Respiratory problems in cats are common cases in veterinary emergency services. Its appearance can occur as a progressive process or appear abruptly with few warning signs.
It is important to understand that respiratory distress can be very distressing for your pet and that you run the risk of getting worse quickly, while endangering your life.
Under this optic, Each animal with respiratory distress should be treated as an emergency, evaluated quickly and carefully monitored, while emergency treatment is provided and a diagnosis is made.
Symptoms of respiratory problems in cats
Shortness of breath or breathlessness can manifest itself in many different ways. The patient may suffer from persistent cough, noisy breathing, change in voice or a reduced ability to exercise. The most severe signs of breathing difficulties may include the following:
- Besides the obvious difficulty in inhaling and exhaling, cats with dyspnea often show a variety of associated clinical signs. Your breathing rate can be remarkably fast, for example.
- You can also gasp loudly with your mouth open and cough frequently. It is common for you to adopt a position of extending the body forward as if you were about to vomit, as you lower your head. If the respiratory distress is severe, you may have blue gums – due to lack of oxygenation – and collapse.
Feline calicivirus and feline herpes virus account for 80 to 90 percent of all contagious upper respiratory problems in cats.
Common causes of respiratory problems in cats
Respiratory distress can occur for many different reasons. Some of the common causes include:
- Asthma: In this condition, the airways become inflamed and have spasms. As a result, the pathways become narrower and cause severe respiratory distress.
- Pneumonia: refers to an infection of the lungs. It can be caused by different infectious agents or by bronchoaspiration. The latter may occur due to the inhalation of food or liquids, after vomiting or regurgitation.
- Congestive heart failure: In case of heart failure, fluid accumulation can occur in and around the lungs.
- Pleural effusion: a buildup of fluid in the space surrounding the lungs that makes it difficult for a cat to expand its chest. It may be associated with infections or even cancer.
- Laryngeal paralysis: occurs when the throat muscles do not work properly, which means that the larynx does not open to allow enough air to enter.
- Other causes: presence of foreign bodies in the nostrils or trachea, as well as chest injuries.
This is just a small selection of the many causes of respiratory difficulties that we see in cats.
Treatment and prognosis
As you can see, respiratory problems in cats have many different causes and present with varying severity.. Similarly, its treatment and prognosis is usually very variable.
Most animals with respiratory difficulties benefit from oxygen supplementation. This therapy can be administered in several ways, depending on the size of the patient and how unstable it is.
In patients with a lot of agitation, sedation can help manage stress. If the cat’s situation is serious, and life-threatening, they may require additional emergency procedures or therapies to help stabilize them.
Among such procedures, the fluid drainage around the lungs or thoracentesis, as well as the opening of a hole in their upper airways to allow them to breathe beyond a blockage problem, the tracheotomy. Even the placement of a ventilator can be considered to help them breathe.
Evaluation tests in cats with respiratory problems
Blood tests can be done, imaging using x-rays (x-rays), computed tomography or ultrasound, in addition to other procedures performed under general anesthesia, such as bronchoscopy and airway lavage.
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