Cats make a ton of different noises, from meowing, to hissing, to growling, to purring, to chirping and beyond. Yet another noise you may hear from your cat is a wheezing sound. Wheezing may be accompanied by what sounds like coughing or snorting and will probably sound like they are trying to get rid of a hairball, without any evidence of the hairball itself.
If your cat appears to be wheezing often, and you know that no hairball is to blame, your cat may not be able to breathe easily. Wheezing is often related to respiratory issues such as allergies or asthma. If it is clear your cat is having a difficult time getting air, take it to the vet immediately. There, your vet can determine the underlying cause of wheezing and prescribe a course of treatment.
Cats and allergies
Much like humans, cats can have allergies, whether seasonal or chronic. Cats can be allergic to allergens in the air, such as dust, pollen, chemicals, perfume and more, or to certain foods or medications.
Allergies in cats usually manifest on their skin—a condition called atopic dermatitis—but can also result in a variety of internal problems as part of anaphylaxis, or allergic shock. Respiratory problems and wheezing are some of these symptoms. Cats may manifest some or all of the common allergy symptoms, so if they are wheezing and have inflamed, itchy skin, they likely are having an allergic reaction.
When you take your cat to the vet to have it treated for wheezing, your vet may run a variety of tests to determine if your cat has allergies and what, specifically, it is allergic to. The vet may recommend the use of antihistamines to mitigate allergy symptoms.
Once the cause of the allergic reaction has been determined, you can avoid future problems with your cat’s breathing by keeping it away from the allergen. If this is a certain type of food, make sure your cat does not eat it. If the allergies are seasonal or due to inhalation of a certain substance in the air, use a filter and clean the area to keep it free of that allergen where your kitty sleeps, rests and plays.
Asthma is considered to be chronic inflammation of the airways and lungs. This condition can cause respiratory distress by constricting passageways and not allowing air through, resulting in wheezing, mucus production and difficulty breathing.
Cats can suffer from asthma attacks very similarly to humans. Attacks may be triggered by the inhalation of allergens, stress, obesity and other health conditions. Also similar to humans, asthma can be a very serious condition if not treated.
Asthma and allergies are often related due to the sensitivity to allergens. Asthma in cats is believed to be caused most often by a condition called allergic bronchitis, which is inflammation of the lungs after inhaling an environmental allergen like dust, pollen or chemicals.
If your vet determines that asthma is the root of your cat’s wheezing problem, they might prescribe a steroid medication or inhaler to mitigate the symptoms of asthma attacks, should they occur again.
You can help prevent your cat from having asthma attacks in your own home by using specialty HEPA filters that are known for removing almost all air-borne allergens within a designated area. Additionally, regular cleaning to remove dust will likely be necessary. Also consider making the switch to dust-free litter and avoiding spraying perfumes or smoking near your cat.
Keep your kitty breathing healthily
Respiratory problems in cats are not something to be taken lightly—if not checked out right away, your cat could have too much trouble breathing and pass out or even die. If you hear your cat wheezing and it is clear it cannot breathe, rush it to the vet as soon as possible.
Even though conditions like allergies and asthma cannot be cured, they can be easily managed with the right resources, like antihistamines or special inhalers, as well as careful cleaning of your home. You should always be mindful when spraying chemicals, perfume or smoke near your pets, as all these substances can be hazardous to their lungs.
Finally, if treatments for allergies or asthma do not stop your cat from wheezing, it may be suffering from an entirely different health condition such as pneumonia, heartworms or lung worms. These conditions can be far more dangerous, so speak with your vet about your cat’s condition to keep it breathing healthily from here on out.
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