by Laura Weis
Feline asthma, like many chronic diseases that plague both humans and our companion animals, is a disease of inflammation. In the initial stages, inflammatory and allergic responses in the respiratory system cause the production of mucus in the airways and swelling of the walls of the bronchi. As this reaction progresses over time, the walls of the airway spasm and constrict, leading to difficulty in breathing, and eventually to chronic structural and infiltrative changes in the airways.
Conventional treatment for feline asthma is aimed at decreasing inflammation and allergic responses through the use of steroids and other anti-inflammatory medications, and the administration of airway dilators. These drugs can be delivered through an inhaler or can be given orally or by injection.
Side effects from this therapy can range from immunosuppression and increased susceptibility to infections, to increased appetite and weight gain and alterations in the body’s natural regulation of cortisol production.
While these treatments can be life-saving in an emergency, there are other options for managing asthma. Classical homeopathy can be an effective modality to treat and eliminate asthma for many cats, reducing or eliminating the need for other medications and their unwanted effects.
Hairball or asthma attack?
Typical signs and symptoms of feline asthma can include:
- Coughing and wheezing, usually in a crouched position with the neck extended
- Open-mouthed breathing, possibly with the tongue sticking out
- Increased respiratory rate and effort
- Vomiting after a coughing spell
- Lethargy, especially for younger cats, showing no interest in playing or eating
If a cat is coughing consistently, or has breathing difficulties, it’s time to seek medical attention. An examination will include a complete health history of the cat and most likely a blood tests to rule out pneumonia, bronchitis or other causes of coughing or respiratory abnormalities. X-rays are also helpful in positively identifying feline asthma. The lungs may appear enlarged from trapped air and there may be characteristic signs, such as hyper-lucency (increased brightness) and cuffing around the bronchi.
Asthmatic attacks can be triggered by various allergens, including:
- In the home—cleaning chemicals, air fresheners, smoking, stress
- In the environment—pollen, air pollution, mold, pesticides
- In foods—individual cats can have sensitivity reactions to various foods, often proteins
It is crucial to eliminate potential allergens in a cat’s environment by eliminating exposure to smokers, using dust-free litter, choosing spray-free parasite control methods on the cat and in the home, and minimizing contact with the big triggers listed above. Air filtration systems can be very helpful.
Using classical homeopathy to treat kitties with asthma recognizes that each cat is an individual, and while there are often commonalities in the symptom picture, there are also unique characteristics. Some cats with asthma cough after eating or while exercising, while others start wheezing after hearing loud noises that are frightening. Many cats prefer to seek the company of their humans when they are coughing, but others will hide under furniture until they feel better. A known cause of disease initiation can be important. Some cats, for example, begin showing symptoms for the first time following vaccine administration.
A typical homeopathic intake examination and history will last 60 to 90 minutes, and during that time many questions about the patient as a unique individual will allow a trained homeopath to choose the medication, or remedy, that is the best match. A well-selected remedy will gently and smoothly ameliorate symptoms as the body stops perpetuating the inflammatory cycle.
While feline asthma is a disease that centers in the lower respiratory system, homeopathy will treat the entire patient, not just the lungs. Homeopathic products are available that combine many different remedies, but at best these medications may palliate disease without curing and will need to be given on an ongoing basis. Accurate diagnosis and treatment require a thorough understanding of the disease and the individual. In these cases, restoration of health through homeopathic treatment can eliminate the asthmatic symptoms without pharmaceutical side effects.
Dr. Laura Weis and her husband, Dr. Ransome Weis, own and operate Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care, and Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center, in Doylestown. She focuses on homeopathy and nutrition counseling for her clients within the full-service veterinary practice. Call 215-345-6000 to request an appointment. April 2019