This past weekend, I attended the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association Annual Conference. To all of you feline owners out there, this one is for you. After spending two days listening to various lectures about respiratory diseases, I wondered what I could pass along to you that could be of practical help in controlling feline bronchial asthma.
Feline bronchial disease, also referred to as asthma, is a complex disease, yet there are a few factors that can help minimize the risk and control the disease:
Open air litter box – make sure the box is open so your cat is not breathing dust particles from the litter;
Use only hypoallergenic or dust free litter;
Prevent obesity in your cat, as obesity may exacerbate asthma symptoms and heavy breathing. Feed your cat 30% less of the recommended amount;
If your cat is suspected of having asthma, let your vet confirm the diagnosis. A “cortisone shot and call me in the morning” attitude is not always the solution. Some cats may have an underlying heart disease, or even pneumonia, and cortisone can make things worse. X-rays, blood work , tracheal wash and other tests may be required to assure your cat’s diagnosis;
Bronchial asthma is a chronic disease just like diabetes. It cannot be cured, but it may be controlled. So always keep an eye for any breathing problems. Current thoughts are that cats with asthma should always be on low levels of cortisone, such as prednisone. The old school thought of treating flare ups just with cortisone injections is questioned as it causes too much fluctuation in the control of the condition;
There are companies who make nebulizers, such as Aerokat, for cats. This is an elegant way to provide inhalant instead of oral cortisone, thus minimizing side effects.
Finally, remember that cats are excellent in masking the disease. Learn to recognize and appreciate the saddle changes in breathing patterns, such as, when the cat is lying with the front legs tucked in under the chest, neck stretched out in order to maximize air flow, exhibiting very shallow abdominal breathing and flaring nostrils, and coughing.
I hope these tips will help you and your cat breath a little easier.
DR.OHAD BARNEA IS A 1992 GRADUATE OF TUFTS UNIVERSITY, SCHOOL OF VETERINARY MEDICINE AND THE OWNER OF TENAFLY VETERINARY CENTER AND CLIFFSIDE ANIMAL HOSPITAL.