Many people probably think that asthma only effects humans but this is not true. If your cat has chronic coughing episodes which do not produce sputum or any type of liquid, then they might have asthma. Understanding the signs and symptoms is tricky because often they are similar to other diseases, but once your veterinarian has diagnosed your cat with asthma, an inhaler can be used and can effectively provide a higher quality of life.
Feline asthma is not that common and is more than likely found in a very small percentage of adult cats. It is often misdiagnosed for hairballs or feline herpes, which causes an upper respiratory infection. However, while these symptoms mimic each other, with close attention, there are distinct differences. Cats with hairballs often exhibit gagging or retching actions and cats with a feline herpes outbreak will often have a dry hacking cough that will last for a short period. Cats with asthma will not appear to be gagging; instead, they will have a chronic dry hacking cough that will not produce any sputum. If you have witnessed this chronic behavior in your cat, then it might be time to mention it to your veterinarian.
Feline asthma will not necessarily show up on a chest x-ray and it can often lie dormant until irritated. Most veterinarians are not highly skilled in diagnosing asthma and often want to treat the symptoms with a steroid injection. This may initially provide temporary relief but it can become expensive and numerous steroid injections can lead to organ damage and shorten your cat’s life. Feline asthma is diagnosed based upon its clinical presentation, which is why it is important for you to be able to relay the symptoms to your veterinarian. In Kansas City, Dr. Andrew Rambo at Gladstone Animal Clinic, has experience in dealing with feline asthma and he has seen long-term relief in the form of using an inhaler.
The AeroKat feline aerosol chamber is a spacer system and mask that allows you to use an inhaler. You can buy this from most online vet stores. You will need to have your veterinarian write a prescription for the inhaler and more than likely it will be for Flovent or Albuterol. At first, holding the mask on your cat’s face and depressing the inhaler will probably be a two person job. You might just try holding the mask on your cat's face a few times without the inhaler. You will need to make sure you hold the mask up tightly so that there are no leaks and you will have to watch your cat take three breaths, which may take up to 10 to 15 seconds. Eventually, your cat will become more comfortable and you will be able to place your cat between your side and your arm and use one hand to hold the mask on and the other hand to depress the inhaler. Once you have mastered the technique, you will just have to adjust the frequency.
The frequency of the inhaler needed for your cat is not an exact science; it is more of a trial and error process. Some cats need an inhaler every night to prevent exacerbations and some only need it once a week. Giving your cat an inhaler during an asthma exacerbation will not provide maximum benefit. You will have to find out how often your cat needs an inhaler to prevent an exacerbation. However, once you achieve the right frequency, you can prevent asthma exacerbations.
Feline asthma can be an irritating condition for cats, but it does not have to be left untreated. If your cat is diagnosed with asthma, then an inhaler might provide long-term relief. It may not be easy at first, but giving your asthmatic cat an inhaler can provide them with a higher quality of life.