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Pets

(BPT) - Humans aren't the only ones that can suffer from asthma. As one of the most common respiratory diseases in cats, asthma affects about 1 percent of the domesticated feline population in the U.S. Cats between the ages of 2 and 8 are most likely to develop the disease.

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How to help your cat with asthma

Described as a constriction of the airways, asthma occurs when the immune system overreacts to an allergen, resulting in inflammation. Feline asthma is not contagious. While it has been hypothesized that genetics may play an underlying role, research in this area is still ongoing. The professional consensus is that if a cat has asthma, symptoms can be triggered by a host of environmental factors.

"While the exact cause of feline asthma remains unknown, the prevailing thought in veterinary medicine is that the symptoms of asthma are triggered by an allergic response to inhaled airborne particles," says Dr. Kurt Venator, Purina veterinarian and director of Veterinary Strategy and Programs. "It can be a challenging condition to manage, as asthmatic cats can react to so many potential irritants in the environment."

Classic signs of asthma include difficulty breathing, coughing and wheezing, along with many other signs. While it's not curable, there are simple steps responsible pet owners can take today to help their feline companions breathe easier.

Journal: If your cat does have asthma, it can be challenging to discover what is triggering the symptoms. In order to find out, owners will likely have to make changes in their home. Keep a journal and begin eliminating possible irritants. Evaluate and note any changes you see in your cat. This can be a slow process, but it's vital in order to understand the cause of their symptoms. Remember, the signs of feline asthma can be exacerbated by a myriad of potential irritants in the environment.

Minimize potential irritants: Cat owners are encouraged to avoid any potential environmental irritants such as mold, pollen, cigarette smoke, perfume, dust, etc. Clean your house more frequently, vacuum and change air filters to help keep the air clean. Try to be mindful of household cleaning agents, as some scented cleaners and air fresheners may serve as irritants.

Avoid clay-based litters: Because of airborne dust, veterinarians typically do not recommend clay-based litter for cats with respiratory issues. In those cases, alternative litters such as Purina Yesterday's News or the Tidy Cats Breeze system may be best.

Get everyone on board: It's important that everyone in the household is aware of your cat's condition and takes part in their health. Family members should be more cautious and responsible when inviting people into their homes. Something as simple as a different perfume odor or tracking in mud or dust may cause your cat to have an asthma attack.

For more information, talk to your veterinarian to determine if your cat suffers from feline asthma and how you can help.

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