"Felines With Flat Faces & Their Health Issues
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"Felines With Flat Faces & Their Health Issues

Cats
Health & Safety

Over the last few decades more flat faced cat breeds have appeared on the scene to join the ranks of existing short nosed felines like the Persian. With breeds like the Exotic and the Himalayan boasting very flat faces there are certain health conditions they are prone to suffer from which you would need to be aware of if you are thinking about either buying or adopting one of these lovely creatures.

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

This is a term that covers a variety of upper respiratory health problems which are often seen in flat faced cats with very short noses. Due to the shape of their faces, breeds like the Persian, Exotic and Himalayan often suffer from partial obstruction in their nostrils. This causes breathing issues due to the fact the breeds have small tracheae and as such the three breeds are categorised as being brachycephalic.

What Are theSymptoms to Watch Out For

There are quite a few symptoms to watch out for which are clear indications that a cat may be suffering from an obstructed upper airway and these include the following:

  • Tachypnea
  • Noisy breathing – especially when breathing in
  • Snoring
  • Panting
  • They may have experience swallowing and/or eating
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • An inability or reluctance to do any physical exercise – especially when the weather is warm and humid
  • Stenotic nares
  • Hypothermia
  • Open-mouthed breathing and/or panting

What Are the Causes?

The cause of brachycephalic airway syndrome is uniquely due to the shape of a cat's head which means if a breed has a broad face with short noses, they do tend to suffer from the condition. The majority of cats with upper airway obstructions usually get diagnosed at around the age of 3 with the most common cause being stenotic nares or nasal passages which are too narrow. However, an elongated soft palate or enlarged tonsils can often be the cause too. But with this said, there are other contributing factors which need to be taken into account which includes the following:

  • Obesity
  • Allergies
  • Too much exercise
  • Too much excitement

If short nosed cats put on too much weight or they suffer from any sort of allergy or if they get too excited as well as do too much exercise, it can cause them to breath rapidly. Because their upper airways are obstructed it is very hard for them to manage and it can be quite worrying to see a pet in this condition. This is why it is best to keep a close eye on your pet's weight and to keep allergies under control.

What's The Diagnosis?

There are two tests vets can do to see whether a cat is suffering from brachycephalic airway syndrome. The first being a laryngoscopy (pharyngoscopy) and the second being a tracheoscopy. This is where a small fibre-optic scope is used and inserted into a cat's mouth so vets can examine the condition of the larynx/pharynx and the trachea. Should the vet see an overlong palate or maybe confirm the trachea or larynx has collapsed, they will immediately know the cat does indeed suffer from the condition and then decide how best to go about treating the cat if indeed they think it necessary.

However, other causes of the syndrome can include the presence of a foreign object that's become lodged in a cat's airway or it could be they are suffering from some sort of upper respiratory infection. Lastly, a cat could be suffering from an allergic reaction to something which causes their airways to swell and as a result this affects their breathing.

Is There a Treatment?

Unless a cat is showing signs of being extremely distressed and has serious trouble breathing, treatment is not really necessary. However, there are certain things that owners can do to help their pets when the weather is warm and humid or if their cats are prone to allergies. This includes making sure a pet is kept somewhere that's cool during the hotter weather and living in a home that's as free as possible from allergens.

If a cat is suffering due to the condition, vets may decide to perform a surgical procedure which could involve widening a cat's nostrils or shortening a cat's elongated palate if necessary. They may also decide to carry out a tonsillectomy on a cat that suffers from brachycephalic airway syndrome.

Living with the Condition

Many breeds with the condition live out long and happy lives without having to have any surgical intervention. However, owners are advised to keep a close eye on their pets to make sure they are okay and that nothing untoward is going on in their upper airways. If you notice any of the above symptoms developing and getting worse, you would need to discuss the problem with your vet.

Can it be Prevented?

The only way to prevent brachycephalic airway syndrome is for cats to have some sort of corrective surgical procedure done which could include shortening their overlong palates, or widening their nostrils with the end goal being to help them breath more easily if they have real problems doing so. However, the best way to help a cat with brachycephalic airway syndrome is to avoid them becoming obese and to make sure they are somewhere cool when the weather is very warm and humid. It is also important to make sure your pet lives in as dust-free environment as possible.

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