Thank you for visiting Thomas Labs
Asthma in Cats: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Asthma in Cats: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Asthma in cats, also known as feline asthma, is a disease of the lower airways that causes chronic inflammation of the airways. It is often associated with, and sometimes even used interchangeably with, chronic bronchitis in cats.

According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, feline asthma affects between 1 and 5% of cats. When a cat experiences an asthma attack, the small passageways of the cat’s lungs thicken and constrict, which makes it difficult to breathe and causes respiratory distress. This often results in coughing, wheezing, and the accumulation of mucus in the cat's airways.

What Cats Are Predisposed to Asthma?

On average, cats generally develop asthma between 2 to 8 years of age. Siamese and Himalayan cats tend to get asthma more frequently than other breeds. Overweight cats are at a greater risk of developing chronic respiratory diseases.

What Causes Feline Asthma?

When it comes to the cause of feline asthma, there is some debate on the matter. But there seems to be a consensus that it is caused by a substance that triggers inflammation in the airways. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says, “Most clinicians and researchers agree that feline asthma is caused by an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens, particles that stimulate a cat’s immune system.”

Some cats are sensitive to certain stimuli, and being exposed to those agents can cause an inflammatory response that triggers irritation and reactive constriction of the airways. This can result in inflammation, airways decreasing, and the accumulation of mucus within airway passages, which can make it difficult to breathe.

In most cases, a single underlying cause cannot be identified. Different factors that can trigger inflammation and contribute to the severity of asthma include:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfume
  • Hairspray
  • Dust from cat litters
  • Carpet cleaners
  • Pollens
  • Air fresheners
  • Mold or mildew
  • Scented laundry detergent
  • Certain foods
  • Extreme stress

Symptoms of Asthma in Cats

Cats suffering from asthma may show a variety of different signs, including

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Chronic coughing (often in a squatting or hunched position with the neck extended forward)
  • Gagging
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Weakness
  • Blue lips and gums due to lack of oxygen 

During a minor asthma attack, cats often start coughing and struggle to stop. While they cough and wheeze, they typically extend their neck out straight and keep their head close to the ground.

If your cat is having a full-blown asthma attack, breathing will become very difficult. You will typically see your cat’s sides moving in and out as they try to breathe.

Diagnosing Asthma in Cats

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single test that can diagnose asthma in cats. Because there are other conditions with similar symptoms, it’s essential to rule out other diseases that cause respiratory symptoms when diagnosing asthma in cats. These diseases include heartworm disease, respiratory parasites, heart failure, pneumonia, and cancer.

If your veterinarian suspects your cat has asthma, he or she will look at your cat’s medical history and may perform a variety of different diagnostic tests to rule out other health issues:

  • Blood tests
  • Heartworm test
  • Chest X-ray
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Bronchoalveolar lavage

Treating Feline Asthma 

Although there is no cure, medications can help manage asthma symptoms. There are a variety of different steps that your veterinarian may suggest when treating asthma in your cat.

Corticosteroids and Bronchodilators: Treating asthma in cats usually involves corticosteroids, which help reduce inflammation in the lungs. Sometimes, treatment also includes bronchodilators, which help dilate and open up the airways. Both of these medications are available in oral, inhaled, and injectable forms.

Avoiding Triggers: Another aspect of treatment includes avoiding the triggers that lead to airway inflammation. This can help reduce the likelihood that your cat will suffer from an asthma attack. Avoiding triggers requires pet owners to pay close attention to environmental factors. It may include using air purifiers or humidifiers within your home or trying different brands of cat litter. You should avoid smoking around your cat, as well as avoid using air fresheners, perfumes, or aerosol products.

Preventing Obesity: VCA Animal Hospitals points out that being overweight causes systemic inflammation that can contribute to feline asthma, plus it increases the workload on the heart and lungs. For these reasons, managing your pet’s weight to avoid obesity is key.

Respiratory Remedy

Thomas Labs understands that respiratory issues are common in pets. That’s why Thomas Pet developed Respiratory Remedy, an herbal supplement that helps maintain healthy respiratory function and immune support in cats. It is formulated with a proprietary blend of herbs to support the respiratory system during times of occasional stress. These immune-supporting herbs work together to promote healthy lung function in cats.

Asthma in cats tends to get progressively worse over time with occasional flare-ups that can vary in intensity. Because asthma can be life-threatening in some cases, all coughing cats should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Careful monitoring, watching for signs of asthma, and treating with medication when necessary can help asthmatic cats live comfortably.

The materials and information provided on this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your veterinarian or other pet healthcare professional. Consult your own veterinarian if you have medical questions concerning diagnosis, treatment, therapy, or medical attention.

Sign up to receive deals and information