Causes of Bronchitis in Cats
Feline bronchitis is a result of irritation and inflammation of the lining of a cat’s airways, which are called “bronchi.” When bronchitis occurs suddenly (acutely), it typically is caused by infectious organisms, such as viruses, bacteria or lung parasites. Irritating airborne particles can also trigger a bout of acute bronchitis. Internal parasites, like lungworms and heartworms, can also cause bronchitis in cats. Heartworms cause chronic coughing, and chronic coughing will eventually damage the cat’s bronchial tubes. Lungworms also inhabit the large bronchial airways during the course of their development, causing irritation and inflammation. Cats that live in households where their owners smoke often develop chronic bronchitis from exposure to second-hand smoke. Cats with asthma frequently develop chronic bronchitis as a result of changes to the lining of their airways, which is caused by chronic coughing. These changes include inflammation, swelling, thickening and production of excess mucus in the respiratory tract. Bronchitis obviously affects a cat’s respiratory system, but it can also adversely affect the cardiovascular system and less frequently the nervous system. Many times, the trigger of a cat’s bronchitis is never identified, which can be frustrating not only to the owner but also to the veterinary team.
Preventing Bronchitis in Cats
The best way to prevent a cat from getting bronchitis is to keep it away from the inhaled irritants which predispose it to developing feline asthma. These include chemicals, tobacco or fireplace smoke, air pollution (smog, smoke from wildfires or smoke from crop burning), carpet cleaners and deodorizers, heart and lung parasites, perfumes, deodorants, hair spray, room/air fresheners, kitty litter, fertilizer, home remodeling products, paint, landscaping materials, pesticides, pollen, grasses, weeds and other shrubbery, and animal dander (from new pets, boarding kennels or veterinary visits). When a cat develops bronchitis, the only way to resolve the condition is to determine and address the underlying cause. Any number of diagnostic tools can be used in this effort, and there are a number of therapies that can help manage the symptoms of bronchitis. Bronchitis can become life threatening if it isn’t treated. Continual coughing can cause permanent damage to the sensitive lining of a cat’s upper airways. Excessive coughing may also interfere with a cat’s ability to eat properly. Bronchitis can damage a cat’s immune system over time and predispose the animal to secondary bacterial and viral respiratory tract infections. Successful treatments for bronchitis are possible if the cause of the bronchitis is identified and directly addressed.