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Cat asthma: does my wheezing cat have asthma?

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Asthma isn’t just a debilitating condition for us humans – it can affect our pets, too.

The term ‘feline asthma’ describes a number of conditions that affect the lungs and airways in cats, often causing shortness of breath and wheezing.

If you suspect your cat has feline asthma, read on to find out what it is, and what your vet can do to help alleviate cat asthma.

A brief summary...

  • Asthma can affect any cat, it’s a condition that causes breathing difficulties
  • Your cat’s asthma may be triggered by mould, dust or other irritants
  • Signs of asthma include wheezing, coughing and rapid breathing
  • Asthmatic cats can live full & healthy lives if they get the right treatment
  • You can ease your cat’s symptoms by removing known irritants from your home
  • If untreated, asthma can cause permanent damage – contact your vet as soon as symptoms arise

What is asthma?

Also known as feline chronic small airway disease, allergic airway disease or feline bronchitis, cat asthma occurs when mucus and inflammation make breathing hard for your cat. Feline asthma affects all ages and breeds of cat, though Siamese cats are most commonly affected.

Cat asthma can be caused by an allergy such as pollen, household chemicals, dust, mould or mildew, or cigarette smoke. Other times, the cause of the condition is less certain.

Signs and symptoms of asthma

Signs and symptoms of feline asthma can include:

  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • An ongoing cough (not one-off coughing, which can be caused by furballs)
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing, sometimes sudden

Diagnosing your cat's asthma

As the signs and symptoms of feline asthma can be similar to a range of other conditions, your vet will want to rule out other causes before diagnosing your cat. Lungworm, bacterial infections, cancer, traumatic lung injuries and heart disease can all have similar symptoms. Once he or she has ruled these out, your vet may recommend a chest X-ray or other procedure, such as a CT scan, to investigate further.


Most asthmatic cats respond well to treatment, and go on to live a normal, healthy life. Your vet may recommend medication such as anti-inflammatory steroid tablets or a steroid inhaler that can help to control the symptoms of cat asthma, and reduce long-term damage to the lungs.

Because permanent damage is a possibility, it’s important to get your cat checked out by your vet quickly if you have any reason to believe she’s suffering from asthma. Alongside medical treatment, obesity will exacerbate the condition and so it is important that you keep your cat at a healthy weight as well as using a suitable wormer at regular intervals, as advised by your vet.

Preventing asthma at home

If you know your cat’s asthma is triggered by one of the irritants listed above, it makes sense to reduce her exposure to that irritant. Stopping smoking (if you haven’t already), treating any mould or mildew in your home, or keeping your cat indoors when pollen levels are high can all help.

“As the signs and symptoms of feline asthma can be similar to a range of other conditions, your vet will want to rule out other causes before diagnosing your cat with asthma.”

Need more info?

Be aware that asthmatic cats can suddenly become an emergency if they have a severe ‘asthma attack’. Handle these cats gently and calmly and seek veterinary attention immediately. For expert advice on feline asthma, contact your local vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.