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What Does It Mean When A Cat Coughs

Coughing Causes In Cats

Coughing Cat

Retching or gagging is often confused with a respiratory cough in cats, especially coughing up hairballs. A cats cough is typically stimulated by an irritation or inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the trachea, bronchi, or bronchioles, and is designed to expel a foreign material or inflammatory secretion.

Common coughing causes in cats include:

  • Asthma Asthma is one of the most common causes of coughing in cats, and can be induced by mold, pollen, perfume, obesity, cat litter dust, cigarette smoke, and stress. During an asthma attack, your cat may breathe with an open mouth and have a blue or gray tongue or gums.
  • Parasites Intestinal parasites can migrate up the esophagus and enter the trachea, causing coughing fits. Heartworms can also lead to respiratory disease in cats.
  • Allergies In addition to skin issues, cats can develop respiratory problems, such as coughing, sneezing, and eye discharge, from allergies.
  • Respiratory disease Viral or bacterial diseases, such as feline viral rhinotracheitis, can cause coughing in cats.

Coughing in cats is not commonly associated with heart disease, as with dogs and people.

Not sure what a cat coughing looks like? to see an example.

Cats That Cough Hack And Wheeze

Many pet owners have witnessed a cat coughing up a hairball. Weird and kind of gross, right? This absolutely classic feline moment has even made it into the media via cinema Although this type of bodily function seems normal enough for cats, did you know that it can mimic a much more serious respiratory disease process?

Feline asthma is similar to human asthma. An allergic reaction causes spasms in the bronchi, prompting airway inflammation, mucus, and swelling. This restricts airflow, causing respiratory distress, which can become life threatening in a matter of minutes for some cats. In others, it manifests as a chronic cough.

More than 80 million cats currently live in American homes, and veterinary epidemiologists estimate that 800,000 or more of these animals suffer from acute or chronic asthma . Young and old cats seem to be similarly predisposed to asthma. Likewise, males and females appear equally at risk. The genetic predisposition to asthma is under investigation.

An asthmatic cat will squat with its shoulders hunched up and neck extended, while coughing, gagging up foamy, mucus-like material, and then swallowing hard.

This often appears as if the cat is trying to cough up a hairball, but nothing comes up. Other symptoms can include: inappetance, labored breathing, wheezing, and rapid breathing episodes.

Any laboring to breath with prolonged deep chest movements is also an emergency.

What To Do If Your Cat Is Coughing

First and foremost pay attention! Even if its the first time you see it, youll need to remember a few things about the cough so you can compare it to any future coughs and so you can give your vet an accurate description of whats going on.

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • The quality of the cough is it wet or dry, does it last for ages or go away quickly?
  • The timing of the cough is it mostly during the day, or at night? These things can help point your vet in the right direction.
  • Possible triggers does the coughing happen during or after exercise? During or after eating? Keeping a journal of your cats symptoms is a good idea to help you recognise patterns.
  • Any other symptoms look out for lethargy or weight loss, sneezing, wheezing, breathing difficulties or any other symptoms that dont seem right to you.

It should go without saying, but Im going to say it anyway please do not try to treat this at home. Over the counter remedies can be great, but before you make assumptions PLEASE go to the vet, armed with as much information as you can gather.

Treatment for your coughing cat will of course depend upon the underlying problem. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics, anti-fungals, corticosteroids or anti-parasite medications to help clear the problem causing the cough.

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What Causes Feline Dysphagia

Dysphagia may arise from a preexisting dental disease.

Infections that cause swelling or deterioration of oral muscles associated with chewing may also lead to dysphagia.

Temporary paralysis of the tongue and jaw can also lead to feline dysphagia.

Other causes of feline dysphagia include

  • Foreign bodies lodged in the mouth
  • Benign growth that is inflammatory
  • Cleft palate

Vomiting Causes In Cats

Cat Coughing Bloody Mucus

Cats can vomit for a great number of reasons, some easily remedied on their own, and others requiring veterinary care. One of the most common reasons cats vomit is because of hairballs. When cats groom themselves, tiny hooks on their tongue catch loose hair, which they swallow. Most of the hair passes through the entire digestive tract with no problems, but some may remain in the stomach and form into a ball that the cat vomits in tube form up the esophagus.

Other vomiting causes in cats include:

  • Food intolerance An intolerance to a diet ingredient can cause your cat to vomit and have diarrhea. A protein source most commonly causes food intolerances.
  • Intestinal parasites An overwhelming worm burden, such as roundworms, can cause your cat to vomit these intestinal parasites, and to pass them in their stool.
  • Kidney disease As the kidneys fail to adequately filter toxins and wastes from the bloodstream, the backlog can make your cat vomit.
  • Hyperthyroidism Vomiting is a common sign of feline hyperthyroidism, along with a ravenous hunger and weight loss.

In some cases, stress and environmental changes can be severe enough to cause a cat to vomit.

If you are unsure whether your cat is trying to vomit, to see what vomiting looks like.

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How Can You Tell The Difference Between Coughing And Choking

Coughing is often mistaken for choking. Cats may cough if they have hairballs, asthma, or heartworm disease. If your cat is coughing, you should have it checked out by your veterinarian.

Choking, on the other hand, is a dire situation for which you should seek immediate veterinary care. “Cats that are truly choking have difficulty inhaling,” Simpson says. “A choking cat may have reduced oxygen delivery resulting in cyanosis and may lose consciousness within two minutes if the airway is completely obstructed.”

Other signs of respiratory distress include:

  • Noisy breathing
  • Increased breathing movement in the abdomen
  • Open mouth
  • Salivating

How Do You Treat A Sneezing Cat

Treatment for cat sneezing is typically targeted at the underlying cause where possible.

While a wide variety of treatments are available, owners should be aware that the goal in most cases, especially chronic cases, is to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms, not to cure them.

More research is needed to fully understand the role that infections play in cat sneezing, but repeated or prolonged courses of antibiotics have proved to be effective in controlling clinical signs.

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Symptoms And Possible Causes

The time of day and related activity levels when coughing couldindicate a possible cause:

  • Coughing that occurs at night when resting could indicate acollapsing trachea, lung edema or heart failure.
  • If a cat is excited when coughing can be related to trachealcollapse or irritation.
  • Cough related to heart disease occurs during excitement orexercise.
  • Cough after meals can be cause by an esophagul or larynx relatedproblem. . If thelarynx cannot close the esophagus can become dilated, resulting in foodmoving into the airways and lungs. If left untreated it could causecough or pneumonia.
  • Moist and harsh or dry coughs are caused by fluid accumulation inthe airway or lungs .
  • If a cat is exposed to other cats, then the cause could beinfection.
  • Certain fungal infections and heartworm disease is more common insome countries are areas.

Is Cat Wheezing An Emergency

Cat Coughing

Sometimes, cat wheezing means getting your kitty to a vet ASAP. Wheezing is an emergency when a cat is gasping for air and unable to breathe, Dr. Gibbons says. Most cats return to normal respiratory function after a few coughs. If the coughing is not stopping within one minute or it looks like your cat cannot breathe, he or she should be brought to a veterinarian immediately.

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Asthma And Bronchitis In Cats

Asthma or chronic bronchitis is a condition where the lower airways of cats become narrow and produce excess mucus in response to a noxious stimulus such as cigarette smoke, dust, or fragrances. The most common clinical sign is coughing. A diagnosis is made through a combination of chest radiographs, heartworm testing, bloodwork, urine and fecal testing, and may also require bronchoscopy or airway lavage. As asthma cannot be cured, treatment is aimed at management of the disease using a combination of steroids and bronchodilators, usually given by inhalation to avoid or reduce negative systemic side effects. Adjunct treatments include modifying the environment to reduce exposure to the noxious stimulus, hypoallergenic diet trials, and acupuncture.

Tricky Conditions You Might Think Are Hairballs

If you share your life with a cat, or two, or five, you have almost certainly heard your cat making a very troubled wheezing, coughing, retching sound that you assumed to be a hairball. Sometimes though, no hairball is produced then you ask Could it be something else? Well yes it could. Lets take a look a 5 things that you may think are hairballs.1. AsthmaSome cats that we may think have hairballs may actually have serious respiratory problems. Frequent or prolonged episodes of coughing may in fact be the result of serious respiratory conditions such as feline asthma. If you listen closely, you may be able to detect a wheezing sound as the cat exhales.Feline asthma can be treated using systemic corticosteroids or administration of an inhalant medication as is used in people.

2. Feline heartworm diseaseHARD describes a lung disease caused by heartworms in cats. Yes, you read that correctly lung disease. Adult worms, if present, tend to reside in the blood vessels of the infected cats lungs. Additionally, developing immature worms can set off a severe, inflammatory response in the smaller lung blood vessels, in the airways and in the lung tissue itself1.


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How Is The Cause Of A Cat’s Cough Diagnosed

Because coughing is often associated with other signs of respiratory infection, an extensive initial work up may not be required. However, if the cough is severe, or if it has been present for some time, then further investigation may be needed. A thorough medical history documenting the onset of the problem and its progression, any changes in the cat’s home environment, or any other signs of illness in the cat, will be important.

The diagnostic work-up may include several types of blood tests, including heartworm antigen tests, laboratory cultures of a wash sample from the lower respiratory tract, endoscopic examination and radiography . Ultrasound evaluation of the heart may be necessary in some cases. Your cat may require a sedative for some of these procedures. Many of these tests will also help distinguish coughing from feline asthma.

What Causes Cat Coughing

Cat Wheezing: What Is It, Why Does It Happen and Should ...

Coughing is a function of the respiratory system, so cat coughing is often a sign that theres some sort of irritation or inflammation involving that system. Its not always the case, though. Leave it to cats to keep us guessing!

1. Hairballs

We all know that telltale hacky-acky sound its the cough that precedes vomiting up a hairball. Dr. Jean Hofve says, In my experience, there are two main reasons for cats to cough: a stubborn hairball, and feline asthma.

2. Upper respiratory infections

A sudden onset of coughing could indicate an upper respiratory infection, which is common in cats. In addition to coughing, other symptoms could include sneezing, congestion, runny nose, coughing, nasal discharge, gagging and .

3. Asthma

A cat with a history of coughing might have asthma. Like in humans, asthma causes the immune system to go into overdrive, which causes inflammation. What that means to the respiratory system is that the swelling could affect the lungs and airways, making breathing difficult. In extreme cases, the inflammation may cause life-threatening distress.

4. Heartworms

Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes and the symptoms are similar to asthma signs.

5. Lung cancer

In addition to coughing, lung cancer symptoms may include pain, difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, lethargy, weight loss and coughing up blood.

6. Congestive heart failure

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What Causes Cats To Cough

In cats, coughing is most often a sign of an inflammatory problem affecting the lower respiratory tract, especially some form of bronchitis. This inflammation is often due to an infection, particularly with viruses such as feline viral rhinotracheitis, or bacteria such as Bordetella.

Parasitic worms, especially heartworms, may be responsible for coughing and respiratory problems in some cases. Allergies of various origins may also cause coughing. Cats can cough for a variety of other reasons, including the presence of foreign material within the airway, or irritation from inhaled liquids or gases.

“In cats, coughing is most often a sign of an inflammatory problem affecting the lower respiratory tract, especially some form of bronchitis.”

Chest tumors can occasionally cause coughing. Coughing is not commonly associated with heart disease.

Coughing may accompany upper respiratory tract disease when irritation or inflammation affects the larynx or trachea, or a disease in the nose that results in excessive secretions draining into the larynx and trachea, causing irritation and coughing.

What Will Your Vet Ask

The first thing your vet will need to do is differentiate between a respiratory and a digestive system problem, as this will guide the investigation. Generally most cats dont perform on queue and wont cough or vomit in the vet clinic, so your detailed description will help in narrowing down the possibilities.

Here is a list of questions to consider prior to going to the vet:

  • What actually happens? Describe the cough, duration, frequency, and the general characteristics of your cats cough.
  • Is there something brought up when your cat coughs? Eg. white frothy fluid/ mucus/ hairballs or food?
  • Is there a time of day when it is more prevalent? At night or in the morning?
  • How long has it been going on?
  • Does your cat have a decreased or increased appetite?
  • Has your cat lost weight despite eating a lot of food?
  • Has your cats breathing changed ?
  • Have they started snoring when asleep?
  • Has there been any change in behaviour? Eg. sleeping more, change in voice.
  • Has your cat been in a cattery/ had access to or been in fights with other cats recently?

If your cat has been coughing, it is advisable to make an appointment to get them checked by your vet. Once a diagnosis is made, your vet will provide you with more details on your cats problem and what can be done to ensure the best possible outcome for your cat.

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Treating Cat Asthma & Respiratory Infections

Fortunately, feline asthma and respiratory infections can be treated. If your cat has been diagnosed with asthma, there are two main types of medications prescribed: corticosteroids to treat inflammation and bronchodilators to expand the airways. These medications come in inhaled, oral, or injected forms, however, inhaled medication is the preferred method.

Inhaled steroids, unlike systemic steroids, do not need to be metabolized by the body. They work by directly targeting the lungs, reducing the likelihood of side effects. Administering inhaled medications to your cat with an inhaler is simple and effective when used with an aerosol chamber , and helps ensure your cat can inhale the full dose of medication.

There is no evidence to support the use of anti-histamines to treat asthma or bronchitis.

Why Causes Cat Wheezing

Enlarged Heart – Why is my cat coughing?

A few different factors can be at play when it comes to cat wheezing. Coughing and wheezing in cats is most commonly associated with respiratory allergies or asthma, Dr. Gibbons explains. Wheezing can also happen with benign growths called polyps that occur in the sinuses or throat. Occasionally, wheezing can happen with foreign bodies trapped within the respiratory tract.

Sometimes, cat wheezing is a symptom of serious cat diseases. Heartworms and parasites, such as lungworms, can cause wheezing, Dr. Gibbons says. Pneumonia can be a cause of coughing. Depending on the location of the growth, cancer can also cause wheezing. Heart failure uncommonly causes coughing or wheezing in cats , but it can happen.

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Make Life Sweeter For A Coughing Cat

All coughing is caused by something your job is to find what that is and take steps to prevent it from being a problem. There are a few things you can do to help keep your kitty cough free:

  • Cut stress keep feeding, play and general life as routine as possible for your kitty. Cats often get sick when their schedules are out of whack.
  • Maintain a healthy weight feeding a high quality, appropriate diet and keeping your cat active will help prevent many health issues, including coughing.
  • Test for internal parasites that could be causing the cough.
  • Switch to a dust free litter, preferably something unscented to minimise irritation.
  • Run an air purifier or humidifier to improve the air quality and filter out possible irritants.
  • Eliminate household sprays such as plug-in room fresheners, hairsprays, deodorants and insect sprays. If you cant eliminate these things then at least make sure youre not spraying them near your cat.
  • Dont expose your cat to cigarette smoke, especially if he has asthma.
  • Keep up with regular vaccines and include worming in this routine, especially if you live in a mosquito infested area.
  • Dont overlook hairballs but also dont assume. If your cat is coughing but has nothing to show for it, the problem is likely to be something else.

Whats going on with your coughing cat? If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the box below


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