Pet Talk: Smoke can create problems quickly for your cat
Smoke is in the air, and with wildfires continuing to burn throughout the state and the country, our air quality is decreasing and clean air is not always easy to find.
Humans as well as pets are highly sensitive to smoke in the air and it can cause an increase in respiratory disease and lead to life-threatening health conditions. Cats especially have very sensitive respiratory systems and seem to be the pets presenting the most with respiratory problems.
One of the most common signalments that cats are presenting for currently is asthma.
Asthma specifically is caused by an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens which specifically stimulate the pet’s immune system. As the pet’s immune system quickly responds to the inhaled allergens, a cascade of events occurs resulting in inflammation, swelling and eventual reactive constriction of the pet’s airways, making breathing extremely difficult. The diameter of the airway becomes narrowed very quickly when this occurs, which makes the passage of air extremely difficult. This can lead to a life-threatening event for your pet.
Initial signs of Asthma in pets include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, open-mouthed breathing, and a blue tongue. Asthma can be especially scary for a pet and their owner, as it can come on very quickly.
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There is no perfect test to diagnose feline asthma, but as a veterinarian, I have found the clinical history to be the most important part of the exam. Exposure to smoke, new perfumes, new cat litter, new fragrances in the house can all contribute to causing an asthmatic episode. Secondly, a chest radiograph will confirm asthma versus heart disease, in addition to baseline bloodwork which rule out other disease processes. Once diagnosed, your cat can be prescribed inhalers and/or oral medications specifically for asthma, in addition to oxygen therapy.
With the volume of fires currently going on, it is extremely important to observe your cat’s breathing patterns and consult your veterinarian as soon as you detect trouble We can help your pet avoid a life-threatening event from occurring and manage your cat so he/she can go on to live a healthy life.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, is the owner of Mountain Animal Hospital Center and Mobile Veterinarian.