Feline Health Articles

Feline Asthma: Therapy Options

Onyx with Asthma

Onyx, who has been lived with asthma and used an inhaler

Feline asthma is a result of inflammation in the lungs which causes constriction of the airways, or bronchioles.  Basic treatment of feline asthma involves both relief of the underlying inflammation with anti-inflammatory treatments such as steroids and also opening up the airways by using brochodilators.

Option one – Oral medications:

Prednisone and theophylline:

Pros:  Inexpensive.  These drugs can be withdrawn immediately by simply not giving a pill if there is an adverse reaction to them.  The dose can be adjusted to the lowest possible dose to achieve an adequate effect.

Cons:  Your cat must be pilled daily, which is a difficulty for many cats and owners.  Also, prednisone is a systemic steroid therapy and as such can have side effects.  Over time systemic therapy with steroids can increase the risks of diabetes, pancreatitis and Cushing’s disease and in some cats may cause behavioral changes, increased drinking and urination, cystitis (bladder inflammation) and inappropriate elimination (urination outside the litterbox).

Option two – Inhaled therapy:

Pros:  This is a locally-delivered treatment (Flovent) that is inhaled into the lungs.  There are far fewer side effects and less risk of systemic side-effects such as pancreatitis, diabetes and Cushing’s disease.  Albuterol, a bronchodilator, can be administered daily as a quick relief of symptoms and can also be kept on hand as a rescue drug if the cat has an asthma attack.   The inhaled method of treatment is preferred because the risk of systemic side effects is low.

Cons:  Flovent (the inhaled steroid) takes 10-14 days to start working.  An Aerokat inhaler needs to be purchased at approximately $60.  The Flovent itself is expensive, as well, at approximately $300 for a month’s supply.  Albuterol is much less expensive (less than $20 for a greater than 2 month’s supply) and can be kept on hand as a rescue drug even if Flovent treatment is not chosen for the cat.  Another drawback is that not all cats are amenable to having the spacer (Aerokat) placed over their face.

If your cat is diagnosed with asthma, please discuss these options with your pet’s doctor to determine what the best treatment method is for your situation.