Wheezing happens when air is having a hard time being pushed out of the lungs through narrowed or thickened airway passages. This makes a strange sound and is usually followed by a cough. Is your cat breathing funny? When listening to your feline friend exhale, are they making a sound like an individual with asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)? If so, your cat may be wheezing, and here is why Fluffy may be having a hard time breathing.
Is Your Cat Wheezing? Then Here’s What You Need to Know…
Upper Respiratory Infection
Wheezing, coughing, sneezing, nasal and eye discharge are all symptoms of upper respiratory infections that a cat can catch, especially if they are unvaccinated or around other cats that may not be vaccinated. An upper respiratory can be bacterial or viral, most commonly viral. Viruses like herpes and calicivirus can cause upper respiratory infection symptoms. Upper respiratory infections in cats are usually contagious and if this is the case with your cat, they should be kept away from other cats for a couple of weeks.
Upper respiratory infections in cats can be suppressed and avoided by ensuring they are vaccinated against the most common upper respiratory viruses. FVRCP, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia, is a common vaccine used. Starting around 8 weeks old, and boostered until a veterinarian feels the cat is old enough to have the proper immunity.
Cat Wheezing Is Often Associated with Feline Asthma
Cats can have asthma too and feline asthma is a common cause of wheezing in cats. In fact, it is similar to asthma in humans. Feline asthma usually starts with some kind of allergic reaction to a substance the cat has inhaled, causing the irritation and inflammation in their airways and wheezing. Sometimes the asthma can become so severe that the cat’s airways are restricted completely.
Feline asthma must be diagnosed by a veterinarian. Be sure to provide a detailed history of any changes that have been made in the household, even down to a change in laundry detergent. More than likely, chest radiographs will be taken so the veterinarian can look at the bronchial patterns in the lungs. Medications will be prescribed after a diagnosis, which sometimes can include a steroid.
A foreign object inhaled can also cause wheezing and coughing. To investigate this, a veterinarian may want to perform chest X-rays and sedate the cat to be able to examine the trachea itself using special tools. Sedation is necessary to remove the object from the airway for safety reasons and to be able to manipulate the cat with ease.
Lung cancer and tumors in the lungs can also cause a cat to wheeze and cough. Again, x-rays of the chest will be needed to take a look inside the lungs. A biopsy of the tumor can also help find what kind of tumor sits in the lung and if it is receptive to chemotherapy.
How to Help Your Cat at Home
Wheezing cats are usually prescribed medications to help their symptoms. However, if your cat is still having a hard time at home, there are ways to help such as placing the cat in a crate beside a humidifier or shutting the cat in the bathroom while a hot shower is running. When doing this, make sure the cat is supervised at all times.
Hearing your cat wheezing can make you go into super parent mode—which is a good thing. Wheezing is not normal in cats and the cat should be seen by a veterinarian. If you are unable to be seen right away, be sure to pay attention to the gum color of the cat. The gums and tongue should remain a healthy pink. If the cat starts open-mouth breathing or the tongue turns purple or blue, the cat needs medical attention right away.