Asthma in Dogs and Cats – Pet tip 123
Asthma is a chronic problem of the respiratory system. It is apparent when some event, such as breathing irritants found in the air, triggers a response in the airways. The response could be inflammation, constriction, and excessive mucus production. The consequence is that the affected person has difficulty breathing and may be incapable of inhaling enough oxygen. In North America, asthma is the most common chronic illness in children. In addition, the Commission for Environmental Co-Operation estimates that 2.5 million Canadians have asthma. However, it is not just people that have this condition; it is also prevalent in our feline and canine companions.
How can I tell if my pet has asthma? There are many signs that may point towards asthma in your pet. Each pet is an individual, and will show a different combination of these signs. Coughing and wheezing, to begin with, are two of the more common signs. The coughing caused by asthma in cats can easily be mistaken for coughing to bring up hairballs, as the cough often sounds similar, if not identical in both situations. Wheezing has the potential to progress to respiratory difficulties. Your pet is probably having trouble breathing if it is gasping with an open mouth, has blue gums, and or has a blue tongue. This is an emergency, as your pet is not getting an adequate amount of oxygen and should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. You can also tell that your pet is struggling to breathe by its body language. They will adopt two awkward looking positions that actually help them to increase the amount of air that enters into their airways to get to the lungs. 1) They may squat with hunched shoulders, and have their neck low to the ground and extended. 2) They may have their neck extended upwards. Further indications that may contribute to a diagnosis of asthma are lethargy and a decrease in appetite. Just being knowledgeable of these symptoms will allow you to carefully watch your pet, and perchance notice a problem earlier to get treatment before it becomes a major health concern.
How will the veterinarian diagnose your pet as having asthma? A diagnosis of asthma cannot be made with just one symptom. There are many other diseases that will mimic the symptoms of asthma, and your veterinarian will no doubt take these into consideration as well. Some of these ‘impersonator’ diseases are respiratory infection, lungworm, heartworm, heart disease, and leukemia. If these other diseases can be eliminated as the cause of your pet’s breathing problems, then your veterinarian may suspect asthma. Additionally, your pet will show several of the common asthma symptoms discussed previously that will be diminished in severity by asthma medications. Finally, all other tests that are completed by your veterinarian support the hypothesis that your pet has asthma. Only when all of these considerations are combined together, and your veterinarian carefully considers your pet’s health, will they suggest the diagnosis of asthma. Once diagnosed with asthma, your veterinarian will consistently check up on your pet to ensure that the treatment plans are working effectively and your pet is enjoying the highest quality of life.
How can I prevent my pet from having an asthma attack? An asthma attack often occurs rapidly, as the result of some kind of irritant in the environment. These irritants can be called the ‘triggers’ of asthma attacks, and the possibilities are endless. Some common environmental substances that may trigger an asthma attack are air fresheners, perfumes, dusty cat litter, dust, molds, and smoke. In fact, second hand smoke is perhaps the most common cause for a flare up. Basically, you would aim to remove anything that may irritate an animal that is sensitive to allergens or smells. However, you cannot always prevent an asthma attack from occurring because it is often exceedingly difficult to determine which one(s) of these environmental triggers are causing your pet difficulties. It may be that combinations of them are needed to cause a flare-up. This may all sound very devastating, but chin up! In the event that an underlying cause for the asthma cannot be determined, there are many options for treatment that will allow your pet to live a long healthy life.
When a cat or dog is first diagnosed with asthma, it can be extremely demanding for you, the owner. With time, both the worry about your pet and the difficulty of treating your pet will diminish, and leave you more capable and knowledgeable about caring for an animal with asthma. You will learn how to minimize your pet’s discomfort, so that you can enjoy each other’s company every minute of each day. Along with complications for your pet, it is probable that asthma in animals can be a sentinel event or warning of a greater risk for people living in the same environment. Animals may be more susceptible than humans to these particular hazards. By diagnosing asthma in your pet, it is feasible that asthma developing in people may be detected earlier. Also, if the irritants or allergens are discovered in the house and this cures the pet’s allergies this may also result in healthier people living under the same roof.
By Laura Platt – Pets.ca writer