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Why Is My Cat Coughing?

September 19, 2022 6 min read

Although quite common, it can be worrisome to see your cat cough. While it is not always concerning, it is important to know when your cat needs medical attention. Hairballs are known to trigger coughing in cats; it is usual for cats to cough up a hairball a few times every month. However, it is a cause for concern when this happens more than a couple of times a month.

This article will help you understand the common causes of coughing in cats and how you can address them.

Having A Tight Collar By The Neck

Just as humans get uncomfortable wearing a shirt with a tight neckline, cats get uncomfortable with tight collars, too. Tight collars put too much pressure on their windpipes, which can lead to discomfort and then coughing.

You can try putting on a loose collar. If you think your cat can get out of a loose collar easily, you can try microchipping. Microchipping is a process where a tiny non-toxic chip is implanted between your cat’s shoulder blades with the help of a needle. The microchip will have your name and address for anyone to locate you in case your cat gets lost.

Hairballs

Cat hairballs are a consequence of 'no baths'. Although some cats like getting a bath, most prefer the more conventional method of keeping clean by licking themselves. Cats lick themselves throughout the day, which leads to the formation of hairballs. Hairballs are an inevitable aspect of a cat's life; it is usual to see them cough up a lump of fur from time to time. Cat hairballs are only dangerous if they become too big inside a cat's digestive tract; when they do, an operation could be required.

You can prevent this by using a comb or a brush to groom your cat once a couple of days; this will reduce the chances of them ingesting large amounts of their fur. Helping them with their grooming is an excellent way to bond with your cat and avoid hairball mishaps at the same time!

Airborne Allergies

Cats can get hay fever on account of some environmental allergens entering their lungs. Airborne allergens from grass, dust, pollen, mold, tobacco smoke and perfume can cause coughing, itchiness, and sneezing in cats.

If you think your cat is coughing because of seasonal allergies, then go to a vet to be sure. Removing irritants from your house is usually the best method to manage allergies. Choosing dust-free kitty litter can also prevent coughing in cats. In extreme circumstances, your veterinarian may prescribe allergy medicines.

Although pulmonary allergies in cats are uncommon, they do occur, particularly in outdoor felines and cats with asthma issues. 

Heartworm

Heartworms generally have various symptoms, one of which is coughing. The worm larvae enter the cat's blood through a mosquito bite and can grow to become almost a foot long.

While it seems strange that a parasite lodged in the chest could affect the lungs, heartworms do cause lung problems. Whenever the worm matures, it travels to the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs.

Heartworm is a widespread phenomenon in humid and warm areas infested with mosquitoes. Other symptoms to watch out for in your cat include weight loss, vomiting (vomiting blood), diarrhea, reduced appetite, and exhaustion. A heartworm illness in cats may heal by itself; sadly, there is not much you can do to cure heartworm in cats if the condition doesn't go away. The most effective remedy is prevention.

Heartworm disease can be prevented using medicines such as milbemycin, selamectin, and ivermectin.  Consult your veterinarian about some of these possibilities, specifically if you live in a humid environment.

Asthma

The most prevalent reason for coughing in cats is asthma. Whenever your cat's airway becomes persistently irritated, it reduces the flow of oxygen into the lungs. Airborne allergens are common causes of asthma attacks in cats. By observing your cat's behavior, you can detect whether your cat has asthma. Common signs include:

  • Quick, shallow breathing
  • Wheezing sounds
  • Breathing via the mouth
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulty

Just like with humans, in felines, too, there is no treatment for asthma. Yet, as everyone who owns an inhaler can assure you, managing and treating asthma is pretty simple. The standard treatment method involves providing corticosteroid medications and bronchodilators to minimize inflammation. These medications can be administered by your veterinarian in the form of oral tablets, injections or by using a small cat inhaler.

Pneumonia

After asthma and similar minor causes are eliminated, it is imperative to consider the more serious (and less common) reasons for coughing in cats. Pneumonia is a lung disease that is occasionally misdiagnosed as an upper respiratory illness. There are two forms of pneumonia that might be a cause for coughing in cats.

Infectious pneumonia occurs when infectious organisms such as fungus, bacteria, or pathogens invade the cat's lungs and cause infection. These pathogens originate from the cat's environment, other cats, or from other illnesses inside the body. Aspiration pneumonia occurs when a foreign substance gets absorbed into the cat's lungs. For instance, inhaling a little bit of plastic, cat vomit or part of a plant could cause aspiration pneumonia.

Both these types of pneumonia cause yellow-green nasal discharge, fever, and elevated heart rate and breathing rate. Pneumonia may be treated with antifungal medicines, antibiotics, IV fluids, antiviral medicines, or oxygen supplementation. Your cat may need to stay at the hospital for a while; after being discharged, the medications and follow-ups may continue for a few weeks.

Lung Cancer

Chronic cough in cats can be caused by a variety of uncommon cancers. Whenever a tumor growth, either cancerous or benign, clogs parts of the larynx or trachea, your cat might show symptoms such as noisy or laborious breathing, coughing, loss of voice, and hoarseness.

Metastatic or primary lung tumors are much more uncommon. Chronic cough, on the other hand, is a less prevalent sign of lung cancer in cats. The cat will most likely experience trouble breathing, wheezing, and fatigue. Take into account that the typical age for a primary lung cancer diagnosis in cats is 12 years. If your cat is young, lung cancer is most likely ruled out.

Routine vet visits might allow you to identify early signs of tumor or cancer; CT scans and X-Rays can occasionally detect tumors. Discuss any visible signs with your veterinarian to rule out the risk. If your cat is diagnosed with cancer, do not give up hope! Tumors of the trachea and larynx can often be removed surgically, but radiation is typically the preferred treatment for lung cancer.

Nasopharyngeal Polyps

Nasopharyngeal polyps are harmless growths that form at the back of a cat's throat. These can clog the cat's nose, causing them to cough or uncomfortably breathe via their mouth.

When your cat coughs, its tongue and gums may turn a shade of blue or grey, indicating that it is not receiving sufficient oxygen. This could be serious, and you should rush to the veterinarian right away in such a scenario.

The initial step for your veterinarian will be to determine whether it is a digestive or a respiratory system disease since this will dictate further examination and treatment. Most cats do not behave on cue and may not cough or puke at a vet facility, so your explanation and account will be crucial in the diagnosis.  

Before you go to the vet, consider the following:

  • Be descriptive. Explain your cat's cough, including its length, regularity, and characteristics
  • Is there anything that comes out when your cat coughs? For example, white foamy fluid, mucous, furballs, or food?
  • Is it more frequent at certain times of the day? Is it worse at night or in the morning?
  • How frequently has this been happening?
  • Is your cat's appetite normal? Has it increased or decreased lately?
  • Is your cat losing weight despite eating adequately?
  • Has your cat's breathing changed? Is it faster or labored?
  • Has your cat started snoring while sleeping?
  • Have you noticed a change in behavior? For example: is your cat resting much more than usual?
  • Is your cat being fussy or getting into fights with other cats? Is your cat angrier or moodier?

The answers to these questions can help your vet figure out the root cause of your cat's illness. The vet may then conduct examinations to delve deeper into the issue. It is vital that you continue the medications prescribed by the vet as advised. It will not help if you stop the medication once you see the coughing subsiding.

One way to stay on top of your cat’s health is to get a good litter box like this one from Way Basics. The material of this box keeps toxins away, which in turn keeps your cat healthy.

Knowing why your cat is coughing is important as it can indicate an underlying disease. Going to the vet regularly for check-ups is a good way to keep illnesses at bay.



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