Like their human owners, cats and dogs can both experience asthma – shortness of breath, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. When your pet has an asthma attack, it can be scary and even life threatening. Fortunately, with good medical management, your pet can still live a relatively normal life.

Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital explores the ins and outs of pets with asthma.

What is Asthma in Pets?

Asthma in dogs and cats is generally related to environmental allergies. When pets inhale small particles in the air, their airways can become inflamed. This may cause the airways to spasm and constrict, resulting in respiratory difficulty. If the acute condition becomes chronic, the pulmonary airways could become permanently damaged and narrowed.

Signs of Asthma in Pets

In cats, owners sometimes confuse an asthma attack with vomiting or hacking up a hairball. Common symptoms of asthma in dogs and cats include:

  • Wheezing
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Gagging or hacking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Blue or pale mucous membranes/ gums

Asthma Risks

Pets who are exposed to allergens may be more at risk for developing asthma. Small dogs are more commonly affected than large dogs, but any dog may be susceptible. The following allergens may be problematic to dogs as well as cats.

  • Tobacco or wood stove smoke
  • Perfume
  • Air fresheners
  • Pollen
  • Mold spores
  • Household cleaners
  • Pesticides
  • Dust particles from cat litter

Treatment of Asthma in Pets

Luckily, there are a number of effective treatments once asthma in pets is diagnosed. Treatments begin with reducing the number of environmental allergens that the pet is exposed to. Oral or inhaled glucocorticoids and bronchodilators are also commonly prescribed.

Though impossible to remove all the environmental triggers for most pets, the following tips may be helpful:

  • Install air purifiers or HEPA filters in your home to reduce particles in the air
  • Don’t smoke near your pets
  • Forego the wood stove
  • Use natural household cleaners such as white vinegar instead of chemical cleaners
  • Consider switching to dust free cat litter
  • Consider replacing your carpet, which can carry toxic chemicals due to the manufacturing process
  • Dust and vacuum frequently
  • Wash pet bedding frequently with a hypoallergenic soap

If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s breathing or want to know more about asthma in pets, please schedule an appointment or bring your pet to the closest emergency clinic. An asthma attack can be scary and dangerous, so don’t wait to seek treatment. As always, your team at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital is ready to help.