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Asthma Symptoms in Cats

Feline asthma-very similar to human asthma-is a chronic inflammation of the small passageways of a cat's lungs. When an asthma attack occurs, these passageways thicken and constrict, making it very difficult for a cat to breathe. This often leads to respiratory distress, which can become grave in a matter of minutes. The lungs may also begin to discharge mucus into the airways, leading to fits of coughing and wheezing. Some cats with milder cases only experience a slight, chronic cough. Because asthma can quickly become a life-threatening health problem, any coughing cat needs a veterinary evaluation.

What Are the General Symptoms of Asthma in Cats?

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Persistent cough
  • Squatting with shoulders hunched, neck extended and rapid breathing or gasping for breath
  • Gagging up foamy mucus
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Blue lips and gums
  • Labored breath after exertion
  • Overall weakness and lethargy

What Causes Asthma in Cats?

While there are a number of factors that contribute to asthma in cats, it is thought to develop as a result of allergic bronchitis. Allergic bronchitis occurs when the airways in a cat's lungs become inflamed due to an inhaled allergen or other substance that stimulates the immune system.

Common factors that can contribute to the severity of an asthma attack include:

  • Allergens, including pollens, molds, dust from cat litter, cigarette smoke, perfume and certain foods
  • Pre-existing heart conditions or illnesses
  • Parasites
  • Extreme stress
  • Obesity

Asthma-like symptoms in cats can also be associated with other disease, including heartworm, respiratory parasites, tumors, heart failure and pneumonia.

Are Asthma and Allergies Related?

Yes. Sensitivity to environmental pollutants and pollen can contribute to asthma in some cats.

Are Certain Cats More Prone to Asthma?

Asthma in cats usually develops between the ages of two and eight years old, with a higher occurrence in female cats than males. Siamese and Himalayan breeds and breed mixes seem to get asthma more frequently than other breeds.