Breathing diseases

Bronchitis in cats - Symptoms and Treatment

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. December 3, 2019
Bronchitis in cats - Symptoms and Treatment

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Feline bronchitis refers to an inflammation of the lower airway in cats, the most prominent symptoms of which are coughing and wheezing. However, coughing is a symptom common to many different diseases that affect cats. Even when the cough is caused by bronchitis, it can be either acute or chronic, making diagnosis difficult. In extreme cases, a lack of oxygen due to inflamed airways can make the cat to lose consciousness. Therefore, if you notice your cat breathing heavily, suddenly coughing a lot, or coughing for several days, you should consult the veterinarian as soon as possible.

In this AnimalWised article, we discuss the different types of bronchitis in cats, their causes, symptoms, and treatment measures - both home remedies and medical - to help your cat recover from feline bronchitis.

You may also be interested in: Bronchitis in Dogs - Symptoms and Treatment
  1. What is feline bronchitis?
  2. Acute bronchitis in cats - causes and symptoms
  3. Acute bronchitis in cats - diagnosis and treatment
  4. Chronic bronchitis in cats - causes and symptoms
  5. Chronic bronchitis in cats - diagnosis and treatment
  6. Home remedies for feline bronchitis

What is feline bronchitis?

Like humans, cats can get bronchitis too. Feline bronchitis is a respiratory condition caused by inflammation of the cat's bronchial tubes, resulting in airway obstruction. This may be caused by different underlying factors, such as bacterial or viral infection, irritation, or allergies. Inflammation in the airways makes breathing difficult, causing your cat to wheeze. This is one of the most common symptoms of bronchitis in cats. The other is coughing, which is how the cat's body tries to get rid of the excess mucous often produced by inflammation.

Feline bronchitis usually appears in one of two forms: acute or chronic bronchitis. A cat with acute bronchitis will develop the symptoms suddenly, usually due to a disease such as the flu or common cold, and they last for a fixed period of time. Chronic feline bronchitis, which may be asthmatic in nature, is recurring and persists for much longer. In the following sections we discuss each type of feline bronchitis in detail, including symptoms to look out for and medical treatment options for each.

Acute bronchitis in cats - causes and symptoms

As we have explained, both types of cat bronchitis are caused by an inflammation in the airways. However, acute feline bronchitis evolves rapidly and is short-lived[1]. The sick cat usually has a cough, and may show signs of difficulty breathing such as a wheezing noise. The cat's cough may be dry - indicating a viral infection - or produce mucus, which suggests a bacterial infection. Other symptoms may include signs of an underlying infection such as:

For more details about cats getting colds, take a look at our article on the common cold in cats.

Acute bronchitis in cats is not usually a critical condition. However, in extreme cases, breathing may be severely restricted, leading to a lack of oxygen. A cat in this state will show cyanosis, which is a bluish discoloration of the mucous membranes and tissues such as the gums. This is a veterinary urgency, and if you notice cyanosis or other signs that you cat cannot breathe properly you must take them to the vet immediately.

Acute bronchitis in cats - diagnosis and treatment

There are several diseases in cats that also cause inflammation and present clinical symptoms similar to acute bronchitis. Therefore, only a veterinarian can make an accurate diagnosis, and before diagnosing acute bronchitis in your cat, the vet will have to rule out:

Since the stress of clinic handling can worsen a cat's illness, the vet will prioritize stabilizing the cat's breathing before conducting most tests. A chest x-ray can usually confirm the diagnosis of feline bronchitis and rule out other lung diseases. The bronchoscopy or bronchoalveolar lavage may also be carried out. These can help to examine the cat's airways and analyse mucus samples to detect microbes. These tests have to be performed under anesthesia, and will only be recommended if infection is suspected. A study of the cat's feces may also be conducted to confirm or rule out parasites.

If your cat's bronchitis are due to a mild disorder like the common cold, it will usually resolve on its own in a week or two. The vet may prescribe a cough suppressant for cats or you can help relieve it with simple home remedies. If the underlying cause is a bacterial infection, it will have to be treated with the appropriate antibiotics, which only the vet can prescribe. Your vet may also prescribe corticosteroids for a short-term, to reduce airway inflammation.

Bronchitis in cats - Symptoms and Treatment - Acute bronchitis in cats - diagnosis and treatment

Chronic bronchitis in cats - causes and symptoms

Chronic bronchitis is a recurrent condition also characterized by coughing and wheezing. It is difficult to distinguish from feline asthma, in which case it is more accurately called asthmatic or allergic bronchitis. This condition is relatively common among cats, especially cats over 8 years old.

The main difference between asthmatic and chronic bronchitis in cats is the reversibility of the inflammation and lesions in the airway. With chronic bronchitis, this is irreversible. The disease is more likely to affect cats over the age of eight, and certain cat breeds, such as the Siamese, show a greater predisposition to the condition.

The word ‘chronic’ by itself implies that the symptoms of bronchitis occur for two or more months together and are subsequently repeated. As we have stated, bronchitis in cats causes inflammation that lead to airway obstruction and is often aggravated by excess mucus secretion.

In the case of asthmatic bronchitis, the inflammation is normally due to an allergic reaction, that is hypersensitivity to certain stimuli. Various stimuli could cause allergic reactions, including air pollutants such as tobacco smoke or dust, substances in kitty litter, plants, etc. When it comes to chronic bronchitis, the specific causes are difficult to determine[2]. Symptoms of both asthma and chronic bronchitis in cats include:

As with acute bronchitis, the most serious cases can constitute an emergency, because the cat may be unable to breathe. In such cases, you must take it to the veterinarian at once. In other cases, a cat with chronic bronchitis may present only mild symptoms, such as breathing with an open mouth after exercise. The vet will decide on treatment measures based on their diagnosis and the severity of the cat's symptoms.

Bronchitis in cats - Symptoms and Treatment - Chronic bronchitis in cats - causes and symptoms

Chronic bronchitis in cats - diagnosis and treatment

Chronic bronchitis in cats is diagnosed the same way as acute bronchitis, and the vet will perform similar tests to rule out other possible causes of inflammation in the respiratory system. A chest x-ray provides information on the condition of the lungs and heart, while a bronchoscopy or lavage may be used to examine the airways and determine possible infections.

Chronic bronchitis, which is also called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is diagnosed in the cases where inflammation does not seem to be easily reversible[3]. Even if your cat has asthmatic bronchitis, there is no sure-fire cure, and treatment will focus on reducing the cat's discomfort, controlling the cough, treating any infections and taking measures to ease breathing. Some of these are similar to the treatments for acute feline bronchitis. Here are some of the treatment options your vet may suggest:

  • Glucocorticoides
  • Bronchodilators
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Long term weight control

If an allergen is identified as being the cause of recurring asthmatic bronchitis, the best treatment is to remove the stimulus from the cat's environment, as far as possible. For example, trying a different brand of cat litter, removing allergy-causing foods, dusting your home more often or not smoking around your cat. Immunotherapy may also be suggested to help the cat overcome its allergy.

Home remedies for feline bronchitis

Following a professional diagnosis and prescription you can also ask the veterinarian for suggestions on home care for a cat with bronchitis. Apart from strictly following any course of medication prescribed there are certain home remedies that can help ease the symptoms of acute or chronic feline bronchitis.

For a cat suffering from temporary acute bronchitis, here are some home remedies that can help ease the discomfort caused by airway inflammation and coughing:

  • Provide plenty of water to maintain hydration. This will help thin the mucus and eliminate it.
  • Use a humidifier to increase humidity in the air. This will also help ease coughing.
  • Reduce any irritants that can worsen the cat's cough such as dust or smoke.
  • Make sure your cat stays warm so that their cough doesn't worsen.
  • Monitor the cat's progress with your vet, to ensure they are recovering properly. A failure to treat acute bronchitis can lead to it becoming chronic.

In the case of chronic bronchitis or asthmatic bronchitis, here are some recommendations to improve your cat's quality of life and ease its symptoms or reduce the frequency of attacks:

  • Eliminate irritants or allergens such as smoke, air fresheners, incense, dust, pollen, cleaning products, etc.
  • Use silica cat litter avoid dust formation.
  • If your cat is overweight or obese, it must be put on a diet. Controlling the cat's weight will help reduce the severity of the symptoms.
  • Encourage the to perform gentle exercise. This helps clear the airways, as long as it does not tire the cat out too much.
  • Monitor the cat's dental hygiene to prevent bacteria from ending up in the respiratory system.
  • Minimize stress in the cat's environment, and make sure it is comfortable.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Bronchitis in cats - Symptoms and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Breathing diseases category.

  1. Neilssen, A., and Taylor, S. M. (2008). Diseases of the lower airway. In R. V. Morgan (Ed.), Handbook of Small Animal Practice (pp. 164-172).
  2. Grotheer, M., and Schulz, B. (2019). Feline asthma and chronic bronchitis - an overview of diagnostics and therapy. Tierärztliche Praxis, 47(3), 175-187.
  3. Caswell, J. L., and Williams, K. J. (2016). Respiratory System. In M. G. Maxie (Ed.), Jubb, Kennedy & Palmer's Pathology of Domestic Animals: Volume 2 (pp. 465-591).

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