Breathing Difficulties in Cats

Let’s consider the respiratory system which has many parts, like the nose, throat pharynx and larynx windpipe, and lungs.

Air comes in through the nose and is carried down to the lungs through a process referred to as aspiration. In the lungs, the oxygen is transferred to red blood cells, these blood cells then carry the oxygen to other organs in the body which the physical process of a healthy body.

While oxygen is being transferred to the red blood cells, carbon dioxide is transferred from red blood cells into the lungs which then is carried out through the nose through a process referred to as expiration. This cyclic motion of breathing is controlled by the respiratory center in the brain and nerves in the chest.

Diseases that affect the respiratory system and or respiratory center in the brain can bring about breathing difficulties.

Term for laboured breathing is referred to as dyspnea, excessive breathing is referred as tachypnea also known as polypnea.

Depending on the severity of the problem they can become life threatening.

The symptoms of dyspnea: Breathing with an open mouth, nostrils may flare open when breathing, the belly and chest move when breathing, neck and head are held low and out in front of the body, noisy breathing (stridor) problem when breathing in or out.

Fast Breathing known as tachypnea when rate is faster than normal, mouth is usually closed.

Panting, Fast Breathing, usually shallow breaths, open mouth other symptoms could be coughing  

So, what causes these issues?

Can be many reasons like infection with bacteria or viruses, tumours, bleeding, diseases of the nose, small nostrils, foreign object stuck in the throat, roof of the mouth is too long, (enlongated soft palate), diseases of the throat and upper windpipe (trachea). Diseases of the lungs and lower windpipe, infection with bacteria or viruses (pneumonia), heart failure with fluid in the lungs (pulmonary enema), enlarged heart, infection with heart worms, bleeding into the lungs, diseases of the small airways in the lungs (bronchi and bronchioles), allergies, asthma.

With diseases in the space in the chest surrounding the lungs (pleural space) can cause heart failure, air (pneumothorax) blood in the chest (hemothorax) or tumours in the chest.

Diseases of the chest wall caused by injury and toxins.

Diseases that make the belly enlarged or bloated, enlarged liver, stomach filled with air, fluid int the belly (ascites)

If the breathing is fast referred to as Tachypnea this means low oxygen level in the blood (hpoxemia) low red blood cell level (anemia) or asthma. High body temperature fever.

If your cat has Asthma which is referred to as allergic bronchitis, is very similar to the asthma we humans get, which is an allergic reaction that causes the spasms in the airway. The spasms can lead to swelling and difficulty in breathing, this in some cats can be a chronic problem, while for others it can be seasonal.

So what triggers the Asthma?

Grass and pollen, cat litter if it is clay, pine, cedar etc, certain foods, household cleaners and sprays, smoke from cigarettes, cigars, fireplaces, candles etc, dust, dust mites, mild, perfumes and cosmetics. Feline heart worm disease.

If your cat’s airway is restricted, the ability to breath can become life threatening in just minutes.

The signs can be a bit like having a cold, coughing wheezing, runny eyes, gurgling throat, rapid, shallow breathing, frequent swallowing, open mouth breathing, taking quick breaths, increased pulse.

Reducing asthma by removing stress and substances that can create the situation, changing litter and food.

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