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Asthma in Pets: Symptoms, Triggers, and Treatments

Cat looking at you


Hearing your dog or cat wheezing can raise alarm bells, especially if it seems to happen frequently or becomes intense. But, does your furry friend have a cold, or could it be something else, such as asthma? 

If your pet has asthma, it’s essential to know what triggers it so you can help your pet as much as possible.

Does Your Pet Have Asthma?

If you suspect your dog or cat has asthma, only a trip to the vet will tell you for sure. But, here are some signs that you have a pet with asthma:

  • Excessive panting occurs in unusual conditions. For example, it’s normal for a pet to pant when hot or after exercise. Panting is your pet’s way of regulating their temperature and cooling off. But, if they’re panting heavily outside of these situations, it could be a sign of asthma. Watch your pet to see if heavy chest movement and a wide-open mouth accompany their panting.
  • Signs of respiratory distress. Of course, one of the most familiar signs of asthma would be any type of issue with breathing. If your pet is wheezing or coughing or seems to have trouble catching their breath, it can indicate asthma. Your pet might also develop lots of phlegm or mucus.
  • A decrease in energy levels. If your dog or cat lacks oxygen, it can deplete their energy. Therefore, a pet struggling with asthma might resist exercise. Take note if your dog doesn’t want to go on long walks, or your pet is unwilling to play for extended periods. This reduction in their energy level could be a sign of asthma. 
  • Appetite loss. It might not seem connected, but a decreased appetite can signal asthma. In certain situations, the lungs can become hyperinflated and push on your pet’s stomach. This pressure not only can cause discomfort, but it can make your pet feel full. Therefore, your pet won’t want to eat.
  • Pale gums. Your pet’s gums should appear pink, but if they are pale or white, or bluish, you need to seek immediate medical attention. This could signal an asthma attack.
Dog at vet

Asthma Symptoms Can Mimic Other Issues

When you consider these signs of asthma, keep in mind that they can also spring from other issues. Many conditions can cause your furry friend to be lethargic or lose their appetite (even a hairball). 

There are also many reasons your pet can pant heavily or get pale gums. Plus, respiratory issues can also result from a simple cold. Asthma symptoms can also mimic symptoms of heartworm disease.

Therefore, any of these signs signal a problem, and you should call your vet. If you notice several of these signs, it’s more likely that asthma could be blamed. As with anything when it comes to your pet’s health, play it safe and see the vet.

How Does Your Vet Diagnose Asthma?

Roughly 1% of cats have asthma, and it appears to affect our feline friends more than dogs. However, both animals can still deal with the condition. Therefore, if you suspect your pet might have asthma, a trip to the vet is non-negotiable.

To determine if your dog or cat has asthma, your vet will perform a complete examination and likely do X-rays. They'll also probably perform blood tests to rule out other potential issues.

Your vet will also discuss the symptoms with you and ask about your pet’s behavior. 

What Triggers Your Pet’s Asthma?

One of the first things you need to do to help your pet with asthma is determine what triggers their asthma. Different things can trigger asthma in different pets, but many commonalities exist. Typically, certain irritants in the air or environmental factors will set off or intensify asthma symptoms in pets.

Here are a few things that can trigger or worsen your pet’s asthma symptoms:

  • Anxiety and Stress
  • Dry Air
  • Mold Spores
  • Cigarette Smoke
  • Air Fresheners
  • Perfume
  • Pollen
  • Dust from Cat Litter
  • Airborne Pesticides and Other Irritants
  • Dust Mites
  • Cat Dander

How to Help Pets with Asthma

The first step in helping your pet with asthma is to see your vet. Proper diagnosis is necessary to come up with proper treatment. But, in addition to seeking veterinary guidance and care, you can also do things at home to help your pal. 

Your faithful companion can’t soothe their symptoms, so the responsibility is up to you as a loving pet parent. Here are a few ways to help prevent an asthma attack in your pet and ease their symptoms:

  • Use a humidifier. Dry air can exacerbate asthma issues, so a humidifier can help, especially in the winter when the air tends to be drier. Just make sure to put the humidifier in a safe place where your pet can’t tip it over or play with the cord. Also, use a cool-mist humidifier to avoid injuries and burns if the device somehow gets knocked over.
  • Help your pet destress. Practice ways to keep your pet calm, like using a lick mat to help release endorphins
  • Be mindful of when you walk your pet. If the pollen or air quality is bad, don’t snap on the leash. Instead, get some exercise by playing inside if you can. 
  • Avoid using irritants inside. Try to avoid spraying air fresheners or perfume around your pet. Also, don’t smoke inside the house.
  • Clean your house regularly. Use a damp cloth to avoid stirring up dust and vacuum regularly.
  • Wipe down your pet when they come inside. Have some pet wipes handy by the door for when your pet comes back from a walk. This removes anything your pet might be tracking in that could trigger their asthma.

What Will Your Vet Do for Your Pet’s Asthma?

The first thing your vet will likely do for your pet is give your pet medications or a nebulizer. If your vet suggests a nebulizer, they should also offer suggestions and assistance on training your pet to take the treatments. 

If your pet has an acute asthma attack, your vet might need to hospitalize your pal to put them on oxygen. Your pet might also need fluid therapy via an IV in case they’re dehydrated. 

The IV will also deliver necessary medicine to your pet. Medications typically include steroids to help with inflammation, antihistamines for allergy relief, and bronchodilators to open up the airways.

Can Your Pet Trigger Your Asthma?

So, now that you know what can trigger your pet’s asthma, what about you? If you have asthma, can your pet trigger it? Many of the same things that can trigger your pet’s asthma can trigger asthma in humans too.

If you have pets, especially if you’re allergic to them, they could trigger your asthma. But, it’s essential to note that it isn’t your pet’s fur, but the dander. Dander is flakes of dead skin, containing specific proteins that trigger allergic reactions. 

These proteins are also in your pet’s saliva and urine. Plus, your furry friend can bring in other allergens from outside that get trapped in their fur.

If you’re allergic to your furry friend, talk to your doctor to know for sure. Then, depending on the severity of your allergy, try medication. Also, wash your pet’s belongings frequently, and wipe down your pet when they come in from outside. 

Additionally, ask a friend or family member if they can brush and bathe your pet for you and consider a HEPA filter for your vacuum. When you dust, use a damp cloth, so you don’t kick allergens up into the air.

Nobody wants to see their best friend struggling with any type of illness or problem. But, luckily, when properly informed, you can make your pet comfortable and happy despite their asthma. For more valuable pet-parenting tips, check out the rest of our blog. It’s all about making life better for your furry, faithful friends.


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