Feline Lower Airway Disease (FLAD)
Feline lower airway disease is used to describe conditions that affect the lower respiratory tract in cats. These conditions include bronchial diseases, chronic bronchitis, feline asthma, bronchial asthma, and allergic asthma. Distinction between the conditions can be done by specific testing available at your veterinarian clinic.
What is feline asthma?
It is estimated that 1% of cats suffer from asthma which occurs more frequently in female cats. Asthma is reversible inflammation of the small airways in the lungs (i.e. bronchioles). It is similar to asthma in humans and begins with a mild cough. If not treated, it may progress to your cat being in distress with coughing, wheezing, loud and rapid breathing, and exercise intolerance. Symptoms, generally noticed between the ages of 2 to 6, are often overlooked and mistaken for hairballs due to the coughing and wheezing. Asthma is often associated with inflammation due to irritants or allergens in the environment which causes an increase in mucus in the lungs constricting the small airways. As a result, your cat will have trouble breathing.
What triggers a feline asthma attack?
Asthma attacks can be caused by a variety of sources. Allergens in the air, temperature changes, and exercise can all trigger attacks. Some allergens that are frequently associated with asthma include grass, tree pollen, fumes, cigarettes, dust, smoke, perfumes, and various sprays. Attacks may also be worse in cats that are overweight.
How is asthma in cats diagnosed?
It is important to take your cat to the veterinarian if you think your cat may have asthma. The veterinarian can listen to your cat’s lungs using a stethoscope to detect crackling and whistling due to excess mucus or inflamed airways. They will also need to know as much information about your cat and his environment as possible. The veterinarian may identify the cause or trigger of your cat’s asthma with the information you provide him. A chest x-ray can also be done to view the chest wall and lungs of your cat.
Preventative measures to decrease the chance of asthma attacks in cats
There are many changes that can be made to your home to prevent an asthma attack in your cat. Dust-free cat litter is a great first step in removing a source of allergens. Replacing filters on heating units and air conditioners can also help keep the air in your home clean. The winter season can be troublesome for your cat’s asthma due to the extreme temperature and dry air. Limit outdoor exposure during winter months in order to avoid these and use a humidifier inside during dry seasons to help prevent attacks. Many cat owners never identify the allergen responsible for triggering asthma attacks. If you can find the trigger, try to remove it as best as possible, but there are treatment options available if needed.
How to treat feline asthma
The goals of treating feline asthma are to reduce inflammation, airway constriction, and mucus production while trying to identify and remove the allergen(s) causing the asthma symptoms in order to prevent airway damage. Feline asthma is often treated with bronchodilators and corticosteroids.
Aminophylline and terbutaline are two medications that are taken by mouth which act as bronchodilators to open the airways in the lungs. Albuterol (Proair® or Ventolin®) are popular inhaled bronchodilators. These medications are fast-acting and can help relax the muscles causing the closed airways. These are often used when your cat is having an asthma attack.
Albuterol will help your cat during an asthma attack within 5 to 10 minutes of use. If the attack reoccurs, the medication can be used every half-hour or as needed for your cat. Albuterol can cause increased heart rate, excitability, weight loss, and tremors; however, these occur infrequently in most cats. If your cat is having asthma attacks often, your cat may need a medication such as a glucocorticoid to prevent or reduce the frequency of asthma attacks.
Glucocorticoids are used to decrease the inflammation in your cat’s lungs in order to prevent asthma attacks. Prednisone, prednisolone, and methylprednisolone are common examples of oral glucocorticoids. Fluticasone (Flovent®) is an example of an inhaled corticosteroid.
Fluticasone is commonly used every 12 hours to maintain healthy airways in your cat. It is used with a breathing mask, such as an AeroKat Feline Aerosol Chamber, to ensure the medication is inhaled. Fluticasone can be found as 44, 110, and 220 mcg per actuation, but the 110 mcg strength is most commonly used in feline asthma. Unlike albuterol, fluticasone can take 10 to 14 days to achieve the full benefits.1 Prednisolone can be given during this time until the fluticasone is fully effective.
Why use inhaled medication for feline asthma?
Medications given by mouth are not ideal for the treatment and prevention of asthma in cats due to the increased risk of side effects. Oral medications can alter blood sugars, which may be problematic with cats who have diabetes. They can also increase the risk of inflammation of the pancreas and are poorly tolerated. Inhaled medications help avoid some of these side effects by acting directly on the lungs and airways.
Optimize your cat’s treatment using the AeroKat Feline Aerosol Chamber
AeroKat Feline Aerosol Chamber for cats is an easy-to-use device that helps deliver medications for the treatment of asthma, allergic rhinitis, or chronic bronchitis. The chamber is used with a metered-dose inhaler like albuterol or fluticasone. The chamber is used to hold the puff of medication while your cat breathes normally to inhale all of the medication. Without the chamber, the medication can be lost in the air, and your cat may not get the full benefit of the medication needed. The AeroKat Feline Aerosol Chamber can help your cat get the medication he needs to feel better and breathe normally.
 Tasi, A. (2014, April 13). Another furball? It might be feline asthma.
 Sharp, C. (2014, March/April). Treatment of feline lower airway disease. Today’s Veterinary Practice, 4(2), 28-32.