You may think of asthma as a human problem, but dogs and cats can suffer from asthma, or respiratory bronchitis, just like we can. And just like in humans, the cause of the irritation can vary based on the animal’s specific allergies.
Once an allergen is present, the airways of your cat or dog's lungs become inflamed, oftentimes extra mucous is produced, and in serious cases airways can become constricted, making breathing in enough air difficult or even impossible.
Here’s what you need to know to keep a lookout for asthma in your pets.
Like in humans, asthma in cats and dogs is triggered by an allergic reaction to an irritant. That irritant could be pollen, a type of food, a household chemical, or a virus or infection. Cats are more prone to asthma than dogs and more likely to have severe cases of asthma than dogs are. Female cats are more likely to be at risk than male cats. Siamese and Himalayan cats, and cats and dogs between 2 and 8 years old are most susceptible to asthma. Additionally, overweight animals can be more prone to asthma attacks.
The most common symptom of asthma is coughing, as the animal tries to open the airways to their lungs by expelling excess mucous or expelling the irritant. With cats, this can often look as though the cat is trying to cough up a hairball—the cat will lean forward on their front legs and extend their neck—but no hairball comes up. Other common symptoms of asthma in dogs and cats are wheezing, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Severe cases of asthma in cats often result in anorexia and lethargy.
The good news is that asthma is largely preventable and treatable. Inhalants and oral medications can reduce or clear up the allergic reaction that’s causing asthma. If you can pinpoint the irritant, keeping your pet away from it, or eliminating it from your home, will get rid of your pet’s problem. Be sure to treat your pet’s asthma at the first signs, as chronic or recurring asthma can result in damage to the lungs, or disease.
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.