Conscious Cat

January 30, 2012 51 Comments

Natural Remedies for Feline Asthma

Posted by Ingrid

cat in grass

Feline asthma is a respiratory condition that involves inflammation and excess mucous build-up in the airways. Muscles spasms cause constriction of the airway, resulting in respiratory distress. Feline asthma shares some characteristics with asthma in humans, including symptoms.

Signs of feline asthma may be as mild as an occasional soft cough and/or a wheeze. At times it may seem as though your cat is trying unsuccessfully to bring up a hairball. In extreme and chronic cases, one might notice a persistent cough along with labored, open-mouth, harsh breathing. At this point, an asthma ‘attack’ could culminate in a life-threatening crisis.

Conventional medical treatment

Conventional medical treatment of feline asthma is based upon two main drug types: corticosteroids and bronchodilators.

Oral prednisone or prednisolone, and/or inhaled forms of corticosteroids are used to reduce the inflammation in the airways. Side effects of corticosteroids can include increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, weight gain, diabetes, lowered resistance to infection, and even behavioral changes.

Bronchodilators help open up the airways. Both oral and inhaled forms of bronchodilators are used. Side effects are generally minimal with bronchodilators, but these drugs should never be used alone, as that can actually worsen the condition. Several other drugs, such as antihistamines and anti-leukotrienes, are also used by some veterinarians.

Holistic therapies

Holistic therapies can help ease the symptoms of asthma. Success of these therapies will depend on the severity of the condition. Always consult with your cat’s veterinarian before starting any therapy. Not all veterinarians will be familiar with holistic approaches to treating asthma. You can you locate a holistic vet in your area through the American Holistic Veterinary Association.

  • Reduce stress. Studies have shown that stress can trigger asthma symptoms in humans, and there’s no reason to believe that this is any different in cats.
  • Reduce environmental triggers. Asthma can be aggravated by respiratory irritants such as smoke, scents from air fresheners and cleaning products, as well as molds and pollens. Use chemical-free, unscented cleaning products to minimize irritation, and don’t use any products containing essential oils around cats.
  • If you are a smoker, quit! When I still worked in veterinary hospitals, we had several clients who were smokers until their cats were diagnosed with asthma. While they wouldn’t stop smoking for their own health’s sake, they gave up cigarettes for their cats.
  • Acupuncture can help by strengthening the immune system and lungs.
  • Individually prescribed homeopathic remedies can help reduce asthma symptoms and strengthen the immune system. Work with a veterinarian who is experienced in homeopathy to find the correct remedy for your cat.
  • Supplements that boost the immune system may be beneficial.
  • Reiki can help boost the immune system and reduce stress.
  • Flower essences may provide gentle support. Spirit Essences’ Easy-Breather formula is recommended for chronic upper respiratory infections, bronchitis and asthma. Its purpose is to balance the immune system, decrease stress and allow healing.

If you suspect that your cat has asthma, always obtain a proper diagnosis from your veterinarian.

Has your cat been coughing or wheezing? This is an excellent video of what an asthma attack looks like:

Photo: morguefile.com

Easy Breather

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51 comments to “Natural Remedies for Feline Asthma”

  1. Thanks for the great post. I did have asthma… I did a little of what that cat is doing in the video, but my main symptom was that I coughed louder than I had ever coughed before and very often. HH said I sounded like a seal barking. It was quite disturbing.

    Have a good day.

    pawhugs, Max

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m sure it was scary for you, Max!

      • CLARA says:

        i saw on the PET ALIVE CO web site 2 homeopathic asthma remedies
        one is AMAZAPET to be given 3 times a day everyday and the other
        called RESPO-K to be given 3 times a day for 10 to 15 days… have you heard
        of these and are they worth the time and money they are about 34 dollars
        each… thanks so much clara

        • Ingrid says:

          I’m not familiar with these remedies, Clara. I believe that it’s best to work with a veterinarian who is trained in hoemopathy when it comes to determining which homeopathic remedy to give.

          • clara says:

            thanks for the reply but around here there arent even good vets…. the vet i used
            charged and charged and resolved nothing….

        • clara says:

          did not work I went through 2 bottles of each…

        • Lynn says:

          I use AmazaPet for my cat. I don’t have a holistic vet [can’t get to one] and this one isn’t too interested in anything that isn’t conventional medicine. I saw the xrays of the awful inflammation my poor cat had…and much later on, after putting him on Amazapet he had more xrays…and no inflammation was showing at that time. I know it helps. It’s not a cure and may not work for your pet but the reviews are good. It can’t hurt to try it.

          • Fuzzy Tales says:

            Didn’t do a thing for Nicki, either, and I used it for 2 solid months back in the spring.

            More recently I’ve tried their FCV Protect (granules) for flare-ups of Nicki’s sneezing, but it’s meant for cat flu, not allergies (or asthma). I use it once a day for a few days when he does start and I find it helps, but neither the AmazaPet nor the Respo-K have made any difference, and actually Respo-K made both cats worse last winter, when they had URIs.

            So you have to take it on a cat-by-cat basis, what will work for one won’t necessary work for another, unfortunately.

  2. Marg says:

    This was some good information. I think I have a cat that might have asthma but she doesn’t sound like that in the video. That sounds like a cough. Little Bit sounds more like a sneeze. She doesn’t do it all the time, so something is definitely is triggering it. I can’t take her to vet right now cause we just don’t have the green papers.
    Great post. Take care.

  3. Esme says:

    Thanks for this Ingrid, We have been living with asthma for two years now. We do everything you suggest except reika and acupuncture. I wish it was so simple to control it. When the winds pick up that is the worse time for us. Another suggestion is to make an asthmatic cat an indoor cat-there are too many triggers outdoors.

  4. Great post, Ingrid. I’d like to add: most pure essential oils aren’t triggers for asthma and can in fact be helpful but only under the guidance of qualified aromatherapist. There is much misinformation about using essential oils and pets (one of these days, I’m going have to write that one ;-). I love the German-made Venta humidifier/air purifier for keeping the air fresh.

  5. Nancy says:

    Belle asthma’s has nearly completely disappeared. Her diet is now gluten free and organic. She is on Evo for dry food and Tiki Cat (ahi tuna) for wet. Our new house is all hardwoods and I think the lack of carpets made a big difference. And Ingrid’s reiki sessions have been a huge help as well.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so thrilled that Belle is doing so well. Even though there is no scientific evidence that there is a connection between diet and asthma, my homeopathic vet has seen asthma symptoms resolve in several of her feline clients after they switched their cats to a grain-free canned or raw diet.

    • Finch says:

      I deeply believe that going ‘grain free’ is good for all cats. They are. after all, carnivores.
      Our Turtle Littlepaw has asthma and the occurrences of an ‘attack’ have gone down about 80% since she’s been eating grain free. Corn and wheat are probably some big bads!
      And L-Lysine seems to help as well.

  6. clandy says:

    Thank you for posting this video….based on the similarities, I think my Woodie may have asthma. A major problem since he needs to see a vet but he’s a bit nervous….I think I’d need to find a vet that can either come to the house or give me something to calm him down first. The last time I tried to take him in, he flipped and freaked out so badly he put Me in the hospital, poor boy was so scared. He’s a rescue and he tends to be fearful of loud…or almost any, noises, situations or new people, especially men.

    I see you mentioned grains… I had wanted to get him off grains anyway as I thought it might be behind his habit of licking his belly raw sometimes. I’ve seen evo in the store…would that be a good place to start? Not so sure about the wet food as he’s always thrown up any can food he’s been given…he’s not much for meat (cooked) either.

    • Ingrid says:

      It definitely sounds like a housecall vet would be the best solution for Woodie.

      I would definitely get him off grains, and if you can get him off dry food, even better. EVO is a decent brand. I also like the Nature’s Variety Instinct line, and the Wellness line. Not all Wellness flavors are grain-free, so be sure to read the label. I usually recommend their CORE line. I love the Weruva line as well – it’s probably the closest you can come to feeding raw without actually feeding raw. If you look around the Feline Nutrition category on my site, you’ll find lots of information on all of this, including an article on how to wean hard core dry food addicts off dry food: http://consciouscat.net/2011/07/25/how-to-your-cat-off-dry-food/

      • clandy says:

        Thank you so much for the quick reply-I’m running out tonight to try the Nature’s variety and weluva-I’ll grab a little of the wet food as well…maybe there were ingredients in the can food I tried that didn’t agree with him.

        I’m hoping this will help with his skin issues and that a home vet visit will help with his ‘cough.
        Much appreciation to you and your ladies:)

        • Ingrid says:

          Clandy, what you’ll often (though not always) see once you eliminate grain is that allergies start to clear up. Let me know how he likes his new food!

    • Dorothy says:

      For a kitty who is frightened of one thing or another, I would recommend Homeopet products. They have several anxiety remedies, depending on the symptoms. And they have some specifically for cats. There are no side effects with these remedies. (Just for the record, I have no ties to Homeopet –I just have had good results with their formulations–plus I love cats! have rescued many and have several of my own.)
      If I can get any more info for you, let me know and I’ll try. Good luck with your kitty!

  7. Gail says:

    My cat has had something like allergies and mild asthma since she was about 1 and she is now almost 8 years old. It was never definitely diagnosed as the initial chest xray only showed something vague. How important is it that i get a real “work up” to ascertain if she has “asthma” – she doesn’t cough often unless it is bad. What I see is that with increased heat and humidity like in the summer (now) (I am in Vermont) – it gets worse. She also has symptoms of runny eyes and scratching her eyes. I tried to switch her to a raw diet last summer after seeing a holistic vet ($285 for a first visit – unreal) – but this wasn’t easy for me as I am a vegetarian and hate dealing with the raw food. She only likes one flavor and one brand (Aunt Jeni’s turkey) – and she begs and begs for kibble. I just got the wellness Core dry food sample and she loves it (but as I say she loves kibble) – She was exclusively on raw diet for about 4 months in the fall. But i was concerned that she lost weight rapidly, seemed ansxious when eating and wasn’t getting enough variety. Plus she started scooting on her butt and seems to get a very hard poop. Any suggestion? Thank you!

    • Ingrid says:

      Based on everything you’re saying, there are multiple issues with your kitty, Gail. I would probably give the raw diet a chance, and I would also eliminate fish completely. The hard stools are most likely because of the raw food. Since more nutrients are absorbed when on a raw diet, stools get smaller and harder. The runny eyes and itchy eyes make me think there’s also an allergy component and/or viral issue you’re dealing with, which makes things more complicated. I completely agree that the stress of travel can aggravate any and all conditions, but unless you’re willing to go the conventional route and work with your housecall vet, my only recommendation would be to continue to work with one of the holistic vets. I’m sorry I have no better answers for you.

      • Gail says:

        Thanks Ingrid – she is still on the raw – is the fish an allergen?

        the conventional vet has just given her antihistamines and prednizone – so I am not sure what else he could do except a work up with xrays to ascertain what is going on – maybe antibiotics… do you think she needs to have that sort of assessment?

        • Ingrid says:

          Fish can be an allergy trigger for some cats. I don’t like fish based foods because of the potential for heavy metal contamination (mercury) and other pollutants. Here’s more detail: http://consciouscat.net/2011/07/18/does-your-cat-love-fish/

          If she’s already gotten antihistamines and steroids, then the next step would probably be chest x-rays. If you haven’t already done this, a full blood panel may also provide some additional answers.

          Your other option would be to work with a homeopathic vet who works remotely. I have not personally worked with Dr. Loops, but he has a terrific reputation: http://www.charlesloopsdvm.com/

  8. Gail says:

    oh she still is on raw diet plus some canned food – either wellness grain free or something with fish I have a natural brand. I was told by the first holistic doctor she is too “damp” and by a dif holistic vet she is too “yin” – I don’t know if to go back to either one of them (money is one issue = and the other is that the STRESS of the driving there worsens her attack – I see in dif posts that stress contributes to asthma – I haven’t found a holistic vet who comes to teh house. I do have a traditional vet who comes to the house and is exceptionally kind but can’t do xrays either and just prescribes antihistamines and prednizone…

  9. Gail says:

    Is what this link says true? http://www.felineasthma.org/triggers/index.htm that pine cat litter causes respiratory illness? Because that is what we use – I thought it was a better choice?

    • Ingrid says:

      It’s possible – it’s very dusty. I prefer Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat litte for cats wit asthma (or all cats, for that matter). It’s the lowest dust litter I’ve found.

      • Gail says:

        I don’t think it was the dust but a chemical in pine that this woman says causes permanent respiratory illness in cats so I was worried. Clay litters have lots of dust. I heard mineral or newspapers maybe best.

      • clara says:

        i use for litter DUST FREE FIBER by HEALTHY PET…. it is light weight and just about dust free… i have to get it on line as no store in the area carries it… with shipping and handling i pay about 14 plus change for each bag… each bag lasts me about a month … i have a top entry cat box… i line the box with a plastic bag making sure to have the bag hang over the box so the top seals the bag in place… then i place 5 cups of litter in and cover the box… there is enough litter to absorb one day of use for one cat and enough for the cat to scratch around in… every night before bed i discard the bag (no scooping!!!) and place a new bag and new litter… results are an easy to clean litter box no smell and a happy cat….you can do this with any box really and whatever litter you use….

  10. CLARA KOSS says:

    is dr elsies precious cat litter better than the dust free fiber litter???? its like paper pellets… thank you…

  11. CLARA KOSS says:

    yes she really has no problem with anything i try…. i have a system for no smell and easy clean for the litter box… i have the top entry box…. i line it with a black garbage bag and put the top on… i put in 2 scoops of litter… every night i change it…. light weight easy disposal and no smell … kitty and i love the system… i never liked the fill to the top litter system…smelly and hard to clean and i hate scooping… my cat really only poops once a day and this way is great…. thanks for the reply!!!!

  12. Kara says:

    I’m a little confused on the part about not using bronchodilators by themselves or the asthma gets worse. Why would this be?

    My vet put my cat on an AeroKat regimen, but she doesn’t take any oral medication. Her asthma has not gotten better, (I’ve bought air purifiers, dust free litter, keep our home clean, and she eats grain free food).

    So she needs an oral medication as well as her inhaler?

    Thanks for the article, I’m having a terrible time trying to get her better. Such a helpless feeling to watch her struggle to breath :(

    • Ingrid says:

      Since bronchodilators control symptoms, if used alone, asthma may progress and lead to irreversible lung damage. Bronchodilators do not reduce the inflammation in the lungs.

    • Finch says:

      Hi Kara.
      I’m so sorry for your kitty, and I know what it’s like to devote yourself to doing everything to help her feel better…
      I have a cat with asthma as well.
      I wanted natural alternatives but nothing helped.
      We finally decided that it was about quality of life and now she’s on Prednisolone.
      A word about this…my father in law, a big man is on prednisolone. He’s on a regime of 15 mg every other day.
      Every vet we’ve seen (many!) as put our 8 lb kitty on 10 mg at first and then had them tapered to 5 mg or 2.5 mg every other day for the long term.
      It may be true that cats can handle it well, but I just can’t believe this dose is correct for the long term.
      I decided to taper to 1.25 mg every other day.
      She’s been on this for about a year now and is perfect.
      I know it’s a heavy duty drug…I hate that, but it’s the only thing that allows her to have a normal fun kitty life, and as I said in the beginning, we decided that’s what it has to be about for her.
      Here’s a link to an ‘Asthma weather ‘ site. They list allergy days as well.

      http://www.accuweather.com

      I still watch our girl closely on days that give warnings about asthma and or allergies, and once, I had to up her dose a bit because both were high and she was starting to have a little trouble.
      There are many sites about how regular old weather can effect asthma as well so they are worth checking out.
      Hope this helps a bit.
      Good luck, and take good care!

      • Fuzzy Tales says:

        Finch, I realize I’m responding to an older comment you had made, but I wanted to thank you for mentioning the dose. That IS the dose that Nicki was given in February, 0.5 ml (5 mg) twice a day. He’s a 12-pound cat…put on a human adult dose. Yet two vets at the clinic insisted at the time that the dose was too low to suppress his immune system. (I disagree, and I think it’s why he got so sick with the virus afterward.)

        I “caved” and picked up more Prednisolone for him today, because I can’t let this go untreated while I do my research on options (he’s back to coughing 1 – 2 days), and again, the dose is supposed to start at 0.5 ml (5 mg) twice a day. I’m going to give him half that, 0.25 ml (2.5 mg) twice a day and taper down from that, if his coughing is under control.

        A long-winded way to say I appreciate someone else’s point of view, because often I sense the vets think I’m overly-concerned–and in this case, I definitely had the impression they thought I was way off base with the dose having any impact on Nicki’s immune system.

        Best,
        Kim

        • Finch says:

          Fuzzy tails, you’re welcome.
          Some vets do say cats are far more tolerant of prednisolone than other creatures, and the dose is supposedly 1 mg per kitty pound, and we did start our asthmatic girl kitty on that high dose and it seemed fine, but when we tapered we really tapered so the maintenance dose was much lower than the vet said.
          Our other kitty who reacts horribly to pred as your kitty does, well, it’s a mystery and I can find nothing about cats with this reaction.
          I didn’t read your entire first post…have you thought about a nebulizer?
          I am 1000% for natural solutions but when they don’t work, I will try what I can to make life better for the creatures, and this was an option for our girl kitty.
          We’ve moved states and she’s been great and she’s off the pred, so yay! so we haven’t had to look into it so I can’t help you there but there is plenty of info on line and though some of the inhaled meds are steroids, some are not.
          Here’s a link on kitty inhalents.

          http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/inhalant-treatment-for-feline-asthma/6429

          I wish I could somehow help…I know how scary and hard it is.

  13. Fuzzy Tales says:

    I have a cat with asthma-like symptoms, who has had a cough similar to the cat in the video since he was adopted at 6 months of age. He’s now 7.5 years old.

    In February 2014 he had a chest x-ray done because his cough this past winter had gone from very occasional to frequent, and the x-ray apparently showed inflammation around some of his airways, the “halos.” I couldn’t actually see what the vet was pointing out, though.

    However, I started my cat (Nicki) on a short course of Prednisolone, and a handful of days afterward he got SO sick with a virus–open-mouthed breathing, etc. I’ve seen the occasional flare up of the standard “kitty cold” but nothing like that. (He’s been on daily Lysine for years, btw, as a preventative). I weaned him off the Pred, thinking it had lowered his immune system and that he picked up a bug at the vet clinic or that being on the Pred triggered a latent virus. Then the virus progressed into an infection, and he had 10 days of antibiotics.

    After that I started PetAlive.com’s AmazaPet and RespoK, both supposedly highly recommended for asthma and bronchial issues.

    Unfortunately, in spite of the terrific reviews, neither product has made any difference whatsoever to Nicki (the RespoK makes him worse), and he’s back to coughing almost every day now. I have one more product from their site on order, to try, before having to give up and go back to the Prednisolone, which I am loathe to do, as I’m fully well aware of both the short term and long term side effects.

    However, I’m in a small city in eastern Canada and there is no such thing as a homeopathic vet anywhere.

    I’ve had my furnace ducts cleaned (in early March), I don’t use a lot of household cleansers (mostly half-water and half-hydrogen peroxide to clean), my lower level is laminate (old carpet upstairs), I vacuum twice weekly, no scented oils or perfumes or candles and I don’t smoke. (I lost my ability to smell some years ago, probably because I’m allergic to cats!) The only thing I’ve not really looked at is the litter, which currently is a scented clumping litter, because after trying several brands, this one seemed to work the best.

    So I need to revisit that.

    But other than the litter, I’m at a loss to think of anything else. He’s on a 90% canned, grain-free diet that includes a low-end brand, a mid-quality brand and a high-end brand. He gets 1 TBSP x 2 of kibble a day as as treat (with rice, free of corn, soy and wheat). He’s pretty fussy re: the wet food, and won’t touch human food (except deli ham). I can leave any kind of meat or poultry out on the counter and he doesn’t get into it, isn’t interested. The couple of times I’ve tried raw have been a failure, he’s not recognized it as “food.”

    I realize this is an old post I’m responding to, but if anyone has suggestions, feel free.

    What I notice is that most of his coughing occurs when he’s sleeping–often when he’s sleeping on my bed at night, or sleeping in one of his spots downstairs.

    Otherwise, he’s still zooming around like a younger cat, getting into his usual mischief and being his naughty self. :-)

    Peace.

    • Ingrid says:

      You sure have tried just about everything to help your boy. I’d definitely change the litter. I’ve found that Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat is the lowest dust litter available, and a good choice for asthmatic cats. I would not recommend any of the corn-based litters, even though the packaging suggests that they’re low dust and good for cats with asthma, that has not been my experience.

      Since you don’t have access to a homeopathic vet locally, you may want to consider working with one who treats remotely. I have not had personal experience with Dr. Loops, but he comes highly recommended: http://www.charlesloopsdvm.com/

  14. Fuzzy Tales says:

    Ingrid, thanks for the reply–I didn’t expect one–and for the web site to Dr. Loops. Much appreciated.

    I’ll check re: Dr. Elsey’s litter — the PetValu chain does carry it, but whether our local store stocks it is another matter. Fingers crossed!

    All the best,
    Kim

    • Ingrid says:

      If you can’t find it locally, Amazon carries it: http://amzn.to/1rk8X1W Not sure how much shipping to Canada would cost, with Prime, you get free shipping in the US. Keep me posted on how your boy is doing, Kim!

      • Fuzzy Tales says:

        Thanks; I called our local PetValu and they do carry it. Don’t sell a lot of it, but they have a few customers who do buy it. I’ll pick up a bag to try on the weekend or before. My thanks! I hope it works for him (he’s messy in the litter box and I do have another cat as well).

        I did see that Amazon.com carries it, though Amazon.ca doesn’t at this time.

        All the best,
        Kim

  15. Finch says:

    Hi Fuzzy tails,
    Two of our kitties have asthma and with one the reaction to prednisolone has been the same as your cat’s.
    I won’t go into the months and thousands we’ve spent trying to give the boy a good happy life and we’re still not there.
    As with your kitty, he was coughing in his sleep, and I started shaking out the bed linens and cat beds and all soft surfaces on an every other daily basis to rid them of as much dust as possible, and then spraying all the soft surfaces (carpets beds chairs you name it) with a product ‘fabreze’ makes.
    Really a HUGE anti Fabreze person but I saw it and thought I would give it a try and it has really helped.
    It’s The un-scented fabric ‘refresher’ allergen reducer that boasts blocking 95% of allergens in ‘soft’ surfaces.
    There’s not much more sleep coughing so maybe it’s working.
    I also vacuum (even though we don’t have carpeting) and dust very often.
    Needless to say kitty is not on prednisolone anymore because of how sick it makes him, and he’s doing well.
    God luck…I know how heart breaking it is to see them go through this!

    http://www.febreze.com/en-US/en-US/Product.aspx?id=3463

    • Ingrid says:

      That’s amazing to me that this product worked for you, Finch! I checked the MSDS, and one of the ingredients is benzisothiazolinone, which is a known immune system toxin, and another is quaternary ammonium chloride, which has numerous adverse health effects, including contact dermatitis.The rest of the ingredients seem fairly innocuous.I guess sometimes there’s just no telling what will work!

  16. Finch says:

    Hi again!
    Oops!

    The link on the bottom of my last post is a link to the product.

  17. Finch says:

    Thank you Ingrid…no more Fabreze badness!
    So maybe it’s the constant dusting and vacuuming and shaking all the linens and pounding the pillows….
    Or the move to a new state with different pollens…?

  18. Jessica says:

    Hi, my one year old cat has been dealing with asmtha since i adopted him 6 months ago. When i first got him I noticed his breathing was alittle odd so when i brought him to vet i brought it up and they said it was nothing to worry about. 4 months later i witnessed my first cat asmtha attack with my boyfriend. Miles (my cat) was coughing, you could tell by his stomach he couldnt catch his breathe and wouldnt let you touch him. At around 2am we brought him to 2 vet ER’s, the first said it was asthma but the xray machine was down so i had to bring him to the next one. Visited the next vet and they said they saw nothing wrong with him, so 4am and $200 later i got nothing. He continued to breathe this was for 2 more days. Brought him to his original vet and got all the xrays done, he is on the steroid and bronchodilator. I have done everything i can for him, change litter, bought humidifier, and he just started a canned grain free diet. We are going to an internal specialist on wednesday to see if there is an infection we are missing. I am open to all suggestions and help from anyone! Can i mention i am 24yra old, and live on my own in NJ. Unfortunately i dont know how much more i can afford for him!!

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