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My Cat Is Having an Asthma Attack! What Do I Do? Vet-Approved Tips

Hallie Roddy

By Hallie Roddy

cat with asthma

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Any time your cat acts out of the norm can be a scary experience for a cat owner. Asthma attacks aren’t extremely common in cats, but they do happen from time to time. Asthma affects between 1% and 5% of cats, with the severity of conditions ranging from mild to life-threatening. If you suspect your cat has asthma, getting them checked out and diagnosed by a vet is crucial. You also need to learn what the symptoms are so that you can identify an attack when it starts.

What Is Cat Asthma?

Asthma is a disease in the lower airways that causes chronic inflammation. Although there is still some debate about what exactly causes asthma in cats, most scientists and experts believe that it is caused by allergic reactions to something that your cat breathes in.

When your cat inhales a certain allergen, their immune system is triggered and reacts by causing inflammation developed in the airways, making it hard for your pet to breathe.

sick cat covered in blanket lies on the window in winter
Photo Credit: Germanova Antonina, Shutterstock

The Symptoms of Cat Asthma

Asthma can be more severe in some cats than others. Either way, knowing the symptoms of an attack can help you identify it quickly and seek proper help.

Asthma symptoms in cats include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Coughing and hacking
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting

Some cats might squat down with a hunched neck and shoulder while breathing or coughing rapidly. Many people mistake this behavior as them hacking up a hairball, but it could also be a sign that your feline friend is having trouble with asthma.

cat vomiting
Photo Credit: Tunatura, Shutterstock

Potential Allergens That Cause Cat Asthma

It is thought that allergies are one of the main causes of asthma in cats. If your pet is sensitive to certain allergens that they breathe in, their airways become agitated and inflamed and can sometimes be obstructed.

Asthma triggers include:

  • Fireplace smoke
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Dusty cat litter
  • Household cleaners
  • Dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Candle smoke
  • Specific foods

While allergens and these triggers are some of the most common, your cat might also be suffering from asthma due to health conditions such as:

  • Parasites
  • Stress
  • Pneumonia
  • Obesity
  • Heart conditions
fat cat sitting on the grass
Photo Credit: Dennis van de Water, Shutterstock

What Types of Cats Are Most Prone to Asthma?

While some cats are more likely to have asthma because of genetics, any cat is capable of developing asthma. Some breeds, like Siamese cats, also seem to be more likely to develop this condition. In addition, outdoor cats, or cats that spend even short periods outside, are more likely to develop asthma than indoor cats.

How Is Cat Asthma Diagnosed?

If your cat has been coughing and wheezing, then you need to take them to your vet to have them properly diagnosed. Keep a record of their symptoms and how often they occur, as well as any changes to their environment or routine. This could be changed to their litter, food, or any household products that you use. All this information will be helpful to your vet. On top of asking about their environment and routine, veterinarians will perform a variety of tests.

Asthma Dignostic Tests
  • Blood tests
  • Fecal parasite tests
  • Heartworm tests
  • Chest X-rays
  • Allergy tests
  • CT scans
  • Bronchoscopy

How to Treat Cat Asthma

Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be treated. Some veterinarians will prescribe medications to reduce the inflammation in their airways. Others will advise you to feed your cat a healthy diet, remove potential allergens, and reduce stress in the home.

What Do I Do If My Cat Has an Asthma Attack?

While there isn’t a whole lot that you can do in the event of an asthma attack, there are a few steps you can take to help your furry friend more comfortable.

1. Remain Calm

Your cat will only become even more stressed if they see that their owner is stressed and panicked. It is best to keep them in a calm environment and comfort them until symptoms subside.


2. Administer Medication

If your cat has already been diagnosed with asthma, you need to give them their prescribed medication to reduce inflammation. Common medications include corticosteroids and bronchodilators.

cat at vet with owner and veternarian
Image Credit: 4 PM production, Shutterstock

3. Move Your Cat

A cat that is having an asthma attack has most likely been triggered by something that they breathed in. Move your cat to a cool, well-ventilated area to help them breathe better and get them away from the allergen.


4. Take Them to the Vet

If symptoms don’t subside, you need to take your cat to the emergency room. Even if the attack does stop, we still recommend having them checked out by a vet.

Conclusion

While not all cats have asthma, any cat can start to develop it at some point in their lives. The most important thing to do when your cat is having an asthma attack is to remain calm and move them to a different room or location with plenty of fresh air. Asthma isn’t always severe, but it can be for certain pets. Nobody wants a sick kitty on their hands, so make sure that you give them the proper professional care and reduce as many potential allergens in the home as possible.

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Featured Image Credit: RozochkaIvn, Shutterstock

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