Cats and horses are the companion animals most likely to suffer from diseases that closely resemble human asthma. In horses, the condition often goes by the names Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or heaves. In cats, the terms feline asthma or allergic bronchitis are most commonly used.
When a pet has the animal equivalent of asthma, allergic triggers in the environment cause its airways to constrict and produce more mucous than normal. This can cause symptoms that can be anywhere from mild to extreme. Some animals experience short-lived episodes of low activity, exercise intolerance, coughing, or rapid breathing. Pets with more severe cases might experience life-threatening flare-ups that can cause them to literally gasp for air.
To differentiate asthma from other conditions that cause similar symptoms, your pet’s veterinarian will perform a physical exam and also might need to order chest x-rays, blood work, fecal exams or other diagnostic tests. Pet Medications that reduce inflammation, such as Prednisolone, Prednisone, and Dexamethasone, are one of the mainstays of asthma treatment. Medications that reduce inflammation, such as Ventipulmin, are also usually recommended for pets with asthma. Some pet meds for asthma can be inhaled through a facemask while others are given orally or by injection. Animals in the midst of a severe asthma attack may require oxygen therapy. If a specific trigger can be identified (i.e. cigarette smoke or dusty hay) it should be removed from the animal’s environment if possible.
Asthma cannot be cured, but in many cases the disease can be managed so that the attacks are not severe or frequent enough as to dramatically decrease a pet’s quality of life.