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Published: Apr 18, 2012

When a cat begins to cough and appears to have difficulty breathing, it can be unnerving for a pet owner. If the coughing is not a one-time occurrence, owners should contact their veterinarian as soon as possible to get to the bottom of the issue.

Asthma in cats and bronchitis are two common chronic conditions that could cause these types of clinical signs.  These conditions are categorized as obstructive lung diseases because they result in swelling and narrowing of the airways in the lungs.  The clinical signs of these conditions can become severe and may even be life-threatening.  If your cat is exhibiting these signs, it is important to see your veterinarian and get appropriate testing performed.

Your veterinarian can test for these and other conditions by performing x-rays, a complete blood count, fecal exam and urinalysis. As breathing issues may sometimes be clinical signs of feline leukemia and heartworm disease in cats, your veterinarian may test for these diseases as well.  Typically, feline asthma and bronchitis are triggered by certain stimuli, such as cigarette smoke, dander, dust mites, pollen, mold and perfumes.  Some breeds, such as Siamese cats, are at higher risk for developing these problems, according to VCA Animal Hospitals, but any cat can develop asthma.

Treatment for asthma and bronchitis usually includes the administration of steroids and bronchodilators which are geared toward decreasing the inflammation and opening or dilating the airways.  More recently, inhalant treatment for feline asthma has become very popular because of its effectiveness and ease of administering the medication.  Environmental control is also important to limit your cat’s exposure to allergens which might trigger an asthma attack.  Air filters, dust-free litter, hypoallergenic bedding and other strategies can help improve clinical signs in asthmatic cats.  Your veterinarian will determine the severity of your cat’s asthma and the best treatment approach.

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