Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that affects around 25 million people in the United States. It can also affect dogs and cats. Fortunately, there are effective treatments that can help our furry friends maintain a good quality of life.
Although there is a difference between asthma and allergies, the two conditions go hand in hand. Certain chemicals in the body react to irritants in the air and can produce similar reactions. An allergic reaction can trigger a response in the nasal membranes, eyes, skin, tongue and breathing passages. Symptoms range from itchy watery eyes, sneezing and runny nose, to red, itchy irritated skin. Asthma is a disease of the bronchial tubes in the windpipe that moves air in and out of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Triggers in the respiratory system create an excess of mucus production and irritation in the airways which can narrow or block them. Pollutants that cause an allergic reaction can also trigger an asthma attack.
Asthma is more common in cats, but dogs can also be susceptible to it. The disease affects pets in the same way it does humans. An attack can be sudden and brought on by irritants and allergens in the environment. It can be difficult to determine which pollutants are causing the problem, but it’s important to try so you can eliminate them from your home, if possible, to help prevent future attacks.
Common triggers can be grass, tree pollens, household dust, mold, mildew, dust mites, dander, exhaust from cars, smoke from wood burning stoves or fireplaces, and second hand smoke from cigars or cigarettes. Others include household cleaners or sprays, deodorants, room deodorizers, spray fragrances, hair spray, flea spray, remodeling products, paints, pesticides, and dust from kitty litter. Other possible factors could be a food allergy, exercise and extreme weather conditions.
Sometimes asthma can develop as a result of a bacterial infection, allergies or genetics. Because dogs and cats are individuals, triggers can be different for each pet. Finding and removing what is causing your pet’s asthma can lessen the severity and frequency of attacks. Sometimes stress can be the trigger that causes an attack. There is no cure, but pets with asthma can function normally as long as symptoms are properly managed, which will help your pet breathe more comfortably.
Older and small breed dogs are more susceptible than larger canines. Himalayan and Siamese kitties are more at risk than other cat breeds. Regardless of age, size or breed, all dogs and cats can develop asthma when exposed to certain environmental pollutants or dealing with stress.
Asthma Symptoms in Pets
Symptoms range from mild to severe and can vary. Pets can have just one or all of the symptoms. The most common sign is a dry cough (especially at night); however, cat owners may think their pet is trying to cough up a hairball as the sound is similar. Other symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, labored breathing, loss of appetite, weight loss, runny nose, panting, or blue/purple tongue or gums, which is a sign your pet isn’t getting enough oxygen. Call your vet immediately if you notice your pet is having a difficult time breathing.
To get an accurate diagnosis, a chest x-ray, complete blood work, heartworm test and other tests need to be done because asthma can mimic other medical conditions. Treatment for asthma can include antihistamines, bronchodilators (a drug that increases airflow to the lungs), antibiotics, or a combination of drugs. Oxygen therapy may be used in severe attacks. Inhalers similar to ones used by humans may also be prescribed and have been found to be effective in managing a pet’s cough.
If you think your pet may be suffering from asthma, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention to prevent more serious conditions – pulmonary fibrosis and lung atelectasis – from developing. Pulmonary fibrosis is when lung tissue becomes scarred and thick, interfering with breathing. Lung atelectasis is a disease that prevents the lungs from inflating properly.
Asthma can be controlled with proper medication, which will be necessary for the rest of your pet’s life. The prognosis is excellent for most dogs and cats, who can enjoy a happy life with a normal life span. Loss of appetite and no energy are common signs of a variety of medical issues. If you notice your pet isn’t eating his CANIDAE meals or seems unusually tired, call your vet for a checkup.
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