collection of thick mucus in the lumen. Asthma is  part of the complex of diseases affecting the lower respiratory tract. The disease is controlled by medications that are taken orally or inhaled through a nebulizer.

One of the most common causes of feline asthma is the cigarette smoke!

What are the symptoms of asthma?

  • Cough (similar to vomiting, but it is not);
  • Wheezing when breathing;
  • Difficult, fast and abdominal breathing;
  • Appearance of foam when coughing;
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Anxious behavior;;
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia (lack of appetite);
  • Difficulty breathing after a game or stress situation;
  • Straining of the neck and attempting to breath.

Symptoms can range from rare to frequent, permanent or seasonal. The Siamese breed is highly susceptible, but can occur in all breeds and ages.

Cat manifesting part of the above symptoms, even sporadically, should be examined by a veterinarian and consider appropriate research. (Radiography, bronchoalveolar lavage with cytology, hematology, examination of faeces in the method of Berman, test for the disease Dirofilaria, etc.) for an accurate diagnosis. Every cough can be a cause for concern!

Categorization of symptoms and signs:

  1. No symptom- cat feels well, sleeps well, eats, plays with toys and is active;
  2. Small bout: Begins light and rarely manifested cough. There may be bending the head forward and straining the neck. It is possible to hear wheezing when breathing;
  3. Complete asthma attack: Breathing is very difficult. Very often appears abdominal breathing.
  4. Asthmatic crisis: panting, breathing with open mouth. The cat is very scared, anxious, and possible  aggression. The pulse is very rapid;
  5. Life-threatening crisis: In it the cat stretches its neck and becomes very anxious because it can not take a sufficient amount of air;
  6. Cardiopulmonary arrest and death.

Asthma attacks and all subsequent levels are emergency and cat must be immediately brought to the vet!

How to diagnose the  “feline asthma”?

There is no single direct test for feline asthma. To put this diagnosis, your veterinarian first has to make a detailed and accurate exam. The next step is to appoint the necessary tests to exclude other diseases with symptoms similar to those of asthma.

Differential diagnosis of feline asthma:

  • Cardiac pathologies;
  • Heartworms and other parasites lung;
  • Respiratory pathologies;
  • Pleural diseases;
  • Intestinal parasites;
  • Others.

How to reach the correct diagnosis?

  1. Exclude some diseases that occur in a similar manner;
  2. Cat shows or more of the classic symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, etc.);
  3. X-rays of the lungs show characteristic for the asthma changes (bronchial type pattern and hyperinflation lungs). There are more precise and accurate imaging diagnostic tests, such as CT or bronchoscopy;
  4. Make a BAL (bronchoalveolar lavage) – This is a test in which a small amount of fluid is introduced into the bronchi of the patient and then withdrawn. Stained microscope slide is prepared and a detailed analysis of the cells that are observed. In asthma, there is typically an increase in certain types of white blood cells (eosinophils);
  5. Symptoms improve/ disappear when treated with glucocorticoids and bronchodilators.

How to treat asthma?

Treatment of asthma can be divided into three main categories:

  1. Emergency therapy of your veterinarian;
  2. Emergency therapy at home (inhaler);
  3. Permanent therapy at home.

Treatment of asthma includes mainly:

  • Bronchodilators – these are drugs that expand the airways in asthma attack.
  • Inflammatory drugs – usually corticosteroids, which reduce the constant inflammation of tissues, which if not controlled, causes symptoms of asthma.

These drugs can be taken orally, via injection or inhalation. There are special aerochambers, which are used for inhalation of drugs.

In acute or severe attacks necessary actions that your veterinarian should take may include (but are not limited to):

  • Oxygen in an oxygen cage or through a nasal catheter;
  • Opioids;
  • Inhalation of Solbutamol (Ventolin);
  • Corticosteroids;
  • Others.

In conclusion we can say that asthma can be life threatening and long-term disease, but with appropriate and timely care and treatment, it can be controlled and your cat can lead a normal and full life.

Cat Maci is a patient in veterinary clinic “Sofia”. It is diagnosed with “cat asthma”. Once started treatment Maci already feels better and went back to quality and relaxed lifestyle.