Diagnosing feline asthma is not always easy. There are a number of diseases that actually mimic asthma, such as heartworms, respiratory infections and even lung cancer. If you have noticed that your cat may have symptoms of feline asthma, it is important to contact your family veterinarian as soon as possible.
If your cat has asthma, the most common of sign is an asthma attack. When this occurs, a cat will squat and hunch up the shoulders and neck while gagging up mucus and swallowing hard. It may almost resemble what your cat does when coughing up a hairball. You may also notice:
- Throat gurgling
- Eye mucus
In between attacks, it is possible that your cat may exhibit no symptoms at all, which is part of the reason feline asthma can be difficult to catch.
When to Call Your Veterinarian
Many pet owners may not notice the symptoms of asthma at first, or they may mistake coughing or gurgling for typical noises. You should call your family veterinarian when:
- Your cat coughs for longer than five minutes
- Your cat coughs more than twice an hour three times a day
- Your cat’s breathing increases more than 30 breaths a minute
What to Expect
When you take your cat to the veterinarian on suspicion of asthma, the doctor will want to hear about the symptoms you’ve seen. Often times, it is important to rule out other situations rather than immediately diagnosing asthma, which is why a series of tests may be ordered. The veterinarian will likely take a chest X-ray to look for inflammation, a partially collapsed lung or a flat diaphragm.
It is also likely the doctor will order blood testing. This can determine if there is an infection present through white blood cell count or raised levels of other components that may be associated with a respiratory disease. A blood test can also rule out other causes, such as diabetes.
The veterinarian may also order a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), which is the most definitive test and involves taking a mucus sample to look for an increase in the number of eosinophils, which is a type of white blood cell.
Sometimes, standard lab cultures can miss conditions such as Bordetella or trachea ulcers. These conditions can cause bronchial diseases in cats. Lung infections are rare in felines and are usually only present when there is an underlying disease like bronchitis or asthma. Once your veterinarian determines what is causing your cat’s symptoms, there are a few things that may be done:
- Treat any underlying infection
- Aggressively treat inflammation through medication
- Follow up closely to monitor progress
For more information about feline asthma, click here.
Many cats with feline asthma live long and healthy lives. The key is to consult a professional and get a diagnosis quickly. At BluePearl, our team has extensive experience treating cats with respiratory conditions. If your family vet recommends seeing a veterinary internist, ask for a referral to BluePearl Veterinary Partners.