X-ray of pet lungs with asthma.

Trouble breathing is not a fun problem to have, and when it’s affecting your pet it can be absolutely panic-inducing. While many causes of breathing trouble are not things you can foresee, pet asthma is a problem that is potentially identifiable before it becomes an emergency. Read on so that Long Animal Hospital can help you to understand how to recognize the signs of asthma in pets.

Pet Asthma in a Nutshell 

Asthma is a condition that affects the lower airways of the lungs. It consists of repeated episodes of inflammation and narrowing of these airways, making full expansion of the lungs difficult. 

These lower airways, called bronchi, swell when irritated. This can stimulate the production of mucous, which results in a cough and trouble inhaling fully.

Asthma sufferers tend to have recurrent episodes of this inflammation, often brought on by irritants in the air such as cigarette smoke, dust, pollens, perfumes, and other airborne allergens. 

An asthma flare can range from mild to life-threatening. You should call us immediately if your pet is experiencing:

  • Coughing
  • Abnormal noise while breathing
  • Heavy or difficult breathing
  • Blue or gray lips, gums, or tongue
  • Open-mouth breathing (in cats)
  • Gagging, often with production of foamy white material
  • Hunching or extending neck while trying to breath
  • Exercise intolerance

Asthma in Cats

Pet asthma is not an uncommon diagnosis or emergency condition in our feline friends. While there is not one specific test to identify asthma in cats, our veterinarians can often diagnose the problem through your pet’s clinical signs and several diagnostic tests such as blood work and chest radiographs that help to exclude other causes of breathing trouble. 

Once we have honed in on diagnosis, our kitty patients often benefit from medical therapy with things like bronchodilators to help open the airways, steroids to decrease inflammation, and sometimes antihistamines. 

Home changes can also be helpful. Cats with asthma benefit from:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • A smoke-free home
  • Minimizing perfumes and air fresheners
  • Dust-free litter
  • A home HEPA-filtration system
  • Minimal dust-holding items in the home like carpets, curtains, and cloth upholstery

Asthma-Like Trouble in Dogs

Dogs are less likely to experience true asthma than cats, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own respiratory problems.

Our canine companions more often suffer from bronchitis, which is the result of chronic inflammation rather than the acute spasm-like flare ups seen with asthma. The most commonly seen symptom of bronchitis in dogs is a dry cough. A cough can also be seen with other conditions, though, including:

  • Collapsing trachea
  • Allergies
  • Pneumonia
  • Heartworm disease
  • Heart disease
  • Fungal infection
  • Parasitic disease
  • Dysfunction of the larynx
  • Cancer

Appropriate diagnostics are needed to be sure that we can prescribe the best treatment for your pet, whether the diagnosis be asthma or something else.

Asthma in pets and other similar conditions can result in some pretty scary breathing trouble. Your pet is depending on you to notice changes in their breathing before it becomes emergent. Likewise, routine wellness visits can help us to diagnose problems early in their course, which offers the best chances for successful treatment and management.