Asthma is a disease that can affect dogs, cats, other animals and, of course, humans. It results in an obstruction of the airways when the bronchi (the air passages in the lungs) fill up with mucous and go into spasms (bronchoconstriction). It is far more common in cats than dogs. Asthma is more common in Siamese and Himalayan cat breeds.
Dogs and cats of any age can get asthma, but it occurs more commonly in young and middle-aged pets. The primary sign is coughing, which cat owners sometimes confuse with attempts to cough up hairballs. Owners often report wheezing and, in rare cases, respiratory distress occurs resulting in open mouth breathing and purple gums and tongue. This latter condition is an emergency. In some cases, pets may become lethargic and stop eating, resulting in weight loss. Between episodes, pets are usually normal. Triggers for asthma may include second hand smoke, litter dust, air pollution and certain fragrances.
To diagnose asthma, it is necessary to perform an X-ray of the chest and perform additional tests to rule out other respiratory problems. These may include heartworm tests, blood counts and chemistries, and bronchial lavage. Once a diagnosis of allergic bronchitis has been made, treatment often consists of steroids, antihistamines, bronchodilators, perhaps antibiotics or a combination of these drugs. In severe attacks, oxygen therapy may be necessary.
The prognosis for control of this disease is excellent, with most pets living happy and normal lives with the help of life-long medication. Unless an underlying cause can be determined, a cure is unlikely. Your veterinarian can help to determine both the cause of asthma as well as the treatment options best suited to your pet