Feline bronchial disease (feline asthma)
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.