How is feline asthma managed?Once your cat is diagnosed with feline asthma, you have several options for treatment, depending on the severity of the case. The first, and most obvious thing you'll need to do is to try to eliminate the environmental allergens that are causing respiratory distress in your cat. Some will be easy; others more complicated or expensive.
If you are one of the dwindling minority of people who smoke, you'll need to do it outdoors in the future. Better yet, consider quitting, for your own health and for all those creatures who share your home. Fireplace smoke can also be a problem for asthmatics. We have not burned our own fireplace for years, but may someday convert it to a gas log version. Scented candles and plug-in air fresheners are particularly bad for both human and feline asthmatics, as is incense.
- Mildew and Mold
These can exist in homes in any climate. Mold can develop in damp basements, crawl spaces, or in steamy areas like bathrooms. Shower curtains and glass bath enclosures are magnets for mildew. Central air ducts are a perfect harboring for mold and mildew spores that float through the air, then are blown throughout the home by the heater or air conditioner. Part of your work here involves deep cleaning. Although it may sound contraindicated, a steam cleaner does a good job of cleaning mold and other allergens from solid surfaces like tile floors, shower enclosures, and walls. Professional services are indicated for cleaning central air ducts.
- Dust and Dust Mites
First, step up your use of the vacuum cleaner. Consider replacing curtains with attractive blinds. Think about hardwood floors or tile instead of wall-to-wall carpeting. Although expensive, Hepa air purifiers are excellent for removing both dust mites and mold spores from the air. If you cannot afford a whole-house installation, or live in a rental, consider a room purifier in the room your cat most frequently occupies.
- Household Chemicals
Try to keep their use to a minimum. Think "Clean Green" for your cats' benefit, your own health, and your home environment. Unfortunately, this includes eschewing most plug-in air fresheners and stove potpourris, which often cause respiratory distress in cats.
Pollens exist almost year-round in my area. A Hepa air purifier will also help clean the air of pollens. During pollen seasons, keep your windows closed, and keep your cat indoors.
- Cat Litter
Because of the dust that rises from clay litters, most of them are anathema to asthmatic cats. Some owners have used Feline Pine with good results, although some cats are allergic to the odor of pine. The same applies to scented silicone crystal litter. You definitely want to stick with unscented litter, and trial and error may be your last resource. Remember that cats are often fussy about litter changes, so introduce the new litter gradually.
What medications will my vet prescribe for my asthmatic cat?Hopefully, your cat was diagnosed in the early stages of asthma, and not after a panicky trip to the emergency vet clinic in a full-blown asthmatic attack. Depending on the severity of your cat's lung involvement, he most likely will be treated with a combination of a daily steroid, either by inhaler or pill, and a bronchodialator inhaler for use as needed.
Daily Steroid Options
Conventional veterinary practice is the administration of prednisone, in pill form, and spaced out three times a day. It can also be administered with transdermal gel, or through injection. All three of these methods have their drawbacks.
The newest form of administration is with a metered dose inhaler, often Flovent, given through a special mask. The Aerokat Feline Aerosol Chamber was developed for this purpose, and is highly regarded by veterinarians who are familiar with it. The advantage of aerosol steroid administration over pills and injections, is that it goes directly into the lungs, rather than throughout the body, thus there are fewer side effects. The web site of Fritz the Brave, has a full section on the use of the Aerokat, including videos demonstrating its use.
The most commonly-prescribed bronchodialator is albuterol, which can also be administered through a feline aerosol container, such as Aerokat. Albuterol is only given as needed, when an asthmatic cat starts coughing and wheezing, and should not be used routinely. Excessive use can actually cause bronchial spasms. If your cat is having more severe attacks than you consider normal, he should be taken back to your veterinarian for reevaluation and possible adjustment of his medications.
As with most feline health issues, the key to successful management of feline asthma is to know your cat well, keep your eyes and ears open for changes in his breathing, give him his medications as prescribed, and get veterinary care when indicated, either routine checkups or emergency intervention.
Last, consider joining a community group focused on asthmatic cats. The Fritz the Brave site has links to several, as well as a wealth of information on feline asthma.