Q: My seven-year-old Persian cat is coughing up to five times daily. Could she have asthma?
A: Asthma in cats appears similar to humans. Common symptoms are coughing, wheezing, exercise intolerance, and labored breathing. So, yes, she could have asthma.
The next step is to take chest radiographs (X-rays). In classical asthma cases, radiographs will suggest inflammation of the airways. Some cats with asthma may still have normal chest radiographs.
If a diagnosis of asthma is likely, the next step is to see how her body responds to medication. Medications include medicines to dilate the airways like Terbutaline, and anti-inflammatory medications, like prednisone. Steroids can be administered by injection, orally or in some cases, using an inhaler. There are special devices that allow cats to use inhalers like the Aerokat Aerosol Chamber.
In some cases, coughing can also be caused by heart disease. This can be diagnosed by your veterinary cardiologist who performs a cardiac echo (or ultrasound).
Overall, the prognosis is good, but your cat may need lifelong medication.
Paws and Claws Column:
By Dr. Frank Lavac
MS, DVM, VCA
He can be reached at his office at VCA Wilshire Animal Hospital, 310-828-4587.