How to Handle Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Cats
Brachycephalic airway syndrome is a condition in which the airway structures in the head are abnormal, making breathing more difficult. The syndrome happens in flat-faced cat breeds, as their skulls have less room for normal airway structures. If your flat-faced cat is having a hard time breathing, it may have this syndrome. You should have it seen and treated by a veterinarian, in addition to caring for it properly at home.
Getting Veterinary Treatment
Relieve symptoms right away.It is likely that your veterinarian will want to give your cat medication to relieve its symptoms. Corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can be administered to temporarily relieve symptoms right away. Your cat will likely be given oxygen as well to improve its breathing.
- It is not good for cats to be on corticosteroids long term, as they can cause a lot of side effects. This makes them only a good short term solution for brachycephalic airway syndrome.
Decide on surgical treatment.Surgery is typically the preferred treatment for brachycephalic airway syndrome. However, depending on the exact airway irregularities your cat has, surgical treatment will vary and it may need one or more of procedures.
- In order to fix stenotic nares, the surgeon will remove a section of tissue from the animal's nostrils.
- An soft palate that is too long can be shortened by a veterinary surgeon.
- If your cat has everted laryngeal saccules that are obstructing its larynx, these can be surgically removed in most cases.
Allow aftercare to be done at the veterinary clinic or hospital.After a cat has surgery for brachycephalic airway syndrome, they will likely have more difficulty breathing while they recover, as the surgical area will be swollen. Because of this, it is important that the cat remain under veterinary supervision until swelling goes away and breathing is improved.
Making Changes at Home
Don't allow your cat to become overweight.One of the biggest factors that can make your cat's condition worse is excess weight. An overweight cat will have an even harder time breathing, so excess weight should be avoided.
- If your cat is overweight, discuss ways to lower its weight with its veterinarian. Putting your cat on a weight loss regimen under the guidance of a veterinarian will ensure that it loses weight safely.
Don't let the cat get overheated.Cats that have problems breathing can have even more trouble when they are too hot. If you live in a warm climate, be sure that your cat has a cool place to spend its day.
- Hot and humid weather can often make the symptoms of brachycephalic airway syndrome worse.
Limit your cat's exercise.A cat that has this condition has a harder time getting oxygen into its system. If you over exercise it, this lack of oxygen can become more pronounced and its respiratory system will become over stressed.
- Once your cat's condition is treated with surgery and it has recovered from that surgery, you can resume normal levels of activity with your cat.
Spotting Signs and Getting a Diagnosis
Look for signs in flat-faced cats.Brachycephalic airway syndrome is a problem in cats that have flat faces. Their flat faces make abnormalities much more likely because there is less room in the cat's head for proper airway development.
- Persian, Himalayan and Burmese cats are more likely to get brachycephalic airway syndrome than other breeds.
Notice mouth breathing.When a cat cannot breathe very well it is common for it to open its mouth to breathe. This signals that the cat is having difficulty getting enough air in through its nose.
- A cat will normally breathe through its nose most of the time if its airway is clear.
- Be aware that mouth breathing in cats with normal anatomy is unusual. If you see this and your cat does not have a flat face, then it should see a vet.
Listen for noisy breathing and snoring.Noisy breathing and snoring is another sign of trouble in your cat's airway. Noisy breathing and snoring happen when the airway is obstructed and air does not have a clear pathway.
- This can happen when the cat is congested due to sickness, but it can also signal that the airway is compromised if it does not go away once the cat is well.
Recognize fainting spells.In extreme cases of brachycephalic airway syndrome your cat may faint due to lack of oxygen. This signals that the condition is life-threatening and the cat needs veterinary care immediately.
- It can be difficult to tell the difference between when a cat is sleeping and when it has passed out. However, if you can't wake your cat up easily, then it has likely passed out.
Get veterinary care as early as possible.If you suspect that your cat has difficulty breathing due to brachycephalic airway syndrome, you should have it seen by a veterinarian as soon a possible. If your cat is having a particularly hard time breathing, you should have it seen by a veterinarian immediately.
- The earlier that the condition is identified and treated, the better the chances are for successful treatment.
- If your regular veterinary clinic is not open when you notice your cat's breathing problems, take it to an emergency veterinary clinic or hospital.
Allow recommended testing.There are a variety of tests that may be done on your cat if their veterinarian suspects brachycephalic airway syndrome. Some of these tests can be done while the cat is awake, but some need to be done while the cat is put under anesthesia.
- If your cat needs to be put under to have testing done, your veterinarian will do a variety of tests on it first to make sure that it is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. Cats with breathing problems can have a hard time under anesthesia, so your vet will want to use extra care when putting the cat under.
- If your cat is put under anesthesia to have testing done, your veterinarian may suggest that any surgical treatments that need to be done are done then as well. This will limit the risks to your cat that are inherent with anesthesia.
Discuss the diagnosis with your cat's veterinarian.Brachycephalic airway syndrome is actually a group of abnormalities of the airway. If your veterinarian tells you that your cat has this syndrome, they will then discuss your cat's specific abnormalities within the larger syndrome. There are four types of abnormalities that are included in this syndrome. They include:
- Stenotic nares: abnormally narrowed, small nostrils
- Elongated soft palate: the soft palate is too long for the length of the cat's mouth, blocking the entrance to the trachea or windpipe
- Eversion of the laryngeal saccules: sacs or pouches inside the voicebox that go into the airway and inhibit normal airflow
- Narrowing of the trachea : the trachea is a smaller diameter than normal
- This is a genetic condition that is passed down to offspring. As such, cats with this condition should not be bred. If your cat has not been desexed prior to airway surgery, then you should consider having it done while your cat is having the airway surgery.
Video: Brachycephalic Airway Disease
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