Cats can unfortunately be prone to developing respiratory diseases that are sometimes classified as asthma or bronchitis. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, these conditions tend to cause a cat to develop an increased production of mucus, the accumulation of inflammation within the airways, with resultant muscle spasms in the bronchi (airways). VCA reports that most cats develop asthma between the ages of two and eight years old. While any cat may develop asthma, Siamese cats and female cats tend to be at a higher risk.
VCA reports common clinical signs of feline asthma include shallow breathing and sometimes even gasping for air. Many affected cats will exhibit coughing which many owners often mistake for “hairballs”. Coughing in cats often looks and sounds like wretching or gagging and cats will commonly produce phlegm or saliva when they cough.
There is not one single known cause of feline asthma but common irritants or triggers include inhaled dust from cat litter, perfume, hairspray, cigarette smoke, pollens, mold, dust mites or dander from other pets or people. It is also important that other diseases such as heartworm, lung worm, or even unusual bacteria be ruled out as possibilities as they also cause lung inflammation and asthma-like signs.
If an owner suspects their cat may be suffering from asthma an examination at your local veterinarian health clinic should be scheduled. Diagnostic tests that may be recommended by your vet include radiographs (xrays), blood tests or possibly airway sampling to help confirm the diagnosis of feline asthma. There are several possible treatments for feline asthma—from oral medications to inhalers—but purifying the air with a home air filter is usually one strategy that is commonly recommended to help keep the air your cat is breathing free of many inhaled irritants.