Can your pet have asthma? Yes! Just like us, our furry companions can develop asthma. Though more common in cats than dogs, pets can suffer from asthma attacks, too. Though there is no cure for asthma, we do have successful treatment and management therapies to ensure your pet lives a happy and healthy life.
What is pet asthma?
Canine and feline asthma is very similar to asthma in humans. It is a chronic inflammation of the airways in the lungs. It is widely assumed that asthma attacks in pets are brought on as part of an allergic reaction.
When your pet breathes in allergens, it may trigger an immune response causing inflammation which results in the irritation, swelling, constriction and production of mucus or fluid within the airways. This severe reaction, known as an asthma attack, can be near suffocating making it difficult for your pet to breathe.
If this condition becomes chronic and is left untreated, tissues within the respiratory system can become permanently damaged.
What are the signs and symptoms?
There are a number of signs that may be indicative of pet asthma ranging from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:
- Excessive panting
- Extreme expansion and contraction of the chest
- Loss of energy and appetite
- Pale or blue gums
- Persistent dry hacking or coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Wide mouth breathing
Another common symptom of feline asthma is crouching or squatting with the neck and head extending in an attempt to breathe easier. Cats may also gag up foamy mucus during asthma attacks.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, seek veterinary care.
While there are several factors that may contribute to asthma in pets, it is mostly thought to result from an allergic reaction. These reactions occur when airways become inflamed due to an inhaled allergen that stimulates the body’s immune system. Common triggers or allergens may include:
- Air pollution
- Airborne pesticides or fertilizers
- Cat litter dust or particles
- Heavy perfumes, deodorizers, or air fresheners
- Household cleaners
- Pollen and mold spores
- Smoke from tobacco products, fires, or cooking
If you think your pet has asthma, visit your veterinarian for a confirmed diagnosis. Though there is no direct test for pets, we can confirm the diagnosis through a range of tests and physical examinations.
X-rays, blood work, bronchial mucus samples, and more will help us to rule out other causes for your pet’s symptoms. Other health conditions such as heartworms, obesity, or respiratory infections may also present similar symptoms to pet asthma.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, we will work with you to find the treatment for your pet. Treatment will vary depending on the severity of your pet’s condition.
For mild cases, medication can be administered through a nebulizer or inhaler that is designed for your pet. These medications will help to reduce the severity of attacks and relieve symptoms.
For more severe cases, a bronchodilator will be used to help open the airways. Antihistamines and steroids may also be prescribed to reduce allergy symptoms and inflammation within the airways.
In addition to medication, take preventative measures to remove possible triggers and allergens from your home to reduce the chances of an attack. Do not smoke near your pets and limit your use of fire. If you know smoke will be present, provide your pet with a smoke-free space. Use natural cleaners around your house and HEPA air filters within your home to keep your house allergen-free.
Taking preventative measures and following your vet’s recommendations will help to give your furry companion the best chance to live asthma free. For more information on pet asthma or caring for a pet with asthma, contact Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care today.