What You Should Know About COPD in Horses and Cats

asthma in cats
Is you cat asthmatic? Get her checked by a vet

Of all pets, horses and cats are more likely to suffer from a breathing disease that has the symptoms of asthma. The disease is especially common in cats that vets simply refer to it as feline asthma. You may also hear vets referring to the condition as allergic bronchitis. In horses, the breathing condition is not the same as in cats. Vets refer to the horses’ condition as “heaves”, “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)” or “recurrent airway obstruction (RAO)”.

The general causes of asthma are nearly the same in both humans and animals. Generally, a person, cat, horse or another animal may suffer from asthma when something in the environment irritates the lining of the respiratory tract. The irritant is usually an allergic trigger. However, asthma can also be caused by other elements such as chemicals in the air, rapid breathing due to exercise, cold temperatures, viruses, etc. Regardless of the asthma trigger, the respiratory tract is inflamed, more mucus is produced by the cells and the airways become narrower since the muscles surrounding them have contracted.

There are different symptoms of COPD in horses, or asthma in cats and humans. The symptoms usually depend on the individuality of the victim and severity of an episode. A mild COPD episode can be characterized by lethargy, coughing and a short period of deep or rapid breathing. This episode usually resolves on its own. More severe flare-ups can be life-threatening for horses and cats , and may leave them gasping for breathe.

If you suspect your horse or cat is suffering from COPD, you should get her checked by a vet. One of the signs that can help you know that the pet is suffering from asthma is an expiratory wheeze (i.e. a high-pitched sound that is heard when the animal breathes out.). If the case is mild, you can try various COPD in horses natural treatment options. If the case is severe, you may hear the wheeze while just standing near the horse or cat. However, the best way to determine whether the wheeze is actually a symptom of COPD is to use a stethoscope.

However, not every animal with COPD wheezes and not every wheeze is a sign of asthma. To ascertain whether your horse or cat has asthma, the vet will need to perform a complete physical exam. Apart from this, the medical history records of the animals will have to be checked. In most cases, fecal exams, blood work, chest X-rays and other diagnostic tests may have to be done to determine whether the wheeze is actually due to COPD.

COPD in horses and cats cannot be cured. This is just like is the case with asthma in humans. However, in many cases, it can be well managed that the animal’s or person’s quality of life is not significantly affected. As you stay with your pet, keep watch of triggers that can cause her to have COPD. Examples of common triggers include hay, dusty cat litter, air fresheners or cigarette smoke. Make sure the triggers are eliminated from the immediate environment where the pet is.

You can also use various medications to reduce COPD in your pets. Medications that reduce inflammation (e.g. dexamethasone, beclomethasone, fluticasone, prednisone, or prednisolone) and dilate airways (e.g. clenbuterol, salmeterol, albuterol, theophylline or terbutaline) are commonly used in treatment of asthma in animals. For long term management of the condition, medications are usually administered as an aerosol using a spacer and mask to reduce the potential for systemic side effects. In some cases, injectable or oral drugs are necessary.

Other COPD treatment options include cyclosporine, montelukast, zafirlukast, and cyproheptadine.

Do you have a horse with COPD or a cat with asthma? What have you experienced with the diseases and treatment? Comment below.

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