How Cats Get Asthma
Feline asthma is triggered by an allergic reaction to some environmental allergen which usually, but not always, is inhaled. Exposure to the allergen causes inflammation of the cat’s airways and constriction or narrowing of the smooth muscle associated with those airways. It also can cause mucus to build up inside the lungs. The allergen itself can be almost anything. Common inciting causes of asthma in cats include:
- Tobacco or fireplace smoke
- Air pollution (smog, smoke from wildfires or smoke from crop burning)
- Carpet cleaners and deodorizers
- Heartworm infection
- Lung parasites
- Hair sprays
- Room/air fresheners
- Kitty litter
- Home remodeling products
- Landscaping materials
- Grasses, weeds and other shrubbery
- Animal dander (new pets, kennels or veterinary visits)
Many other things can also trigger asthma. Indoor allergens that cause feline asthma tend to be present year-round, while outdoor allergens typically are more seasonal. Many times, the exact trigger of a cat’s asthma is never identified.
Prevention of Asthma in Cats
Most cases of feline asthma can be prevented by identifying and removing the inciting allergen(s) from the cat’s environment. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, particularly since in many cases the offending substance is never determined. If removing the offending stimuli can’t be accomplished, the cat may require medical treatment and supportive care to relieve its symptoms. Fortunately, several types of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are available to help manage the symptoms that cats have from asthma, although medication won’t actually “prevent” the cat from having asthma, nor will it “cure” the condition.
Feline asthma is fairly common in companion cats. The symptoms usually appear in young to middle-aged cats, but older cats can be affected as well. Because the signs of asthma mimic those associated with so many other respiratory disorders, the root cause of this condition can be difficult if not impossible to determine, despite extensive investigation and the best efforts of the cat’s owner and veterinary team.