Feline bronchial disease (feline asthma)

There are increasing numbers of cats with asthma, also known as feline bronchial disease

While there is a growing epidemic of human asthma cases in recent decades in younger people, as well as adult-onset asthma, we are also seeing increasing numbers of asthma in cats, also known as feline bronchial disease (feline asthma). Symptoms in cats include difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing, which is often misdiagnosed by both feline guardians and even veterinarians as hairballs.

Some of the expected triggering agents include seasonal allergens, dust and irritants in the environment, including secondhand smoke and certain dusty litters, as well as even potentially injected or ingested allergens such as over vaccination and even food allergies. Diagnosis is usually made by a combination of x-rays, blood work, and stool checks to rule out other causes of coughing/wheezing, including intestinal parasites, feline heartworm disease, and other infectious and cardiopulmonary diseases of the chest cavity and heart.

While we often try and look for underlying causes and/or minimize the above potential triggers, most of the time we don’t find out the cause of feline asthma, except to say that it goes under the category of another autoimmune disease, which is where the cats own immune system is over-reacting to its own body, in this case resulting in constriction and inflammation of the airways.

As with other autoimmune diseases, treatments often include immune-suppressive medication, including prescription injectable steroids in cats, with Depo-Medrol being the most common one used by veterinarians. And while occasional injections of this long acting steroid often offers dramatic relief, repetitive use of this drug long term can lead to other complications in cats, including diabetes, as well as secondary bacterial infections.

Other prescription medications such as the bronchodilator Theophylline, which can help dilate the airways in some cats, as well as the prescription drug Terbutaline offer variable results as alternatives or as add on drugs. Most recently in severely affected cats, veterinary specialists are now using at home inhalers, in a similar way as with people.

Feline guardians can learn more about this safer alternative to repetitive injectable cortisone at www.aerocat.com. Other preventative measures feline guardians can take include minimizing emotional, physical and toxic stress on asthmatic cats. Using air purifiers in the home with HEPA filters such as those approved for human asthmatics can sometimes help. Natural calming agents such as rescue remedy or Be Serene, Quiet Moments, or Composure Liquid can help ease emotional anxiety in some cats.

Feeding a natural diet with the help of a holistic veterinarian, as well as avoiding over vaccination of especially indoor cats is also important in minimizing the frequency of asthmatic attacks. Supplements such as Proanthozone and Vetri-DMG liquid from can help modulate the immune response, and I have sometimes found these neutraceuticals helpful in minimizing the amount of cortisone needed in asthmatic cats.


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  1. Today asthma is increasing there are lots of cases. Asthma is a common chronic inflammation of the airways characterized by swelling and bronchospasm. The inflammation leads to narrowing of the bronchial tubes, either totally or partially. The result is difficulty in breathing (dyspnea).When the bronchial tubes are chronically inflamed, they tend to be more sensitive to allergens or irritants. For a lot of asthmatics who have grown sick and tired of steroids and their harmful side effects, it is but natural to seek relief from natural sources. This is where mangosteen comes into the picture and it’s quite likely that most asthmatics have already heard or have been taking this wonder fruit as a dietary supplement. However, the hype about the benefits offered by mangosteen to asthmatics is not mere hearsay. Mangosteen has grown in popularity among asthma sufferers because it delivers positive results without any accompanying adverse reactions. Hope this will help more to your readers. Thank you, Justin

  2. Is terbutaline another name for theophylline? Could you please send me its shape, color and numbers that should be on this meds and what it is used for?

  3. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 13, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    I dont know shape or numbers but terbutaline and theophylline are two different drugs. Theophylline is bronchodilator as is terbutaline. Both used for breathing problems in dogs/cats i.e asthma and/or chronic obstructive airway disease.

  4. My ragdoll cat Lucky’s eyes get very red around the rims and he scratches them and they bleed. He also scratches right above his eyes. Our local vet has been giving him Depo Medrol Injections about every 2-3 months. It seems to help him very quickly, but now I’m concerened about the long term effects. Do you have an equal alternative?
    Thank you,

  5. My cat has asthma and I don’t like having her get a steroid shot every 11/2 to 2 months. Do you have a nebulizer for cats? I would like to see some and there prices. I may be very interested in purchasing one.

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJune 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Check with http://www.aerocat.com for nebulizers for cats.

  7. I have a really dumb question. – so dumb I’m unable to find any similar question in the Internet. My cat has asthma and we ordered her Flovent over a year ago. Due to the enormous cost we ordered it overseas. We also purchased the aero cat to use with the Flovent. Wben the medicine came the pump didn’t fit into the circular piece we had to put it in. We called the pharmacy and explained the problem and were told that the tube was shaped differently than the ones in the us and that we could try to find a pharmacy that had a circular pump to fit our aero cat. We couldn’t find a pharmacy that would help us so my boyfriend made an adapter piece out of a 2 liter bottle. Fast forward over a year I just happened to watch a video of how to use the aero cat on you tube and in doing so I realized that this whole time we had the aero cat backwards- the circular thing we were trying to attach to the pump actually attached to the mask and the green side that we were attaching the mask to actually held the pump perfectly. So here’s my question – obviously well use it correctly now but the past year – has she still received the medicine – as the chamber was backwards? Was it blocking the medicine or did it not matter as long as the medicine was being pumped into the chamber?

  8. HI Jennifer. I think as long as the medicine was being pumped into the chamber, she likely received the medicine, especially if she clinically did well with minimal asthmatic symptoms over the past year.

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