Feline asthma is an immune-mediated disease characterized by symptoms ranging from infrequent, hairball-like coughing, to sudden onsets of respiratory distress (which veterinarians call "acute dyspnea").
Episodes are usually triggered by an allergen or stress, and can be accompanied/followed by vomiting, sneezing, or even wheezing like a human allergy sufferer. Respiratory signs may be slow and deliberate (more abdominal breathing), to fast and labored.
True asthma, as opposed to bronchitis, normally responds quickly to a combination of bronchodilators, oxygen therapy, and fast acting steroids. Diagnosis is usually confirmed with an xray, and possibly a slide cytology of the airway.
Because asthma can mimic other feline diseases (bronchitis, heart disease, pneumonia), a veterinary diagnosis assisted by an xray is essential. In many ways, feline asthma is very similar to human asthma, although our understanding of the causes of clinical feline asthma has been growing in recent years.
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Long-term treatment of asthma usually includes short or long- term use of corticosteroids (such as prednisone), and bronchodilators (such as terbutaline or aminophyline). While severe "episodes" of dyspnea can occur, the long- term prognosis for this disease is generally excellent. If diagnosed early, any structural changes to the lungs and airway are usually reversible, and damage can be minimized.
Recent investigation into alternative treatments for asthma include injectable steroids (for that patient that simply can't be pilled), Cyproheptadine (formally used as an appetite stimulant), Cyclosporin A (limited to severe cases), and Anti-Interleukin-5 Antibody (still experimental).
Removing allergens from the environment (use of an air purifier, dust free and unscented litter, no odor controlling sprays, etc.) could possibly help to relieve symptoms