What is Chronic Inflammation of the Bronchi?
In most cases, the cause of the chronic inflammation is never known. Though there is no cure for the condition, symptoms can be controlled with medication, oxygen, and a careful diet.
Chronic inflammation of the bronchi, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or COPD, is characterized by inflammation of the mucous membranes of the bronchi. The bronchi in the lungs are airways that transport oxygen from the trachea into the lungs. The inflammation causes a chronic cough in the cat that lasts more than two months. In order to receive a diagnosis of chronic inflammation of the bronchi, the cat's cough must be due to the condition itself and not a symptom of another disease or condition, such as infections, viruses, neoplasia or heart disease.
Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation of the Bronchi in Cats
Symptoms may become more severe with exertion and may be more noticeable during different times of the day.
- Wheezing or crackling sound when breathing
- Inability to perform exercises, such as running and jumping
- Loss of consciousness
- Fast breathing
- Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing
- Diminished appetite
- Blue-colored skin and mucous membranes
Causes of Chronic Inflammation of the Bronchi in Cats
Chronic inflammation of the bronchi in cats can be related to a number of conditions, including:
- Chronic or recurrent bacterial or viral infection
- Compromised immune system
- Environmental pollutants, such as secondhand smoke or cleaning products
- Ciliary dyskinesia, a malformation of the respiratory cilia that is present at birth
- Heartworms or lungworms
Diagnosis of Chronic Inflammation of the Bronchi in Cats
The veterinarian will ask for the cat's health history, when symptoms first began, and if any environmental factors seem to make the cat's cough and breathing difficulties more pronounced. The veterinarian will then listen to the cat's lungs and heart with a stethoscope. A normal heartbeat with abnormal breathing is indicative of chronic inflammation of the bronchi rather than a heart problem. The vet may also gently touch the cat's trachea, which often results in the cat coughing due to the inflammation.
A chest x-ray may be done on the cat in order to view the lungs. Chronic inflammation of the bronchi is identified on an x-ray by the linear markings over the bronchial tubes. If the x-ray is inconclusive, a bronchoscopy may be performed in order for the veterinarian to better examine the lungs. The cat will be placed under general anesthesia while a tube with a camera is inserted into the lungs through the mouth. The veterinarian will look at the inside of the lungs on a screen attached to the camera. During the bronchoscopy, a sample of the sputum may be removed and sent to the lab for testing. The culture from the sputum can help the veterinarian determine how best to treat the inflammation.
The veterinarian may also test the cat for heartworms. Though heartworms aren't directly responsible for the chronic inflammation, the cough that is caused by the heartworms can damage the bronchial tubes over time, resulting in chronic inflammation of the bronchi.
Treatment of Chronic Inflammation of the Bronchi in Cats
If the cat isn't able to get enough oxygen, fainting and death may result. Oxygen therapy can help the cat get the necessary oxygen. A mask will be placed over the cat's face, which is connected to the oxygen tank via a tube. Oxygen therapy may be needed several times a day.
Antibiotics may be given to clear up any infections that triggered the inflammation. These antibiotics may be given just once or intermittently to help the cat's lungs remain clear. Corticosteroids and bronchodilators may be prescribed to help reduce inflammation in the lungs, force the bronchial tubes to open and help the cat get an increased supply of oxygen.
Many cats who present with chronic inflammation of the bronchi are overweight or obese. Reducing the number of calories the cat eats through dietary changes can help reduce the cat's weight, taking some of the pressure off of the cat's chest and helping the lungs to work better.
Recovery of Chronic Inflammation of the Bronchi in Cats
The goal of caring for a cat with chronic inflammation of the bronchi is to ensure that the cat gets the oxygen needed for living. Remove any restraint collars that the cat has and replace them with a harness to avoid placing pressure on the trachea. Provide exercise at a level that the cat can tolerate, never letting the cat get out of breath. Remove pollutants, such as cigarettes, from the home. Humidifiers can help the cat breathe easier by adding moisture to the air. Regular appointments with the veterinarian are necessary so that the cat's condition can be monitored and the effectiveness of any prescribed medications can be evaluated.