Feline Asthma: Bronchitis Syndrome in Cats
Asthma is a condition caused by constriction of the air passages in the lungs. (Bronchial Constriction or Irritation) The exact cause is not known, but asthma is a result of allergies and perhaps some other factors. Some cats get asthma from inhaling dust from their litter box, for example.
Affected cats suffer episodes of difficult breathing, and many have periods of severe coughing. Asthma attacks usually recur and are difficult to predict. Many months may pass between attacks or they may occur several times per day.
When you bring your cat to a vet for wheezing, coughing, or difficult breathing, the first thing we're likely to do is try to rule out other causes of respiratory disease. Other causes of mid and upper airway disease include:
(yes, cats get heartworms; go to heart page for info)
Heart Disease, especially cardiomyopathy
Lymphoma and other lung cancers
Cold Complex/kennel cough and other viral resp diseases
Bacterial or Fungal Respiratory Infections
Food Allergies (Maybe)
FIP, Aids, and Leukemia
Draining gum abscesses, oral herpes ulcers, and other oral ulcers
Second Hand Smoke (Maybe)
Parasites (many intestinal parasites spend part of their life cycle in the lungs)
Diaphragmatic Hernia (Not likely but possible)
Hairballs etc ( the gassy bowel compresses the diaphragm into the lungs)
Your experienced vet will be able to narrow the possibilities down with a good history and exam. We have blood tests that are able to quickly rule out heartworms, Feline Aids, and Leukemia. Your vet may want to culture your cat's airways.
One of the most helpful diagnostic tools, though, is a set of chest x-rays. X-rays help us rule out heart disease, lung masses, hernias, foreign bodies, and collapsed lungs.
In cats with very mild asthma or bronchitis and infrequent attacks of coughing, treatment may not be necessary at all. Mild to moderate conditions are treated medically at home by administration of medications designed to open up the bronchial tubes, and might include antibiotics, anti-oxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, bronchodilators, diet changes, or steroids. Steroids tend to be the most effective treatment, but are also the most likely to cause potentially serious side effects.
This is definitely the type of disease that will require a few rechecks and some trial and error adjustments of the treatment in hopes of making your cat comfortable and long lived.
Coronavirus Infection in Cats
(Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) and Coronavirus Enteritis)
Coronavirus infections in cats include those that cause feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and those that cause coronavirus enteritis. The viruses are not the same, but they cannot be differentiated by the blood test that is currently available.
Interpretation of blood tests for diagnosis of FIP is difficult and may not be helpful to your veterinarian.
Feline infectious peritonitis is relatively uncommon and generally fatal. It primarily affects cats between 6 months and 5 years old. The disease occurs in two forms. The "wet" form of FIP is a disease of the lining of the abdominal or chest cavities in which large amounts of fluid accumulate. The "dry" form of FIP affects various organs, such as the lymph nodes, kidneys, eyes, and brain.
Coronavirus enteritis causes diarrhea. Kittens are the most likely to be affected, but the disease may recur throughout the cat's life. The infection is common especially in multi-cat households.
There is a nasal vaccine available to protect your cat from getting FIP. There is some controversy on how important and how effective this vaccine is, so you'll find differing opinions and recommendations among different vets.
Although FIP is considered incurable, we can often make your cat comfortable for a while.
As for Corona Viral Enteritis and diarrhea, this is usually a mild disease and treated symptomatically to reduce the diarrhea and soothe the GI tract until the disease runs it's course.
Sinusitis, Colds, and Upper Respiratory Problems in Cats
Sinuses are bony cavities in the skull that communicate with the nasal passages. Sinus infections are caused by invasion by bacteria, fungi, or viruses; in cats, several viruses working together (respiratory complex) are thought to be the most common cause. Sometimes the problem is from underlying dental problems. And sometimes the problem is really related to hair or grasses that migrate up the back of the throat into the nasal passages. Other foreign bodies such as plant awns sometimes get up the nasal passages. Reflux from hairballs and other causes of indigestion or upchucking sometimes cause upper respiratory symptoms. All these possibilities underscore why it's best to go to the vet, even if you think "it's just a cold".
Clinical signs of sinus infection include discharge from the nose or eyes, coughing, gagging, and postnasal drip. In cats, one of the most common symptoms is sneezing.
Most cases aren't very serious and most of us vets simply shrug the problem off as a "cold" and each of us have various favorite remedies to help reduce the symptoms. But some cases are more serious, so it's possible that your vet will recommend or offer x-rays or even a CT-scan. Other tests that may be appropriate might include:
A white blood cell count
A culture and sensitivity
Blood work to rule out underlying diseases like leukemia or Aids
A Heartworm test
Treatment will range from minimal to extensive depending on the severity and nature of the problem. Duh
The important take home message for you is to be observant for changes for the worse. You need to tell you vet if your cat stops eating, if the nasal discharge becomes thick and yellow, or the chest becomes obviously congested. Most upper respiratory problems in cats are successfully treated conservatively, but you have to watch for the exceptions.
Here's a list of possible treatments, again, depending on the severity of the case:
Nothing: that's right, occasionally nothing is needed except time. Although many cat colds last about a month.
Antibiotics: not a cure, but antibiotics seem to lessen symptoms and prevent the problem from getting worse. This is probably because while most upper respiratory problems are caused by viruses, there is a bacterial component. My theory is simply that bacterial organisms in the mouth, throat, and sinuses thrive when those tissues are red and raw from a viral cold. In addition, this is a time when the cat's immune system will be suppressed.
Afrin Nasal spray, Vapor Rub, Saline Squirts Etc: I'm not a big fan of any of these, although I suspect they help dilate and open up the sinuses ... it's just that I don't think the result is worth the effort. Most cats aren't too fond of such treatments.
Virasyl This is a brand of lysine supplement flavored for cats. There are probably other brands available
Anti-Histamines: sometimes small doses help make the cat more comfortable.
Steroids: Some vets are totally opposed to steroid use for colds as steroids cause immune suppression to some degree (and can possibly cause other side effects too). I personally think ...make that know ...that a short acting steroid makes the cat feel better, reduces the nasal irritation, and greatly reduces the symptoms. I think the problem of immune suppression and other side effects is minimal compared to the benefits.
Smelly Diets: This is no big deal, except that cat appetites are very much associated with smell, so it helps to keep them eating if they're all stuffed up by offering canned food or something with lots of aroma such as canned fish, etc. If your cat doesn't like such things, try microwaving it's dry food just a little to bring out the aromas.
Immune Stimulants: Not a likely treatment, but in the experimental stage. Your vet may offer them.
Feline Kennel Cough Vaccine: Considered by some to help stimulate the local immune system within the sinus passages and therefore speed healing. Maybe, most experts don't seem to think this vaccine is very effective
Vitamins and other supplements: I'm a believer that anti-oxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins, and other supplements help speed and aid healing, but whether, how much, which brands, and how important are still in debate.
My Favorite Treatment: For most of my cat patients suffering from sinus symptoms due to an upper respiratory "cold", here's what I do: (your vet may very well do things differently as my treatment is considered controversial or old fashioned)
After making reasonably sure that there aren't other more serious problems going on, I give a combination injection made up of long acting, high dose penicillin, gentocin, dexamethasone, atropine, and B12. I repeat this injection, if needed, every 1-3 days for 1-3 times. Each time the cat comes in for a repeat injection, I recheck the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes, general condition, history, and temperature. At our practice, these rechecks are free, and very quick, but this allows me to keep on top of any case not improving or getting worse. Plus the injections are much more potent than oral meds given at home and a lot more convenient for the client who has trouble medicating cats. Most improve quickly.
Again, whatever your vet prescribes, sinus and upper respiratory conditions occasionally get worse quickly, so be observant.
Some Feline Colds and Sinus Problems are more serious:
Rhinotracheitis is caused by a herpesvirus that attacks the eyes, nasal passages, and trachea (windpipe) of cats. Once infected, cats develop respiratory signs such as sneezing, coughing, and runny eyes and nose within 2 to 5 days; ulcers on the tongue and cornea and high fever may also be present.
Infection spreads rapidly from one cat to another by contact with discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth directly from an infected cat, or by contact with contaminated clothing, hands, feeding utensils, or other articles. The virus can live for months in the mouth and nose of a cat after signs of infection have resolved, and can be shed by cats showing no clinical signs.
Human beings and dogs are not susceptible. The Herpes virus in not the same strain that causes herpes infection in humans.
Mild infection usually resolves within 1 to 5 weeks. Adult cats usually recover, but the virus can cause severe damage to the nasal cavity. In kittens, this is particularly dangerous, and kittens not treated early enough may die or lose an eye to these infections.
Some cats become chronically infected and suffer with persistent sneezing, nasal discharge, and periodic relapse. Chronically infected cats may or may not be a source of infection to other cats.
Sometimes this is because they have underlying immune system problems or diseases.
Calici virus infection has many similarities to rhinotracheitis. Cats become infected by inhaling or swallowing the virus, and signs of illness develop within 2 to 10 days of exposure. Early signs include runny eyes and nose, sneezing, depression, and poor appetite.
Ulcers may develop on the tongue and hard palate, and most infected cats drool heavily. Illness lasts from 1 to 4 weeks. Most cats recover, but fatalities do occur. Young kittens are most likely to be severely affected. Some cats that recover from the disease may continue to shed the virus for weeks or even years. The virus is hardy and can survive outside the cat on dishes and pans for 8 to 10 days.
As I mentioned before, these viruses are often present together along with bacteria.
These virus' is not transmissible to humans or dogs.
Treatment for such cases will be similar to that discussed above but may also include:
Hospitalization, oxygen therapy, vaporizers, injectable antibiotics etc, tube or forced feeding, nutritional support, and IV fluids.
If you have such a patient at home that you're treating, contact your vet if:
Your cat has trouble breathing or refuses to eat or drink
Your cat shows excessive inactivity, vomiting, or diarrhea
Your cat relapses after apparent recovery or develops new signs
Your cat's fever is higher than 104 F
Your cat's eyes are red, partially closed, or have a discharge