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Cat Coughing: Causes Treatment and Prevention Strategies

Cats, just like humans, can develop coughs for a variety of reasons. In this article, we will explore the common causes of coughing in cats and how veterinarians diagnose and treat these conditions.

Causes of Coughing in Cats

Viral and Bacterial Respiratory Infections

One of the most common reasons for coughing in cats is a viral or bacterial respiratory infection. Feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, feline chlamydiosis, bordetella, and mycoplasma are all pathogens that can cause respiratory illness in cats.

Symptoms of viral and bacterial respiratory infections may include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and fever. Treatment for these infections typically involves supportive care to help the cat’s immune system fight off the infection.

In severe cases, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication.

Feline Asthma

Feline asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that can cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Inhaled allergens, such as pollen or dust, are often the trigger for asthma attacks in cats.

Symptoms of feline asthma may include dyspnea (difficulty breathing), wheezing, rapid breathing, open-mouth breathing, and even vomiting. Treatment for feline asthma may involve corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, bronchodilators to relax airway muscles, and avoidance of allergens that trigger asthma attacks.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lungs that can be caused by a variety of factors, including aspiration, infectious agents, or other underlying diseases. Symptoms of pneumonia may include increased respiratory rate, rapid heart rate, fever, and colored nasal discharge.

Treatment for pneumonia often involves antibiotics to fight off the underlying infection. In severe cases, supportive care such as oxygen therapy may be necessary to help the cat breathe.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease in cats is caused by the bite of an infected mosquito carrying heartworm larvae. Although less common in cats than in dogs, heartworm disease can cause respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, lethargy, decreased appetite, and weight loss.

Heartworm disease can be challenging to diagnose in cats, as there is no reliable blood test for the condition. Veterinarians may use imaging techniques such as radiographs to visualize the heart and lungs and identify signs of Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).

Treatment for heartworm disease in cats can be complicated, and prevention is the best course of action.

Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion refers to the build-up of fluid in the chest cavity, which can be caused by infection, heart disease, cancer, or other underlying conditions. Symptoms of pleural effusion may include increased respiratory rate and effort, exercise intolerance, and loss of appetite.

Treatment for pleural effusion usually involves draining the fluid from the chest cavity and treating the underlying condition that caused the effusion.

Diagnosis of Coughing in Cats

Thorough History and Examination

When a cat presents with a cough, your veterinarian will begin by taking a thorough history and performing a physical examination. This may involve asking questions about the cat’s indoor/outdoor status, heartworm prevention, and vaccination status.

Your veterinarian will also listen to the cat’s lungs and check for signs of upper or lower respiratory disease.

Radiographs

Radiographs, or X-rays, are often used to diagnose respiratory conditions in cats. These images can provide a clear picture of the cat’s lungs and airways and help identify signs of respiratory illness such as congestion or fluid accumulation.

Blood Tests

Blood tests can be helpful in diagnosing underlying viral or bacterial infections, as well as heartworm disease. Blood tests may also be used to evaluate the cat’s overall health and organ function.

Transtracheal Wash

In some cases, a transtracheal wash may be necessary to diagnose respiratory conditions in cats. This is a specialized test that involves inserting a small catheter into the trachea to collect a sample of fluid or cells.

This test can identify bacterial or fungal pathogens or abnormal cells, which can help guide treatment. In conclusion, there are many potential causes of coughing in cats.

If you notice your cat coughing, it is important to seek veterinary care to identify the underlying cause and provide the appropriate treatment. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most cats with respiratory illness can recover and return to their happy, healthy selves.

Treatment of Coughing in Cats

Coughing is a common symptom of many respiratory conditions in cats. Treatment for coughing in cats typically depends on the underlying cause of the cough.

In this section, we will explore some of the most common treatments for coughing in cats.

Steroids

Steroids, also known as corticosteroids, are often used to treat coughing in cats with feline asthma. In severe cases of feline asthma, cats may require an inhaler (such as an AeroKat) to deliver the medication directly to their airways.

Steroids work by reducing inflammation in the airways, which can help reduce coughing and improve breathing.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics can be effective in treating respiratory infections in cats that are caused by bacteria. Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, can make cats very ill and may require hospitalization and supportive care.

Supportive Care

Supportive care can help your cat recover from respiratory illnesses and reduce coughing. This may include oxygen supplementation, IV fluid therapy, and medications to help reduce fever or other symptoms associated with the underlying condition.

Heartworm Prevention

Preventing heartworm disease in cats is essential for their health and well-being. Monthly preventatives should be administered to cats year-round to prevent infection.

In addition to monthly preventatives, owners can take additional measures to reduce their cat’s exposure to mosquitoes, such as keeping them indoors during peak mosquito activity.

Aspiration Prevention

Aspiration pneumonia can cause coughing and difficulty breathing in cats. To prevent aspiration, owners should provide their cats with slow-feeding puzzle feeders and ensure that their cats are not eating too quickly.

Feeding your cat several small meals throughout the day, rather than one or two large meals, can also help reduce the risk of aspiration.

L-Lysine

L-lysine is an amino acid that can help support the immune system and prevent flare-ups of feline herpesvirus, a common cause of respiratory infections in cats. L-lysine supplements can help reduce coughing and other symptoms of feline herpesvirus in cats.

Prevention of Coughing in Cats

Preventing coughing in cats is an important part of keeping them healthy and happy. In this section, we will explore some of the most effective measures for preventing coughing in cats.

Heartworm Prevention

Preventing heartworm disease is essential for keeping your cat healthy and preventing respiratory symptoms such as coughing. Monthly preventatives should be administered to cats year-round to prevent infection.

Owners should also take additional measures to reduce their cat’s exposure to mosquitoes, such as keeping them indoors during peak mosquito activity.

Calicivirus Vaccination

Calicivirus is a common respiratory pathogen that can cause coughing and other symptoms in cats. Getting your cat vaccinated against calicivirus can help prevent infection and reduce the likelihood of coughing.

Aspiration Prevention

Aspiration pneumonia can cause coughing in cats. To prevent aspiration, owners should provide their cats with slow-feeding puzzle feeders and ensure that their cats are not eating too quickly.

Feeding your cat several small meals throughout the day, rather than one or two large meals, can also help reduce the risk of aspiration.

L-Lysine

L-lysine is an amino acid that can help support the immune system and prevent flare-ups of feline herpesvirus, a common cause of respiratory infections in cats. L-lysine supplements can help prevent coughing and reduce the severity of respiratory symptoms in cats.

Conclusion

Coughing in cats can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions, including respiratory infections, feline asthma, heartworm disease, and pleural effusion. Treatment for coughing in cats depends on the underlying cause and may include steroids, antibiotics, supportive care, heartworm prevention, and L-lysine supplements.

Preventing coughing in cats involves taking measures to prevent heartworm disease, vaccinating against calicivirus, preventing aspiration, and supporting your cat’s immune system with L-lysine supplements. With proper prevention and treatment, most cats with respiratory illness can recover and live happy, healthy lives.

In conclusion, coughing in cats can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions, including respiratory infections, feline asthma, heartworm disease, and pleural effusion. Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but may include steroids, antibiotics, supportive care, heartworm prevention, and L-lysine supplements.

Prevention involves taking measures to prevent heartworm disease, vaccinating against calicivirus, preventing aspiration, and supporting your cat’s immune system with L-lysine supplements. It is essential to seek veterinary care if you notice your cat coughing, as prompt diagnosis and treatment can improve their chances of recovery.

By taking steps to prevent respiratory illness in cats and treating underlying conditions promptly, we can help our feline companions live healthy, happy lives.

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