I first noticed something was wrong with Bijou when I caught her coughing for about 2 weeks straight. It seemed to me that she was coughing up a hairball but she never did. I got worried that something was stuck. So I called the vet told them about her symptoms and they suggested that I bring her into the office.
Dr Bill Wild from the Glenwood Village Pet Hospital took a look at her and said it could be one of two things, Feline Heartworm Disease or Feline Asthma. According to Dr Wild, Feline Heartworm Disease is untreatable. The heartworm treatment used for dogs would be deadly to a cat. With heartworms in cats you just have to wait until the worm dies. This could be years and the worm could end up killing your cat before it dies. Many times Feline Asthma is misdiagnosed as Feline Heartworm Disease. Dr Wild ran the tests for heartworm on Bijou and they were negative.
Feline Asthma can be deadly if it is not found and treated. It is very similar to asthma in humans, where the airways are inflamed and there is reversible bronchoconstriction. The primary signs are coughing and wheezing. Watch your cat if she is coughing a lot without producing hairballs.
Once the problem is discovered, Feline Asthma can be treated and your cat can live a long life. However, your cat will most likely have to take medicine for the rest of her life. Currently, the most reliable and effective treatment for Feline Asthma is high dose long term, oral corticosteroids. However, sometimes it is hard to get your pet to take pills, so an injection of a long acting repository steroid can be used.
If a cat is overweight it can cause some difficulity with breathing. Bijou was put on a diet to help alleviate the stress of the extra weight on her lungs. The doctor told me, if your cat is kept indoors, and you are using dry food (not canned), 1/2 cup a day is all she needs. Anything more is too much.
I hope that this will help you to understand that asthma in cats is a real problem and can be life threatening if it goes untreated. It is a condition that develops after exposure to stimuli that inflames the airways. This stimuli doesn't effect everyone. Feline Asthma has been recognized in veterinary literature since at least 1906. Be aware that a chronic cough is the symptom to something that could be deadly.
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