There are many treatment options for asthma available to complement standard pharmaceutical medications. These options include the AeroKat®, Home Oxygen Therapy, Nebulizer and Acupuncture.
The following papers were kindly provided by two respiratory specialists working in the UK, and deal with diagnosis and treatments. They are written in veterinary terms and we therefore recoomend that you print them off and take them to your vet for reference.
Dr. Andrew Sparks BVetMed PhD DipECVIM MRCVS-CA: Chronic Bronchial Disease in Cats
Dr. Danièlle Gunn-Moore BSc BVM&s PhD MACVSc MRCVS: Dyspnoea in Cats
Home Oxygen Therapy
Many animals are not properly diagnosed until a crisis occurs at which point, the natural instinct is to quite rightly get to the vet ASAP however, once diagnosis is confirmed and a management plan has been drawn up, it is worthwhile remembering that most respiratory patients do much better in their own homes and as stress plays a major roll in exacerbating symptoms, and can trigger them in the first place, the more that can be managed at home, the better for the cat. We have already discussed drug regimes and the tapering up and down of steroids to control symptoms however, home oxygen therapy can further compliment this, saving on unnecessary stress to your pet and huge vet bills! Common sense must be used, and if the animal is suffering severe respiratory difficulty, it is probably wise to get them to your vet ASAP however, a crisis can often be avoided by staying calm and trying to bring symptoms under control at home, if time permits. It is a fact that the respiratory system is naturally at rest at around 4am so it is not uncommon for these flare ups to occur in the middle of the night, when you cannot see your vet in any case and may end up seeing a duty vet in an emergency clinic who has no experience with your cats disease.
Home oxygen need not be complicated and there are various ways to administer it but first off, you will need the equipment. The photo below shows a portable valve system that clamps onto a portable oxygen cylinder. The cylinder shown is type E and contains 180 litres of oxygen. Your vet will be able to order one of these from his supplier. All vets also have an account with an oxygen supplier who delivers and then collects empty canisters at a later date. You could make arrangements with your vet to drop off empty canisters for refill although it is best to have at least one spare at home at all times. This valve system allows you to regulate the flow of oxygen and a fine tube is then attached through which the oxygen flows.
There are three ways to give this to your pet. Firstly, you can simply cover a pet cage with a towel and insert the tubing through. Most people may find this the easiest route but cats often turn away from the direct flow so you need to use it a fairly high flow rate, meaning more hiss to scare kitty and the quicker the canister will run out. The second route is to just hold the tube as close as possible to your cats nose, as illustrated. You need only use a little oxygen in this way, with far less hiss and this will greatly improve your pets oxygen concentration.
The third route if kitty will allow, and fairly simple if there is a degree of open mouth breathing, is to insert the tube between the teeth so the flow is directed towards the throat, as illustrated. Some cats allow a thinner tube to be inserted into the nostril but for most, even when taped on, they tend to pull it free in a short amount of time. Cats can improve very quickly with just ten to fifteen minutes of oxygen therapy and you will likely notice the gums and tongue are nice and pink when you have finished which means the cat is adequately oxygenated. If this is not the case, you should seek veterinary help. A good oxygen supply is vital for all major organ function and can help to fight infection too so it's certainly worth considering for the chronically sick pet that has frequent bouts of breathing difficulty and these episodes are then easily managed without fuss. Remember, animals pick up on our vibes, if you panic, they do to and this is the last thing you want with a respiratory patient.
A nebulizer can be used to administer Albuterol. It is a much different system than using a mask.
Put the Albuterol solution into a little chamber by a mouth piece, then place the mouth piece that is attached to a plastic tube into a vent of my cat's carrier. The carrier is covered with a towel to keep the Albuterol mist inside. Turn on the nebulizer and this sprays a fine mist of Albuterol into the cage.The cat just leisurely breathes it in at his own pace while he's resting inside of the carrier. You don't have to give exact, measured amounts, as with the mask. The whole process takes about ten minutes and does not seem to be stressful at all.
Nebulizers can also be used to decongest mucous in pneumonia, and in some cases, both steroids and antibiotics can be administered by this route. However, the droplet size of the medication is crucial andf therefore should be strictly under the guidance of your vet.
With this chamber the efficiency of absorption of medication is greatly enhanced so the dosage of medications can be decreased. This mask was designed specifically for usage by cats and therefore is much more effective than previous masks.
The Aerokat® can be purchased at Trudell Medical.
This has shown to be a good complementary method and can be used alongside all other medications and therapies. It is widely used in the treatment of asthma in humans and has shown to quite markedly reduce the amount and severity of attacks in a significant amount of people. Quite often they are then able to reduce the doses of steroids and the use of inhalers. It relieves Bronchospasm and re-balances the immune system.
Acupuncture on animals has to be carried out by a qualified veterinary surgeon.
In the first session, which will probably be between thirty to sixty minutes, the vet, working with Traditional Chinese Medicine, will take an extensive history of your cat from the time of him/her being a kitten, noting all the illnesses/problems that have occurred since then as well as looking at the general behaviour, habits, onsets of problems etc. After this, the vet will decide on the points to be used and draw up a treatment plan.
You can expect between 4 and 10 treatments before you see some response. The vet would usually start quite carefully using just a few adequate points since too many can over-stimulate the system and possibly trigger an attack. Depending on the response, the cat might then require treatment fortnightly, monthly etc. It varies from case to case. However, it must be stressed that this is not a cure but it will help to relieve and improve. Most animals find it quite relaxing and might even have a little snooze on the table with the needles in place!