Signs & Symptoms of Asthma in Cats

While you may not think about asthma when it comes to your kitty's breathing, about 1-5% of cats experience this condition. Here, our vets in Riverbank share the common causes, symptoms, and treatment options for asthma in cats.

Asthma in Cats

You are probably wondering how you can tell if your cat is suffering from asthma. Usually, the first signs that your cat is having an asthma attack are wheezing and coughing. Another common sign that you might spot, is your kitty hunching close to the ground with their neck extended forward as if trying to expel a hairball.

If your cat is experiencing a full-blown asthma attack you will likely be able to see your cat's sides going in and out as they work hard to breathe, and your cat might be drooling or coughing up mucus. Needless to say, all of this can cause your cat to become extremely frightened.

If you see your cat having difficulties breathing, call your vet immediately for assistance or contact the emergency animal hospital that is closest to you for assistance.

Feline Asthma Signs & Symptoms

Some other signs that your cat may be having an asthma attack include:

  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Persistent coughing or gagging
  • Difficulty breathing, or increased effort to breathe
  • Blue lips and gums
  • Frothy mucus while coughing
  • Overall weakness
  • Increased swallowing
  • Gurgling sounds from the throat
  • Body hunched close to the ground with neck extended forward

Cats that suffer from asthma may also breathe rapidly when sleeping. While at rest or sleeping, your cat should normally take between 24 - 30 breaths per minute. If you notice that your cat is taking more than 40 breaths per minute contact your vet for assistance, or call your nearest animal emergency hospital.

However, it's important to note that snoring or breathing loudly when resting doesn't necessarily mean that your cat is having an asthma attack. Nonetheless, if you are concerned about your cat's breathing it is always best to contact your vet for further advice.

The Causes of Cat Asthma

The most common trigger for asthma in cats is inhaling an allergen, however, it could also be brought on by an increase in their stress levels. Some allergens that could make cats have asthma attacks include: 

  • Mould
  • Grass
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Dust mites
  • Household cleaning products
  • Pollen
  • Cat litter dust
  • Some foods

Pet parents should also be aware that there are a number of underlying conditions that could contribute to the severity of a cat's asthma attack including a genetic predisposition, a pre-existing heart condition, pneumonia, obesity, or even parasites.

Treating Asthma in Cats

After your cat has been diagnosed with asthma, your vet will be able to prescribe the best possible treatment which could include corticosteroid medications to reduce inflammation in your cat's lungs, and possibly a bronchodilator to help dilate your cat's airways to help them to breathe easier. Both of these drugs could be provided as either an injectable, oral medication, or inhaler. Depending on your cat's overall health, your vet may prescribe a corticosteroid medication alone as a treatment for your cat's asthma, however, bronchodilators are not typically used on their own since they do not treat the inflammation that causes the asthma attacks.

The Prognosis for Cats with Asthma

What is the life expectancy of a cat with asthma? Asthma in cats is an incurable and often progressive condition, which means that if your cat has asthma they are likely to experience periodic flare-ups that can vary in intensity from mild to life-threatening.

That said, asthma is manageable in cats with a little extra care from pet parents and appropriate medications. By monitoring your cat's respiratory effort, watching for coughing, and intervening with medication when needed, you can help your asthmatic cat live happily for years.

Feeding Cats with Asthma

If your cat has asthma you are probably wondering what you should feed them, especially if you believe the food you are currently feeding them is causing their asthma or making the symptoms worse. Because obesity could put your cat at a higher risk of having an asthma attack, you may be able to help lessen their symptoms, or the severity of their asthma attacks by feeding your kitty high-quality food and helping them maintain a healthy weight. Your vet will be able to recommend the right diet for your cat and calculate the number of calories you should be feeding your furry friend every day.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat is exhibiting signs of asthma contact our Riverbank vets as quickly as possible. Our caring vets are here to help.