Coughing Kitty or Pup? Asthma in Pets May Be to Blame

black cat laying down

Chances are good that you know a person who suffers from asthma, or you deal with the chronic condition yourself. Just like with humans, asthma in pets can be scary and life threatening.

The good news, asthma in pets is easily controlled with education, patience, and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle for your pet

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways in the lungs, causing them to swell and constrict. This constriction can lead to the inability to take a full breath, exercise intolerance, wheezing, and other symptoms. Asthma can seriously affect a pet’s quality of life, and may lead to serious health consequences if not managed properly.

Asthma in pets most likely begins as allergies, which over time develops into full-blown asthma. Asthma is more common in cats, but dogs can also suffer from the disease.

Symptoms of Asthma in Pets

Give the team at Harpeth Hills Animal Hospital a call if you notice any of the following signs as your pet may have asthma:

  • Chronic coughing
  • Wheezing 
  • Shallow, labored breathing
  • Loss of appetite/weight loss
  • Runny nose
  • Blue or purple tongue/gums due to lack of oxygen (seek immediate medical care if you notice this symptom).

There is no definitive diagnostic tool to test for asthma in pets. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam to rule out other health problems, and may diagnose your pet using a combination of lab work, X-rays, or visual examination and specimen collection from the lungs.

Caring for an Asthmatic Pet

There is no cure for asthma in pets, but it can be easily managed. Treatments include:

  • Oral corticosteroids – This medication is essential for reducing the inflammation responsible for your pet’s restricted airways. If the oral corticosteroids are successful, your pet may not need further treatment.
  • Bronchodilators – Also called “rescue inhalers”, this is used during an acute attack to deliver life saving medication deep into the lungs. Using an inhaler on an animal may seem like a daunting (or impossible) task, but your veterinarian will work with you to get your pet acclimated to the inhaler mask over time.
  • Antihistamines – Used to reduce sensitivity to environmental triggers and help open up the airways. 
  • Antibiotics – Used when an asthma attack was brought on by a respiratory infection.
  • Environmental modifications – Identifying the environmental factors that trigger your pet’s asthma, and then reducing or eliminating those triggers, is an essential component of the treatment plan. Factors that can compromise breathing include dust, mold, pollen, dust from cat litter, cigarette smoke, perfume, chemical cleaning products, and air fresheners.

If your pet has been diagnosed with asthma, don’t panic. Medications and minor lifestyle alterations can keep an asthmatic pet healthy and reduce the number of asthma attacks they suffer. Please contact our veterinary staff for more information.