It is important to try and identify the allergen causing your cat's reaction. This search can be frustrating because the allergen may be one or a combination of many things, including pollens, mold & mildew, smoke, household products, cat litter, dust & dust mites, vaccines, stress, exercise, cold & dry air and food. Although asthma is considered a reversible airway disease, often allergic in nature, it is not always the case and diseases such as chronic bronchitis are progressive and eliminating the trigger may be impossible. Some members have had allergy testing done to try and pinpoint their cats particular trigger(s).
Litter is probably the first thing you should look at if your cat has been diagnosed with Asthma. Heavy Scented, dusty, clay litter can be a major irritant.
There are many alternatives out there. Litter that is made of wheat, corn, old newspaper, silica, wood pellets, just to name a few. But be careful. What may look like the “natural” alternative may actually make your cats asthma worse. For instance, there is litter out there that is made of Pine. You can also buy litter that is made from cedar. The plicatic acid that’s found naturally in cedar, and abietic acid found in pine, can damage the respiratory tract, causing chronic respiratory disease, and asthma.
In addition, if you haven’t ruled out food allergies, litter that’s made of corn or wheat might be equally as bad to dig around in as it is to ingest if it’s a trigger.
Even among brands that are suggested for asthmatic cats, you have to be wise to what you pick. For instance, lots of our members use Yesterdays’ News, but they make three versions, and only one is unscented.
A word of caution, some cats will not let you just make a complete change to a new litter. Some will rebel by not using the litter box. Whenever you make a litter change it is wise to use two boxes, one with the old, one with the new, and then after a period of time, combine the two, slowly, with more of the old and less of the new, and then reverse this over a period of weeks.
Smoke: Cigarette, Fireplace & Candles
Tobacco smoke is a serious breathing irritant and a strong asthma trigger, but also candles and fireplaces create smoke. If you smoke it’s best to do it out of the house. Even smoking in another closed off room is not ideal. The heating and air conditioning ducts can pull that smoke throughout the house. In addition, the smell that lingers on you can provoke an attack. The same is true with burning candles, especially those with scents. And wood-burning fireplaces can also be very bad for your cat.
The vapors from household solutions and sprays aggravate asthma symptoms and can sometimes bring on an attack. Liquid chlorine bleach, pine scented cleaners, scouring powder, toilet bowl cleaners and deodorizers, scented dryer sheets, fabric softener and laundry soap, powdered carpet cleaner/freshener, scented hand soap, shampoo and conditioner are just some of the basic household products to be aware of.
Sprays (aerosols) including furniture polish, oven cleaners, room deodorizers, perfumes, deodorant talcum powder, hair spray, moth balls, cedar, paint, varnish, paint thinners, incense, potpourri, and perfumed candles and the fumes and vapors from hobby and craft projects can also trigger an asthma attack. In addition, there are other things that should be left out of any asthmatic’s house.
While not all sources can be eliminated, some irritating products can be replaced by products that are less offensive to the lungs. Many scented products, such as laundry soap, softener and dryer sheets, come in unscented varieties.There are many natural ways of cleaning and deodorizing. (Sometimes referred to as “green cleaning”), such as warm water and soap, baking soda, vinegar, and oil-based furniture polish instead of the aerosol version. Insulation materials are also very harmful to asthmatics.
Each spring, summer, and fall, tiny particles are released from trees, weeds, and grasses. These particles, known as pollen, hitch rides on currents of air. Of all the things that can cause an allergy, pollen is one of the most widespread. There is no easy way to evade wind borne pollen. All sorts of pollens can trigger asthma symptoms. Grass pollen is the most common, though trees, flowers and fungi can also trigger asthma. The best way to limit your cats exposure to pollen is to keep the cat indoors, use air conditioning, Keep your windows closed, and if you’ve been outdoors when the pollen levels are high, change and wash your clothing as soon as you get home. Dry your clothes in an automatic dryer rather than hanging them outside. Otherwise pollen can collect on clothing and be carried indoors. Also get rid of any indoor plants. Not only could they be contributing to the pollen problem in your home, the wet dirt in the pots could be producing mold. (Another major asthma trigger)
Mold & Mildew
Lack of air movement, standing water and unsanitary conditions breed mold and mildew. Mold thrives in humidity above 65%. Mold typically grows on organic materials that remain moist for more than 24 hours. Basements and crawl spaces can be major sources of mold. As well as drains, a pile of dirty laundry, dirt in the pots of your indoor plants and shower curtains that aren’t pulled back open to dry when you get out of the shower. It’s important to keep the air circulating and to make sure you don’t have any standing water in crawl spaces, basements and the drip tray under your refrigerator. Remove wet musty boxes in your garage and standing leaves on your deck or porch.
Dust & Dust Mites
House dust allergy is common even in clean homes. House dust is a mixture of many substances. A speck of dust may contain fabric fibers, human skin particles, animal dander, microscopic creatures called mites, bacteria, parts of cockroaches, mold spores, food particles and other debris. Of these, animal dander, dust mites, and cockroaches are the most common culprits.
Dust mites are tiny animals you cannot see. Every home has dust mites. They feed on skin flakes and are found in mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, bedcovers, clothes, stuffed toys, and fabric or other fabric-covered items. They prefer temperatures at or above 70°F with a relative humidity of 75-80 percent and die when the humidity falls below 40-50 percent.
You can help to control dust and dust mites, by cleaning your home thoroughly on a regular basis. Vacuum frequently (including your mattress) and dust with a damp or oiled cloth. You might want to invest in a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) air filtered vacuum, otherwise you are probably just moving the dust around and not really removing it. Wash your curtains and draperies often, or replace them with blinds that can be wiped free of dust. Invest in a good air cleaner and replace the filter on your home heating and air conditioning unit.
Select non-allergic, washable bedding materials. Try to avoid pillows, bedspreads and comforters stuffed with feathers, down, or foam rubber, instead use pillows stuffed with synthetic materials. It’s advisable to purchase special casings that zip around mattresses, box springs and pillows, that will keep the dust mites out of your pillows and bed. Wash all bedding (including pillows without cases) every week to 10 days, using hot water.
Removing all carpeting and using scatter rugs that can be washed each week, will greatly help in the reduction of dust and dust mites. Wood floors, seamless vinyl or linoleum floor coverings are best because they can be cleaned easily and thoroughly, and mites don't like to live on uncarpeted floors.
Most food allergies manifest themselves in the form skin sensitivities, or gastrointestinal disturbances.
But food can also be triggers for asthma. An allergic reaction can develop to foods that have been fed for years but the allergy may reveal itself with a sudden onset. Once an allergy has developed, the sensitivity to the ingredient may last a lifetime, so foods containing that ingredient will need to be left out of the diet permanently.
Wheat, gluten, milk, (and all dairy products) along with fish/tuna and the preservatives that are added to cat food are among the top triggers. . But any food can turn into a food allergy. Even the most common of ingredients. Identifying food allergies takes time and patience. The only true successful method is to put your cat on a strictly monitored elimination diet of previously unfamiliar foods. Then introduce other foods, one at a time, to see which causes allergic symptoms.
In addition to talking about food allergies, it’s also important to touch on proper nutrition to help immunosuppressed cats. There are many foods that claim to be the best. Even some of the foods that are highly toted at the veterinary clinics are over processed and full of filler ingredients that just aren’t good for our cats. There are foods on the market that pride themselves on very few ingredients. The more ingredients you have the more likely to run into an allergy problem. Ideally you would want to put an asthmatic cat on a hypoallergenic, highly nutrition diet. Most holistic vets recommend a “raw diet” A raw diet is a homemade diet, carefully balanced nutritionally and using raw and organic foods, is it the closest to what Mother Nature intended. However, many of us do not have the time or energy to do home cooking.
Stress can also trigger an asthma attack for our cats. Stress can come in the form of changes made in their everyday routines, having to take medication, a change in litter, or food. It can also play a strong role during the holidays, when we have parties and unfamiliar guests over. When we put the decorations up, and fill the home with surroundings that they aren’t used to. Cats are creatures of habit, and when change comes along in their lives, it can create stress, which in turn can trigger an asthma attack. Sometimes it’s best to take the cats, their food, water and litter, and put them in your bedroom during holiday events. They would probably prefer that, to being picked up by children who aren’t used to handling animals, or being underfoot when dinner is being served. Not to mention, guests that come over that don’t realize how important it is to keep perfume away from your kitties.
Some say yearly vaccinations can trigger the onset of asthma. Once your cat has been diagnosed with asthma, many holistic vets recommend that you never vaccinate them again. Vaccines are designed for healthy cats, and it states this on the insert that comes with vaccines.
Many members have added air cleaners to their homes. Ionic cleaners are not recommended as the ions fall to the floor, leaving the air clean, but the floor where your cat is, filthy.
Unfortunately, results usually show that your cat is allergic to several things like pollen, mold, dust mites, etc. all of which are usually impossible to eliminate from the environment. However, desensitation shots can be developed for your cat once the allergen(s) is identified. There are two methods of allergy testing; skin prick tests, which are not very accurate because certain allergens may not cause a skin reaction in felines, and blood tests, which are very specific. In addition, 'inhaled allergens' in humans cause respiratory disease but in cats and dogs this is rarely the case? Instead these allergies show up as skin reactions.
Desensitation shots are used for allergies of varying types. After getting allergy testing done, the lab can create "desensitization shots" which have small amounts of the allergens in them. The idea is that when they are introduced into the body in small amounts, the immune system develops a better defense and resistance against those allergens, hence reducing the reaction (i.e. asthma attacks) when those allergens are present.
There is a chance of a severe reaction to even small amounts of the allergen, so the shots have to be done at first at the vets office and the cat has to stay there for a while, incase of problems, and they have to be done with some frequency. Then as resistance builds up, the shots are only done once a month.
There have been rumors that the different labs have different standards and this results in completely different results from the same cat. You should research allergy testing before undertaking it.