Cat Care: Understanding Feline Bronchitis

Feline bronchitis is characterised by inflammation of the lower airways, particularly the bronchi and bronchioles, which play an important role in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs. The condition can be acute, appearing suddenly, or chronic in nature, and when inflammation is longstanding, fibrosis can develop. This can prevent the lungs from inflating to full capacity, so it's important that inflammation is managed effectively to ensure your cat can enjoy a good quality of life. It's not always possible to determine why a cat develops feline bronchitis, but environmental irritants, such as dusty cat litter, air freshener and cigarette smoke, can trigger an episode. Bringing new furniture into the house can also be a trigger, as there's often an initial releasing of fumes when new furniture is unwrapped. Lungworm, which is a parasitic infection, may also cause the condition. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for feline bronchitis.


Symptoms of feline bronchitis include difficulty breathing, which may cause your cat to breathe with an open mouth or take rapid shallow breaths, and coughing. Your cat may also develop a blue tinge on their skin and mucous membranes, which is caused by insufficient oxygen in their blood. Other symptoms can include lethargy, loss of appetite and low mood, which can cause your cat to withdraw from social contact.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Your vet will diagnose feline bronchitis by taking details of your cat's symptoms and conducting a physical exam. Blood and urine samples will also be taken to check lung function and inflammatory markers and determine if an infection is present. Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays, may be undertaken to check for damage to the lungs or surrounding tissue and establish the degree of inflammation present.

An acute episode of feline bronchitis requires immediate treatment. Don't wait until your vet surgery opens if your cat is having breathing difficulties during the night. Contact your local out-of-hours practice for an urgent appointment. Your cat will require oxygen therapy to support their lungs and other vital organs, and they will be given medication to open their airways and help return their breathing to normal. Chronic feline bronchitis typically requires long-term medication to control inflammation, and corticosteroids are often effective at controlling this condition. If lungworm was found during diagnosis, your cat will require a course of anti-parasitic medication to kill the lungworm. Your cat will require regular monitoring and follow-up appointments with your vet to check lung function and ensure the condition is not progressing and causing fibrosis to develop.

To learn more, contact a vet that offers after-hours animal care services.