Cat Wheezing And Coughing Up Phlegm
by Angela N
Reader Question: Is this cat suffering from Chronic Bronchitis?
I am a foster home for feral / abandoned cats and kittens working with a small rescue organization.
One of my most recent litters included a male kitten that at about 9-10 weeks of age started having respiratory symptoms of wheezing, loud breath sounds and regurgitating food along with large amounts of phlegm. He also has bouts of gagging and expelling large amounts of clear, but thick phlegm in between times. This doesn't occur every day but he may repeat it several times in succession.
He was taken in for repeat (albeit brief) checkups and was deemed normal. The problem persisted though, and a chest x-ray was done. It was found that he had nodules on his lungs.
Being underfunded as most rescues are we will not be able to do more extensive testing on him to determine the exact nature of the nodules.
At present he is being treated with a long term round of antibiotics to rule out aspiration pneumonia as a possible cause. He is entering the 3rd week of a 6 week treatment.
The problems did seem to arise after an episode of regurgitating food, but it is hard to tell if that was the cause or merely a symptom, as the regurgitating has continued if he consumes too much food at one time.
Oddly he has no trouble with dry kitten food, but cannot tolerate canned food unless it is smooth in texture and diluted with water (causing him to eat it slower).
There has been no improvement in the symptoms, though he continues to grow and thrive. He has never suffered loss of appetite or lethargy, in fact just the opposite is true. He is vigorous and very energetic.
Without marked improvement of this
problem soon, he is going to be unsuitable for adoption. The alternative is not something I can I live with so I will end up keeping him. I realize he may actually have a more serious affliction and if his health may deteriorate in the future.
In the meantime I am hoping there is something I can do to help him along.
His symptoms seem to parallel those described here under Chronic Bronchitis. Would it be advisable to treat him with Guaifenesin to help ease the expelling of mucous?
Any suggestions would be welcome.
Angela N. Vet’s Gives Her Input Regarding Cat Chronic Bronchitis
This kitten is sure lucky to have found someone like you to look out for him! My guess (and that’s all I can really do without examining him) is that he has either an anatomic or physiologic problem that is preventing food and saliva (could this be the phlegmy substance you mentioned?) from passing normally through his esophagus. His regurgitation could certainly have led to aspiration pneumonia. If this is the case, I suspect his respiratory problems will improve with long term antibiotic therapy but his regurgitation will remain unchanged.
Getting to the bottom of the situation would take some advanced diagnostic testing. If this is impossible, than you should figure out what type of food, feeding technique, and schedule minimizes his regurgitation (e.g., tiny amounts of dry food doled out by an elevated automatic feeder throughout the day) and know that his condition could worsen at any point.
Guaifenesin could loosen and help him cough up any mucus that is in his lungs, but I wouldn’t expect it to make a big difference in his recovery. Talk to the veterinarian who examined him to determine if this might be helpful.
Jennifer Coates, DVM