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Treating cats with asthma

Care of an asthmatic cat may consist of two primary components:

  • Reduce potential allergens, both dietary and environmental; and
  • Use medication to reduce inflammation of the lung tissue and/or open the airways during an acute attack.

Medications should be selected which maximize benefits while minimizing side effects. Left untreated, asthma can be life-threatening.


Diagnosing feline asthma can be a challenge, as the symptoms are so similar to those of upper respiratory infections and other bronchial complaints.

Caregivers generally first notice their cats wheeze or cough. While cats can cough for a variety of reasons, including hairballs, an unproductive cough that occurs routinely should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian. A cat with open-mouthed breathing should go to the veterinarian immediately!

In order to diagnose asthma, a veterinarian may start by taking x-rays. X-rays may show abnormalities in the lungs, including thickened airway walls referred to as “doughnuts” or “tramlines”. Other times, diagnosis may be unclear. Diagnosis often involves ruling out other diseases with similar symptoms, like heart disease and respiratory infections. After other conditions are ruled out, the veterinarian and caregiver may choose to attempt treatment with cortisteriods and bronchodilators and see if the cat responds.


Asthma may be triggered by a variety of allergens, in the environment or diet. Environmental allergens may be minimized by:

  • regular household cleaning,
  • investing in an air filter, and/or
  • keeping any tobacco smoking away from cats.

Dietary allergens may be minimized by feeding an all-wet diet containing no grains, and limited to poultry or rabbit. For more information on feeding your cat, see our nutrition brochure.


If allergen reduction does not control symptoms, medications must be used. Typical treatment includes steroids or other immuno-suppressants and bronchodilators. With any medication, benefits must be weighed against the risks (side effects). Risks of long-term use of oral steroids include development of diabetes, an effect that may be minimized by feeding a low-carbohydrate wet diet (canned or raw).

Inhaled medications are gaining in popularity since the development of a device for use in cats. Inhaled medication delivered by an aerosol chamber (such as the Aerokat) is the preferred treatment method. Feline aerosol chambers deliver the medication directly to the airways. This is a more effective delivery method and also minimizes the side effects of steroids. Two types of inhaled medications are typically used in a metered dose inhaler, a corticosteriod such as fluticasone (Flovent) and a bronchodilator such as albuterol.


Asthmatic cats (just like asthmatic humans) can minimize symptoms and emergency care with proper treatment. Recent advances have provided caregivers with more options with fewer side effects.

Case Studies

Heather giving inhaled medications to her asthmatic cat, Rocky - video demonstration

Cost Saving Ideas

Shop around for prices on medications and other supplies. Costs may vary significantly between your veterinarian clinic, local drugstores, and mail order. See, for example:

Many caregivers of asthmatic cats use Canadian pharmacies. Note: US 110mcg = Canadian 125mcg, US 220mcg = Canadian 250mcg.

For futher information, visit:

Inhaled medication protocol

Fritz the Brave

Yahoo! Feline Asthma - Inhaled Meds Group

Feline Asthma by Mar Vista Animal Medical Center


Date last updated: 1/19/2009

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