Cat Asthma: Symptoms, Treatment, & Cost

Five Minutes
Jul 20, 2023

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects 1% – 5% of cats.1 Similar to asthma in humans, asthma in cats can cause inflammation of the airways, making it harder for a cat to breathe. With the proper treatment, an asthmatic cat’s life expectancy can be relatively the same as a cat without asthma — they can live long and full lives. Here’s what cat parents need to know about managing this cat disease.

What Causes Asthma in Cats?

Asthma in cats is thought to be caused by an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens in their environment.1 These triggers may include dust, cigarette smoke, pollen, perfume, cleaning products, essential oils, and more.2

When an asthmatic cat inhales an allergen, it triggers an immune response — specifically, an inflammatory response. This response may cause increased mucus production and airway constriction or spasms, both of which can make it difficult to breathe. While all cats can be susceptible to asthma, overweight cats may be more likely to develop this condition, and Siamese cats may be more predisposed than other breeds.2

Cat Asthma Symptoms

While asthma can vary in severity, there are some common cat asthma symptoms. Your cat may show some or all of these signs all of the time, or just when they’re having an asthma attack:1,2

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Bluish tinged gums

A full blown asthma attack can usually be easy to spot in cats. They may crouch close to the ground with their neck and head extended. Typically, this pose combined with rapid breathing, wheezing, or coughing can be a sign they’re having an asthma attack.1

Cat Asthma Diagnosis

Asthma in cats can’t be diagnosed by just one test. Instead, your vet will look at your cat’s medical history, run different diagnostic tests, and rule out other conditions that may look similar. Some of the tests your vet may recommend include:1,2

  • Chest CT scan and X-ray
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Fecal and urine tests
  • Tracheal lavage (fluid flush exam)
  • Blood, parasite, and allergy tests

Depending on how many of these tests  need to be done, diagnosing asthma in cats can quickly add up. A cat X-ray may cost $100 – $250, other vet visit diagnostics like bloodwork may cost $80 – $200, and fecal exams may run $25 – $40, the list goes on. A bronchoscopy on its own may cost around $600.3

Add all of these costs up  and an asthma diagnostic exam could cost a few hundred to over a thousand dollars. And if your cat needs to be hospitalized due to an emergency asthma attack when they’ve never had one before, that may cost around $600 – $1,500 . However, cat insurance can help.

Reggie, a tabby cat from Massachusetts, was exhibiting cat asthma symptoms. His family took him to the vet for an exam, where the vet ran some of these diagnostic tests. The entire exam cost $1,300, but Reggie’s owners had a cat insurance policy from MetLife Pet and were reimbursed $1,100.4

Cat Asthma Treatment Options

Asthma isn’t considered a curable disease by treatment — although it’s rarely possible. Instead, it’s about managing symptoms. One of the best ways to alleviate asthma symptoms is by removing or helping your cat avoid triggers. If there are environmental, lifestyle, or diet allergens that trigger your cat’s asthma, do what you can to avoid them.2

You can also help manage symptoms through a few different options, including medicines and inhalers. Work with your vet to decide what’s right for your pet.


Bronchodilators, also known as rescue inhalers, open the airway to help your cat breathe again when they’re having trouble. While there’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to getting your cat to breathe through one, they can make a big difference when your kitty needs immediate relief.

Generally, a cat inhaler costs about $500.5 Because this treatment is used for immediate relief when symptoms occur, they’re usually prescribed with corticosteroids to help prevent the onset of more severe symptoms.1


Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatories that provide more long-term relief. A corticosteroid helps relieve asthma symptoms by reducing inflammation. These steroids can be administered as an injection, orally, or through an inhaler and may cost you around $15 – $80 per month, depending on the dosage needed.4 However, long-term use of steroids may have negative side effects on the lungs, so your vet may prescribe them in short courses alongside other treatments.2


If your cat has a severe asthma attack or is experiencing acute respiratory distress, they may need to be hospitalized. The animal hospital will likely administer oxygen and intravenous (IV) medicine to stabilize your cat.2


Adjusting your cat’s diet may help limit their exposure to certain allergens. Talk to your vet about putting your cat on a hypoallergenic diet.2

If your cat is overweight, their heart and lungs are already working harder. Obesity can also cause more inflammation in the body, which could exacerbate existing asthma. Make sure your cat is receiving the proper nutrients without overeating. You may want to put them on a special diet to help get them to a healthy weight.

Living With Cat Asthma

Generally, asthma in cats isn’t a curable disease. Rather, it’s a chronic condition that has to be managed throughout a cat’s life. Between diagnosis and treatment, vet visit costs for a cat can add up quickly.

Luckily, depending on your policy coverage, a pet insurance policy can help cover costs associated with cat asthma — like diagnostic testing, hospitalization, long-term medication, cat asthma inhalers, and more. Here’s how cat insurance helped one family with their cat asthma treatments. Burt, a domestic shorthair cat from Connecticut, needs a routine prescription medication to lower his risk of having asthma attacks. The medicine costs $400, and MetLife Pet Insurance covered about $375 of it.4

You could have this kind of coverage for your cat’s healthcare costs, too. Learn more about how much pet insurance costs or get a quote today to see your personalized rate.

Pet Insurance May Help Cover Asthma Treatment Costs

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**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Feline Asthma: What You Need To Know,” Cornell Feline Health Center

2 “Asthma and Bronchitis in Cats,” VCA Animal Hospitals

3 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022. Story altered for illustrative purposes.

4 “How Much Does Cat Asthma Treatment Cost? What You Need To Know!,” Hepper

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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