Bronchitis, Chronic (COPD) in Cats
Also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis occurs when the mucous membranes of the bronchi (the airways that transport oxygen from the trachea to the lungs) become inflamed. Typically, this leads to a chronic cough that lasts two months or longer -- a cough that is not attributable to other causes like heart failure, neoplasia, infections, or other respiratory diseases.
Despite extensive diagnostic efforts by your veterinarian, the specific cause of the inflammation is rarely identified. In addition, breeds such as the Siamese and domestic shorthair are found to be predisposed to this chronic disease.
Symptoms and Types
- Abnormal lung sounds (i.e., wheezing, crackles, etc.)
- Inability to perform routine exercises
- Bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes (cyanosis); a sign that oxygen in the blood is dangerously diminished
- Spontaneous loss of consciousness (syncope)
Chronic airway inflammation is initiated by a variety of causes.
You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated the unusual behaviors or complications. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count. Although the findings for these tests depend on the underlying cause of the brain injury, often the biochemistry profile may indicate abnormalities in the blood glucose level. Blood gases are also measured to confirm oxygen deficiency in the blood.
When fractures involving the skull are suspected, X-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, and MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) are extremely useful to evaluate the severity of the brain trauma. These diagnostic tools also help in determining the presence of bleeding, fractures, foreign bodies, tumor, and other abnormalities involving brain. The ECG (electrocardiogram), meanwhile, is used to evaluate heart functions and rhythm.
Lastly, your veterinarian may collect cerebrospinal fluid sample to determine the level of inflammation and to confirm possible infections.
Unless life-threatening symptoms develop, most cats do not require hospitalization. Otherwise, your veterinarian will typically recommend medication and oxygen therapy to be administered at home. Corticosteroids and bronchodilators, for example, are commonly employed to reduce airway inflammation and dilate the airway passage to facilitate breathing, respectively. Antibiotics, meanwhile, are usually prescribed to cats in case of lung infections.
Living and Management
Unfortunately, there is no cure yet available for COPD, but, with proper management, some symptoms may be kept in check. For example, weight control, a balanced diet, and proper compliance with medication will control the severity and progression of the disease.
Exercise is particularly important, as it helps clear the secretion present in the airways, thereby making it easier for the cat to breath. However, exercise must only be implemented gradually, as it can also cause excessive coughing. Additionally, a balanced diet will help keep the cat fit, thus improving its breathing, attitude and exercise tolerance.
Watch for excessive coughing and call your veterinarian immediately if it persists, as it may lead to a spontaneous loss of consciousness (syncope).