While there are obviously some very marked differences between pets and humans, our physiology is yet alike enough that we do suffer from some of the same health conditions. One of these health conditions is asthma–a chronic disease that affects the respiratory system and causes breathing difficulties. As is the case with humans, pets can develop asthma at any age, though it does seem to occur more frequently in younger pets and in certain breeds of pets–such as Siamese and Himalayan cats. There is no known cure for pets with asthma, but fortunately recognizing the signs and managing the symptoms of pet asthma can help to protect against more serious asthma attacks. It can also help to ensure that your pet breathes better overall, and lives a longer and better quality of life.
Asthma and Pets
Understanding how to address asthma in pets begins with understanding what can trigger it. Just like asthma in humans, the triggers for asthma in pets are many and varied and can include any type of smoke, dust mites, dander, molds, pollen, strong scents, pollution, allergies or bacterial infections. When these various triggers enter a pet’s respiratory system, they cause uncontrolled mucus production as well as airway inflammation, both of which can contribute to narrowed or blocked airways, the main component of asthma.
It can be difficult–not to mention expensive–to run your pet to the veterinarian every time they show any sign of a health condition. However, a pet who is suffering from asthma is undoubtedly quite uncomfortable and will benefit from receiving immediate treatment. To that end, it is wise to know the basic signs and symptoms of asthma in pets, which include:
- Shortness of breath
- Shallow and labored breathing
- Breathing through an open mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Runny nose
- Bluish or purplish tongue and gums (this sign indicates depleted blood oxygen levels and warrants an immediate trip to the veterinarian’s office.)
If your pet is displaying one or more of the above signs or symptoms, and especially if they are not acting like their normal, happy and healthy self, it is important to get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The veterinarian will perform an examination as well as any medically necessary tests in order to determine whether the problem is indeed asthma, or perhaps some other health condition.
To diagnose a condition as asthma, the veterinarian will verify the existence of one or more of the common signs or symptoms of asthma, take an x-ray of the chest to detect airway inflammation, and perform a blood analysis. Once they have ruled out other possible respiratory issues and ascertained that the pet does have asthma, the veterinarian will determine what treatment solution is best.
While treatment cannot cure the condition, it can reduce the symptoms, control secretions and open the airways. Some possible treatment solutions include:
- Oral and inhaled steroids. These help to reduce inflammation, which can make breathing easier.
- These help to reduce sensitivity to certain triggers and open the airways.
- These help to open the airways.
- These help where asthma has resulted from a respiratory infection.
- Supplemental inspired oxygen. These help in cases of severe attacks where blood oxygen levels are low.
Your veterinarian may also discuss with you the ways in which you can help to reduce the frequency and severity of your pet’s asthma attacks. This means understanding the triggers and working to reduce them. It may include weight loss and control, infection treatment, air purifiers or vent filters, frequent vacuuming, and even carpet or curtain elimination and much more. Whatever you can do to help your pet be more comfortable and breathe more easily will help you to do the same.