Written by: Dr. Chronic coughing and breathing difficulties can be one of the most difficult symptoms for your veterinarian to diagnose. There is a wide array of possibilities for the origin of a cough in a dog or cat. There are many possible causes of a cough including infectious diseases like kennel cough, distemper, bronchitis, or an upper respiratory infection such as feline viral rhinotracheitis FVR, feline calicivirus FCV and others in cats. Additional ailments that can cause a cough or breathing difficulties include allergies, asthma, chronic bronchitis, cancer, collapsed trachea, heart disease, heartworms, parasites, periodontal disease, pneumonia, or environmental irritants such as smoke and other pollutants. Diagnosing the source of a chronic cough or breathing difficulties can take a good deal of investigation and requires the assistance of your veterinarian. Thorough assessment of the history of the cough and a physical examination are the first steps.
Asthma in human beings is a chronic inflammatory disease within the lower airways bronchi and bronchioles that causes cough, wheeze and exercise intolerance. These clinical signs are the result of a decrease in airflow through airways that are narrowed from excessive mucus secrection, airway wall edema and bronchoconstriction. There are no clinical signs or laboratory tests available in routine veterinary clinical practice that are pathognomonic for asthma in cats. The tests we can perform are most valuable to exclude other common causes of acute dyspnea, wheeze and cough including heart failure, pneumonia, pulmonary malignancy, respiratory parasitism and inhaled foreign body. Fortunately, none of these diseases routinely causes clinical signs of asthma in an otherwise healthy cat. Therefore, we can usually make the correct diagnosis of feline asthma if we examine only a few clinical signs and radiographic findings, including. A history of a sudden onset of labored breathing that is quickly relieved usually with some combination of oxygen, bronchodilators and steroids.
Some tests such as airway washes may help to differentiate between asthma and chronic bronchitis but definitive criteria are lacking. What happens in asthma or chronic bronchitis Asthma is a condition where the small airways in the lungs over-react to the presence of a stimulus — an irritant or an allergen. The single R – isomer form of this product, levalbuterol, can be given regularly as needed to control clinical signs; it is the S – isomer that has been demonstrated to have the paradoxic detrimental effects. Airway epithelium may thicken hypertrophy, evolve to a different structure metaplastic change, or simply become damaged erode or ulcerate. Although in theory, if chronic bronchitis and asthma could be reliably distinguished this may affect how treatment is targeted, in practice, both are currently treated in the same way. Asthma is a chronic breathing problem. If you suspect your cat may have asthma, it is best to err on the side of caution. There is a possible exception to the statements made above. And put out those smokes.