Treating a Cat Cough
"There are multiple possible causes for a
cat cough including
bacterial infection, furballs, and allergy. Cough is caused by
irritation in the airway, throat or lungs. Treatment depends on the
cause including cough suppressants, antibiotics for bacterial infection
and steroids for allergic causes. Young cats frequently cough due to a
viral or bacterial infection. Middle age cats commonly cough or wheeze
due to asthma. Older cats (and some middle age cats) may start to
develop problems such as heart disease.
Consult with your veterinarian if the problem persists and record when and where it happens. A homeopathic may help to boost the strength of the immune system, thereby improving respiratory health."
Coughing is a reflex; when something irritates the back of the throat, the airways, or the lungs, cats cough to expel the irritant. The most common cause is cat bronchitis.
Cat Cough Symptoms
You'll recognize a cat cough when you hear it. It may be a dry, hacking cough or it may be a moist-sounding cough. Coughing may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as runny nose or eyes and fever. If a cough persists for more than 24 hours or if something seems to be stuck in your cat's mouth or throat and you cannot remove it, take your cat to the veterinarian.
Symptoms and Possible Causes
The time of day and related activity levels when coughing could
indicate a possible cause:
- Coughing that occurs at night when resting could indicate a collapsing trachea, lung edema or heart failure.
- If a cat is excited when coughing can be related to tracheal collapse or irritation.
- Cough related to heart disease occurs during excitement or exercise.
- Cough after meals can be cause by an esophagul or larynx related
problem. (A diseased larynx makes it difficult to swallow food). If the
larynx cannot close the esophagus can become dilated, resulting in food
moving into the airways and lungs. If left untreated it could cause
cough or pneumonia.
- Moist and harsh or dry coughs are caused by fluid accumulation in the airway or lungs (the fluid could be blood, water or pus).
- If a cat is exposed to other cats, then the cause could be infection.
- Certain fungal infections and heartworm disease is more common in
some countries are areas.
Feline Cough Diagnosis
Your veterinarian will examine your cat thoroughly and may take x-rays to examine her lungs. A stool sample may also be examined for parasites, so take a sample with you if you can. Your vet can also use a bronchoscope to look into your cat's airways. Another technique is called a transtracheal washing where a tube is placed down the windpipe to grab cells which can then be examined under a microscope.
The area where the cough is coming from, such as the trachea, can indicate the cause. Symptoms that accompany cough, such as a heart murmur could indicate heart disease.
Possible diagnoses include:
- Hair or Fur balls - You usually will not have to go to
the vet for this one. Your cat will have a dry, hacking cough and
should expel the hair ball fairly easily. If your cat has long hair or
spends a lot of time grooming herself and/or other cats, she will be
more prone to hair balls. You can purchase supplements to help
with respiratory problems such as
PetAlive Amazapet to improve symptoms of respiratory problems in
- Cold or flu- These coughs are usually accompanied by runny
nose and/or eyes. Your cat may also have a fever.
- Chronic Bronchitis: This is the most common cause of feline cough.
Sudden coughing attacks with an extended neck and phlegm. Supportive
care is provided for cats
with bronchitis. Bronchitis is also called cat asthma.
- Respiratory infections - These coughs are similar to those
caused by cold or flu. Fever is likely. It is called feline respiratory
- Allergies - These coughs are also usually accompanied by
runny nose or more likely eyes. Your cat may also sneeze. She may lick
her paws or rub her face. Can be due to dust, pollens, and smoke which
cause allergic lung disease and coughing.
- Feline Bordetella (kennel cough): Bordetella
bronchiseptica is an upper respiratory tract infections in cats that
differs from Kennel Cough infections in dogs. It could be an infrequent
cause of pneumonia. Serious outbreaks have occurred in laboratory cats
and in breeding colonies with bronchopneumonia and death. The disease
is most severe in young cats. This condition can be prevented with a
vaccine (Nobivac Bb).
- Feline Asthma - These coughs may sound "moist." Your cat
will wheeze and sound as if she is having trouble catching her breath
and will act normal in between episodes.
- Heartworms - These are rare in cats but it does occur. The
coughs sound a lot like asthma.
- Parasites such as hookworms or roundworms - These are
common in kittens, particularly in unsanitary environments. Symptoms
include weight loss, lethargic and reduction in appetite.
- Feline Heart Disease - heart disease such as murmurs can
trigger a cough. Cats with heart issues tend to cough more at night
than during the day. Your doctor will listen to the heart as part of an
- Tracheal irritation or Tracheal collapse (rare in cats) -
caused by tugging on a cat collar or when drinking water.
- Disease of the larynx or esophagus: Occurs during or
shortly after eating. The larynx normally closes when food is swallowed
to prevent food from entering the trachea. If the larynx has a disease
it may not close when food is swallowed resulting in food entering the
- Lung Cancer - due to tumor in older cats
Cat cough treatment depends on the cause of the cough. Antibiotics are prescribed if a bacterial infection is suspected. Asthma is treated with bronchodilaters (to open the air passages to the lungs) and steroids (to reduce inflammation of the lungs). Allergies are treated with antihistamines. Parasites must be treated depending on the particular parasite.
You should only treat light coughs at home and in consultation with your veterinarian. Mild coughs can be treated with the cough medicine Robitussin-DM which contains the active ingredient dextromethorphan. This is the only ingredient that is cat safe. Avoid any cough medicine with acetaminophen which is highly toxic (Tylenol). The dosage is 1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds weight every 6 hours as necessary.
If your cat has phlegm do not use cough medicines since the clearing of phlegm is natural and healthy for the cat. Cough medicine may mask symptoms that are helpful in diagnosis since they don't help any underlying cause of the cough.
There are several natural supplements that help with cat cough problems. These include:
- Plantago lanceolata: is an herbal remedy well known for
soothing the throat. It helps to promote clear chests, noses and
throats. This herb is also approved by the German Commission for
internal use to soothe throats and the mucous membranes of the upper
respiratory tract. Clinical studies have supported its effectiveness.
- Bryonia (6C): is a proven homeopathic remedy which is very
effective when used to soothe the throat and keep chests clear.
- Echinacea purpurea: strengthens the immune system.
Clinical trials have proved its effectiveness in a variety of settings.
- Ferrum phosphate (D6) (Ferrum phos.): strengthens the
immune system,and cell walls.
- Kalium sulphate (D6)(Kali. sulph.): known for its benefits
in supporting respiratory health.
- Magnesium phosphate (D6)(Mag. phos.): soothing for the throat and chest.
Reasons for Cat Coughing
Cough in Dogs and Cats
Hines, Ron DVM
Carlson, Delbert G. DVM
Giffin, James M.
Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook
Washington State UniversityCollege of Veterinary MedicineThe
Ip - Infectious & Parasitic Diseases
Infectious Diseases of the Respiratory Tract
Remo Lobetti BVSc, MMedVet
(Med), PhD, Dipl. ECVIM
Bryanston Veterinary Hospital
Washington State School of Veterinary Medicine
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