Feline Asthma Takes Their Breath Away
By Kelley Weir
Anyone with asthma can tell you how terrifying it is to not be able to breathe and how immense the relief is when an attack finally subsides. Now imagine how cats with allergic asthma might feel. Their tendency to hide any type of illness or pain, combined with an inability to communicate their distress, must be scarier than we can imagine.
About 1 to 5 percent of cats suffer from allergic asthma, and current therapies only focus on treating the inflammatory reaction rather than the underlying cause of the disease. Though the percentage of cats that experience asthma is relatively low, the effects on those cats are extreme, which is one reason why Morris Animal Foundation has targeted research in this area.
When cats suffer an asthma attack, the small passageways of the lungs (bronchi, bronchioles) become inflamed, irritated and prone to collapse. The degree of irritation comes and goes, and it can be suppressed with medication, but the only way to cure the disease is to identify the offending allergen so the cat receives the appropriate treatment.
As in human asthma therapy, veterinarians usually start the cat on a steroid treatment to help control the symptoms of coughing and wheezing. The next step is testing for specific allergens to identify the cause of the attacks. However, because steroids suppress the immune system, treating cats with steroids for their asthma presents a diagnostic dilemma for veterinarians trying to determine the cause of the asthma.
In a series of Morris Animal Foundation–funded studies, researchers at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine have evaluated whether rush immunotherapy (RIT) will ultimately provide a cure for feline asthma. For RIT to be effective, identification of the inciting allergen must be made, and there was concern that steroid treatment would inhibit this. Dr. Chee-hoon Chang, a Foundation fellow, and her mentor, Dr. Carol Norris Reinero, have examined how steroid treatment affects both allergen identification and the effectiveness of RIT.
The researchers determined that allergy testing can still proceed while cats are taking steroids. Inhaled steroids do not inhibit successful use of RIT, so steroid use for control of clinical symptoms can be continued while the longer-term curative RIT is done.
Posted by MAFon April 10, 2012. Permalink