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Asthma in Dogs and Cats

Many times, our furry companions can suffer health problems that are very similar to human illnesses. Take for example, asthma. Asthma, a respiratory condition that makes it difficult to breathe, is quite common among people.

Things that can trigger an attack include allergens such as smoke, dust, fragrances, pollen, mold/mildew and pollution in the air. The irritant will cause airways to become inflamed and constricted, and even cause excessive mucus to form. The result is difficulty breathing and inability to take in enough oxygen.

Asthma sufferers are typically children, and medication can be prescribed to control the symptoms. Just like us, our dogs and cats can suffer asthma and they can have the same triggers that humans have. And just like for us, medication can be used to control the effects of asthma. Typically, cats suffer more often from asthma than dogs.

Asthma Symptoms

Symptoms of asthma in dogs and cats can include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficult/labored breathing
  • Breathing with mouth open
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite/ Loss of weight

Sometimes, if your pet is having an asthma attack, he may take up a strange posture to ease his breathing. He may be hunched, low to the ground, with his neck extended forward and down, or up.

With cats, an asthma attack can be easily mistaken for them trying to cough up a hairball because the action and sounds may be very similar. The difference is, of course, that there is no resulting hairball being thrown up. (Just a note: A cat may not throw up a hairball each time they try either. Just watch them to see if a hairball does or does not come up after several tries.) Also, look for the other symptoms as well. If you have concerns, contact your vet.)

If the attack is severe enough, you may notice that your pet’s gums and tongue has a bluish tinge. This means he is not getting enough oxygen and should be seen by your veterinarian immediately.

What to Do for Your Dog or Cat With Asthma

If you suspect that your dog or cat suffers from asthma, make a note of when/where/how long your pet has an attack. Take your pet to the veterinarian and have him thoroughly examined. Other illnesses, such as respiratory infection, heartworm, lungworm, heart disease, and leukemia, should be ruled out because symptoms of these illnesses may be similar to asthma.

If you suspect that your dog or cat suffers from asthma, make a note of when/where/how long your pet has an attack. Take your pet to the veterinarian and have him thoroughlyexamined. Other illnesses, such as respiratory infection, heartworm, lungworm, heart disease, and leukemia, should be ruled out because symptoms of these illnesses may be similar to asthma.

Your vet may take chest x-rays, do blood, urine, and/or fecal tests, heartworm tests, and maybe even take a sampling of cells from the your pet’s airway.

Once your vet rules out any other illnesses and if they diagnose asthma, there are several different medications that can be prescribed to treat the asthma, including corticosteroids, antihistamines and bronchodilators.

Sometimes, the use of inhalers (like humans use) or oxygen therapy may be needed. If you can pinpoint the source of asthma attacks, such as dust from kitty litter, you can try to eliminate the source.

You can also ask your vet about possible natural or homeopathic treatments for asthma. Asthma can cause you and your pet distress, but with correct diagnosis and treatment, he can live a long, healthy, comfortable life.

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