Why Smoking Is Bad For Your Cat’s Health, Too!

With more and more campaigns launched to convince people to give up smoking, it’s worth remembering there are not just human health issues at stake. Smoking can affect your cat’s health, too!  And bird owners should either give up smoking or give up the bird – it is a very serious problem for our feathered friends!

'Byron's' breathing difficulties

‘Byron’ the lover boy cat, arrived in my consulting room thin, anxious, and with a complex history.  He basically commuted between two homes – one where he was pampered and adored, the other where he had to ‘work for a living’.

He lives indoors in both homes, and he had become thin, with significant breathing difficulties that had developed over a period of time.

‘Byron’ is a wonderful man-cat, and very gentle to handle.  After looking him over thoroughly, I found him to be in reasonable health, with halitosis (bad breath) from bad teeth, and the ‘harsh noises’ in his chest as his major problems.

His symptoms could be caused by several diseases, including heart damage (from Heartworm or other damage to the heart muscle), fluid ‘on the lungs’, destruction of the lung tissue, bronchial problems or one of various cancers.  Chest X-rays showed signs of chronic bronchitis (sometimes also called Feline Asthma), while his heart was normal and there was no excess fluid anywhere.

Feline Asthma

Asthma is becoming a prevalent human problem in ‘Western’ countries, and Australia is high on the list of populations with an increase incidence of the disease in both adults and children.  

Cat’s lungs tend to be sensitive ‘allergy organs’, so it is a bit hard to say whether asthma is increasing among the feline population as well.  Tropical parts of Australia are finding more cases of Heartworm in cats and it has been shown that that early stages of heartworm larval migration may trigger asthma also.  With good heartworm prevention in place, there is a decline in feline asthma.

'Byron' gives up smoking!

However, ‘Byron’ turned out to be allergic to cigarette smoke in his ‘work’ home!  I have had owners give up smoking for their cat, but in this case, Byron just settled back and declared his ‘working days were over’.

Treatment involved keeping him away from cigarette smoke, plus some antibiotics, corticosteroids and bronchial dilators.  Much the same as humans, and in fact they are all ‘human’ drugs, except that few cats tolerate regular nebulisation, so the medications are basically oral.

‘Byron’ has grown sleek and contented (and he is still ‘all there’ – so it isn’t just a lack of hormones making cats overweight, it is excess intake of calories beyond those needed for work, just like us!).  He still occasionally gets a little ‘chesty’, as there has been some permanent damage to his lung tissue, but life in general is now one long, luxurious lie-in!

About the Author

Dr. Kim Kendall, BVSc MANZCVS (Cat Medicine and Animal Behaviour) is one of the best known feline vets and behaviorists in Australia and the world.

Since 1994 her dedicated cat-only veterinary, boarding and grooming centre, The Chatswood Cat Palace has been based on Sydney’s North Shore. 

Dr. Kim has a passion for improving feline health, and wants the best emotional and physical wellbeing for all cats at home. She achieves this by incorporating real science to back up clinical judgement.

She is also a pioneering expert in the field of Feline Friendly Care at home and at the vet clinic and has written extensively on the subject.

By Dr Kim Kendall - Last updated 16 June 2015

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