Symptoms of feline and canine asthma and information about respiratory problems in cats and dogs.
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What is Asthma?
Asthma is a serious disease of dogs and cats also known as chronic bronchitis. It is a chronic condition and is characterized by inflammation and thickening of the small airways (bronchioles) in the lungs. When your pet inhales the affected airways collapse making it difficult for your pet to catch its breath. In severe cases of asthma, the airways become blocked with mucus and the smooth muscle that surrounds the airways goes into spasm (bronchospasm) restricting breathing.
Dogs and cats of all ages may suffer from asthma but it is more prevalent in younger to middle-aged pets. Siamese are particularly predisposed. Holistic vets believe that commercial pet foods that we feed our pets today, (which are often filled with colorants and preservatives), along with over vaccination, damages the immune system and predisposes our furry companions to allergies. Most asthma attacks are triggered by allergens in the environment.
Mild cases of asthma might even go unnoticed or in the case of cats be misinterpreted as a furball. Mild cases usually present as nothing more than a dry, hacking cough which may progress to wheezing sounds that are most obvious when your pet exhales. Severe asthma attacks may be life-threatening and are equally distressing for you and your pet. During a severe attack the amount of effort needed to take a breath is remarkable.
You will notice shallow, rapid, labored breathing with marked movement of the abdomen as your pet tries to get more air into their compromised lungs. Cats tend to extend their heads and may even adopt a praying position with their elbows extended away from the chest. If you notice a bluish purple tinge to your pets tongue or gums take your pet to your nearest vet immediately. This is a sign of an oxygen shortage and your pet needs urgent veterinary help.
What Causes Asthma?
Episodes of asthma are triggered by allergens and stress. Some common allergens include grass and tree pollens, fire smoke, cigarette smoke, fumes from cars and factories, dust especially dust from cat litter and aerosols of various sorts such as perfumes, deodorants and flea sprays. If there is a concurrent infection in the lungs this will exacerbate the asthma attack.
Your vet will take a full clinical history and will try to determine what triggers the asthma attack. He/she will want to take a chest x-ray and may even need to do a broncho-alveolar lavage in order to obtain a sample from the airways in your pet’s lungs.
Help for Asthma
A big part of the successful treatment of Asthma is determining what the triggers are. If the triggers can be identified and eliminated then no further treatment is necessary. However it is seldom possible to identify all the triggers or even if they’re identified it may be impractical to eliminate them. Due to this it may be necessary to put your pet onto lifelong medication to control the asthma attacks.
Conventional drug therapies include:
Is there a drug-free treatment for Asthma?
As the owner of a pet with asthma you must be aware that your pet may be on medication for life. Alternatively, there are complementary therapies which have been proven to promote health of the respiratory system, and best of all, they do this without the side effects that often accompany the use of conventional medicines.
Over the last few years more and more pet owners have started using complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, to support their pet’s wellbeing.
More Information on Asthma
Some useful tips
- Seeing your pet battling to breathe can be a very distressing experience, try and keep calm and avoid stressing your pet any further as this will aggravate the situation
- Most asthma attacks will pass relatively quickly but if you notice that your pet’s tongue and gums are blue this is an emergency situation and you need to get your precious pet to the closest vet
- Try and remove potential triggers from the environment. Remember that there may be more than one trigger so remove suspected triggers one at a time and allow 2 to 3 weeks to see if the asthma attacks lessen
- Do not expose your pet to smoke; your furry companions should not be passive smokers!! Give up this bad habit, you and your pets can only benefit
- Minimize the use of aerosols or at least make sure that your pets are out of the room when you use your hairspray
- If you are using conventional medicine try and use the lowest possible dose to minimize potential side effects
- Feed a preservative and colorant-free diet. A raw, unprocessed diet is the most natural option for your pet.
- Keep your pets fit and trim, a walk a day keeps the vet away.