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Symptoms of Bronchitis in Cats

Bronchitis is a respiratory system condition can cause serious symptoms such as coughing, breathing problems, inflamed airways and more in your cat. Our Thornton vets talk about how bronchitis might affect your cat, the symptoms they may experience, and when you should be concerned.

Bronchitis in cats

Your cat's airways can become plugged with excessive secretions if they become swollen and inflamed which can hinder your cat's natural function of pulling oxygen into the alveoli to deliver to the rest of the body. Though it’s less common, the bronchi can close down when muscles in the airway’s malls constrict or contract (reactive airway disease).

When your cat's airways swell they can cause the bronchi walls to narrow and become obstructed or completely blocked by mucus and other secretions. Bronchitis may be acute (short duration) and related to reversible changes in the airways’ structure, or chronic which can last 2 or more months.

Chronic bronchitis in cats might sometimes be referred to as feline asthma, even though it is not truly a type of asthma. Asthma refers to the reversible constriction of muscle within the bronchi walls. While some cats are diagnosed with true asthma, others have bronchitis caused by diseases such as lung parasites, heartworm disease, or fungal, bacterial or viral infections.

Chronic bronchitis most commonly affects cats that are young to middle-aged and can cause permanent damage to their airways.

It is possible for your cat to be affected by both Bronchitis and asthma at the same time. 

Causes of bronchitis in cats

There are many possible causes of chronic bronchitis in cats such as parasites (heartworm, lung worms), chronic inhalation of substances that can irritate the airways, hypersensitivity disorders (allergies), or bacterial infections. There are so many possible causes that it can be near impossible to narrow down the exact underlying cause.

Symptoms of bronchitis in cats

Bronchitis is a serious condition that can cause irreversible damage to your cat if left untreated. If you notice any of the symptoms of bronchitis in your cat then you should have them assessed immediately There are many other serious conditions that also have similar symptoms such as pleural effusion (fluid in the chest), heart failure, heartworm disease and pneumonia, so it’s important that you bring your pet to see a vet right away.

  • Coughing (Cyclic, seasonal or constant)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing (more than 40 breaths per minute)
  • Breathing that requires excessive effort
  • Open-mouth breathing after physical exertion (severe cases)

How is bronchitis in cats diagnosed?

Our Caring Hands Veterinary Hospital vets in Thornton utilize our in-house lab to perform a wide range of tests and receive same-day results so we can quickly diagnose your pet’s symptoms and immediately begin treatment. Our internal medicine specialists can diagnose lung diseases and other disorders related to your cat’s internal systems.

To diagnose bronchitis in your cat, the vet will typically take an x-ray (chest radiograph) and recommend a Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) procedure. The BAL procedure will collect cells and fluid from your cat’s lungs, which our Thornton vets will analyze in order to find out what kind of changes are happening to the cells in the lungs. If necessary, your vet may use an endoscope to provide a close-up view of the bronchial tubes.

If your kitty has a parasitic or bacterial infection, test results will help determine which therapy will be most effective in treating your cat's condition.

How is bronchitis in cats treated?

In order for your vet to treat your cat's symptoms of bronchitis, they will need to determine the underlying cause whether it is a parasitic or bacterial infection. If needed your vet may also recommend altering your cat's environment to help ease their symptoms.

If your cat is experiencing the symptoms of bronchitis they will have sensitive airways and so any particles in the air that might cause irritation can be harmful. It is important to ensure that you limit your cat's contact with any irritating particles such as sprays, dust or powders and any type of smoke.

Oral or inhaled corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that can help to reduce inflammation and swelling of the airway walls. It’s important to note that side effects may include increased appetite, increased thirst and anxiety and increased urination.

If your vet determines that your cat is suffering from a bacterial infection then they will most likely prescribe a type of broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment. Therapy with mist (nebulization) or steam from a hot shower may help to loosen secretions and make them easier for your cat to cough up. Warmth, rest and proper hygiene are also important for your cat as they recover.

What is the prognosis for bronchitis in cats?

The outcome for a cat that is experiencing bronchitis is dependent on how quickly the condition was diagnosed and treatment started. Once there is permanent damage there is nothing that can be done to reverse the effects. However, if your vet can identify an underlying disease and successfully eliminate or treat it, the prognosis is excellent.

With the proper management, symptoms can often be controlled and damage to the bronchi can be slowed or stopped. Some cats may have a sudden severe asthma attack that can prove fatal, despite dedicated medical assistance.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

If you notice that your cat is having difficulties breathing or is showing symptoms of bronchitis, contact our Thornton vets to book an appointment to have your cat examined.

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Caring Hands Veterinary Hospital is always accepting new patients! Our vets are passionate about providing kind and loving veterinary care to Thornton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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