BY CRAIG REILLY

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS -

QOur cat is called Henry. He is two now and has had a nasty cough on and off for six months. We got him a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion a month ago, and he was given a di­ag­no­sis of un­com­pli­cated asthma. His steroids do seem to help him, and he is cough­ing less, but I am wor­ried about side-ef­fects. Is there an al­ter­na­tive that would be safer for him?

Gra­ham, Bangor

APoor boy. Asthma, per­haps nowa­days more cor­rectly termed fe­line air­way dis­ease, is quite com­mon and can be mild, very se­vere or even life-threat­en­ing.

Cats are ex­posed to all the al­ler­gens we are. They pas­sive smoke ar­guably even more than we do be­cause the smoke par­ti­cles drop to ground level in greater con­cen­tra­tions. Cats’ fur also be­comes stat­i­cally charged and at­tracts dust more than hu­man cloth­ing.

Most cats tol­er­ate cor­ti­cos­teroids very well, and we can get away with higher doses for longer than we or a dog could tol­er­ate.

It is true, though, that chronic use does carry risks — di­a­betes is the main con­cern.

Most cats can be tran­si­tioned on to an in­haled steroid, thereby con­cen­trat­ing doses on the af­fected air­ways and spar­ing the rest of the body.

Cats can be gen­tly en­cour­aged/ trained to ac­cept a face-mask and spacer in or­der to de­liver the in­haler-sourced steroids.

Some cats also need air­way dila­tors, or ‘re­liev­ers’, as we call them. These are not par­tic­u­larly use­ful for many cats, but on oc­ca­sion they can be life-savers. When I see cats with asthma, I reach for an in­jectable air­way dila­tor be­fore I reach for the steroids.

As is the case in peo­ple, oral or sys­temic steroids are most ef­fec­tive, with in­haled steroids re­served for long-term use rather than emer­gency ac­tion.

Over the years, we have tried many other drugs — frankly, with lit­tle suc­cess so far.

Avoid­ing dusty ar­eas and ex­clud­ing cats from ar­eas where there are dusty dis­tur­bances seems sen­si­ble. Per­fume, af­ter­shave and de­odor­ants seem a com­mon trig­ger also.

Good luck — most cats can man­age this very well. Craig is a Clin­i­cal Di­rec­tor in Cedar­mount Ve­teri­nary Clinic, Bangor www.cedar­mountvets.co.uk . He can only re­spond to ques­tions through this col­umn, and these an­swers can­not sub­sti­tute for treat­ment de­ci­sions based on a full his­tory and clin­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion by your vet

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