BY CRAIG REILLY
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?
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