VCA Animal Hospitals

What is COPD in cats?

Published: May 04, 2012

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as COPD, is an irreversible medical condition found in cats and other animals. Veterinarians may alternatively refer to COPD as "chronic bronchitis," according to VCA Animal Hospitals.

COPD refers to the inflammation of certain passageways in the respiratory system, which is sometimes called the pulmonary system. Specifically, the disease affects the lower portion of the respiratory system, an area called the bronchi and bronchioles. These passageways become inflamed and then obstructed, which can have a number of effects on the cat's breathing.

Causes and symptoms of COPD

There is no definitive underlying cause for COPD in cats, but a number of different factors are thought to contribute. Repeated exposure to irritants in the air, such as cigarette smoke, pollens or other allergens may be a potential trigger of COPD. Dental disease has also been linked to COPD, as bacteria from the mouth can travel into the cat's respiratory system.

Chronic coughing is the main symptom of COPD.  The cough is usually dry and harsh and gagging often occurs after the cough.  Many affected cats have general difficulty breathing especially with exercise or activity. As the disease progresses, pet owners may notice that the cat has less energy, and their gums may also become blue due to a lack of oxygen.

COPD in cats tends to affect middle-aged and older felines. Some studies have shown that Siamese cats may be at a higher risk for this disease than other breeds.

Treatment options

While COPD is ultimately irreversible once it begins, cats can still undergo treatment to improve their quality of life with this chronic disorder.  Pet owners may notice that the disease flares up at certain times or seasons, and each of these incidents may require a specific treatment plan.  Cats with COPD may enter severe respiratory distress, which could require oxygen therapy at a veterinary hospital. On a routine daily basis it is likely that your veterinarian may recommend medications to lessen inflammation and to dilate the bronchioles and give the cat a bit more room for air to get through. Cough suppressants can help cats cope with the chronic coughing associated with the disease. Air filters and other environmental changes may help lessen your cat’s exposure to inhaled irritants that may trigger signs of COPD.

Pet owners will also have to address other areas of their cat's health once the animal is diagnosed with COPD. Overweight cats may have difficulty with the disease due to the lack of oxygen, so a weight loss plan might be a good idea for felines on the heavier side. Constant dental maintenance will also be important to ensure bacteria doesn't enter the lungs and cause a reaction.


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.