Oral Hygiene Effects Asthma?

Posted on July 9, 2013

image039 I am a very proud cat Mom.  I am madly in love with my guys!!  I liken my feelings for them to that of a parent to a child. My heart explodes with rainbows, sparkles and unicorns when I look at them. So when someone is not feeling well, I will stop at nothing to have ameliorate their pain or illness.

Earlier this year, my Griffin was diagnosed with asthma.  For several years now, he's done this "coughing thing."  It's always random and never activity induced.  He can be sleeping on his tree or hanging out on our bed at night and just have "an attack."  I can best describe his movements like the old "Hungry Hungry Hippoes" game from the 1980s.  Remember that?  His head just moves back and forth, not grasping for food, but seemingly attempting to hack up a hairball.  I've since learned, that is not the case.  What looks like a hairball situation is actually Griffin gasping for air.  It only lasts a few seconds and always ends with his swallowing whatever was coming up into his throat during this episode.  When I can get to him in time, I attend to him and rub his throat.  My objective is to keep him calm and end the attack as quickly as possible.

In February, I was given an inhaler for Griffin.  He's a cat and doesn't have thumbs, so utliizing this device is a little tricky.  The albuterol discharge container fits into a chamber with a face mask on the end of it, known as AeroKat.  We're supposed to afix the mask over the cat's nose and mouth, discharge the inhaler, the medicine shoots through the chamber and the cat supposedly inhales and can breathe easier.  There's even a "flapper" that moves with each inhale so we have a visible indicator of each inhalation--sometimes they're defiant and hold their breath until we take the damn thing off their face!

I've never really noticed any improvement since using the inhaler.  I would use it as necessary.  I kept it at the ready and decended upon Griffin like a SWAT team at the first sign of his breathing funny.  He HATES this and would actually run away from me--even while in the midst of an attack!  It almost seemed as if his asthma attacks were increasing in frequency the more I used the inhaler.  Our vet, whom I love, suggested we give Griffin his inhaler every day prophylactically.  The alternative, she said, was to put him on an oral steroid--as this was the only way he'd see relief.  The X-rays show that there is indeed inflammation in Griffin's bronchials, a sign of allergies.  To what, we don't know?  I switched my cats to grain free back in 2009, broke the lease and moved out of what appeared to be a toxic apartment for both people and pets (probably a former meth lab,) and bought NASA grade National Sleep Foundation air cleaners for my new apartment and yet the "coughing persisted." 

In May, I decided to have Griffin's teeth cleaned.  At 9 years old, it was surely time.  (I already have the bad Mom guilt over not having had them cleaned before so no need to berate me more than I do myself!)  His breath was starting to become unbearable, so the previously denied gingivitis and/or tooth decay was now screaming for attention.  

Here comes the interesting part.  Griffin was an ideal patient.  The raves that came from the vet and vet techs were impressive, especially since Griffin is our Alpha cat at home and certainly does not like to be dominated in any way.  Unfortunately, Griffin's two top incisors (his fangs) needed to be removed, as well as one of his little bottom teeth that had broken.  Griffin's tooth decay was creating an inflammatory response.  Now, as a Health Coach, I'm starting to see a correlation here.

Griffin had oral surgery to remove those teeth and has not had an asthma attack since.  This is the longest amount of time, nearly two whole months with nary a breathing issue!  I mentioned this to the vet and she thought that was strange.  It's allergy season and asthma tends to come from allergies.  However, asthma also tends to come from inflammation and can be related to gut ecology.  According to Dr. Hal Huggins, DDS, dental procedures have a great effect on autoimmune disease.  There have been many correlations and subsequent complaints both in the US and abroad that inhaler use leads to cavities in children and adults.  Now I don't know that using an inhaler on my cat for three months exascerbated his tooth decay necessitating the removal of his fangs, but there is no disputing his lack of asthma after stopping the inhaler AND having the source of the infection removed.  Could these two conditions have a mutual cause and effect relationship?

In the presence of a massive infection, our immune systems report for duty and have at it.  However, when no immune response is present, the toxins are free to roam all over the body.  In 2008, The Journal of Dentisty Tehran University of Medical Studies did a study that found a relationship between poor oral health and chronic lung disease.  Stating, "Periodontal disease has been known as an inflammatory disease with a reaction to bacterial plaque causing chronic inflammation, gingival bleeding, increasing pocket depth, and ultimately, alveolar bone loss. In fact, bacterial antigens irritate the immune response of the host leading to the effects of the disease [3]. As in asthma, the immune response is the mechanism involved in the pathogenesis and progression of the disease. Although the disease is mostly associated with adults, a significant portion is seen in children and young adults as well [3].

Is it not safe to say poor oral health can lead to asthma in cats? I can't find any research on this and I am not a Veterinarian, simply a Cat Mom and Pet enthusiast.  However, my curiosity is piqued and Health Allie is on the case. Stay tuned!


Scientific Information Database, Iran

Department of Periodontology, School of Dentistry, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Ira

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. J Periodontol 2001 Jan;72(1):50-6

Australian Dental Journal, 2010

Delta Dental