What is Coughing?
When it comes to coughing, there are various types that you should listen out for like whether it is dry or wet. Whether it has lasted over time as a chronic cough or has only suddenly occurred yet is causing your cat to have further complications, you may want to contact a professional to determine if there is some other underlying problem.
A cough is something that is common to other animals, but is rare in cats. When your cat does cough, there is either inflammation or irritants within their throat, airway, or lungs. It should not be confused with gagging; the sounds can be somewhat similar, but severe bouts of coughing can sometimes lead to retching. The cough itself though is not necessarily a disease or illness alone, but it may be the sign of one.
Symptoms of Coughing in Cats
Coughing is an involuntary reflex of the body. It's your cat's way of expelling whatever is irritating the lungs, airways, or throat. If your cat has a cough, they may exhibit some of the signs listed below:
- Moist/wet with mucous
- Dry and hacking
- Signs of infection/illness (e.g. fever, running nose/eyes)
- Difficulty breathing
Causes of Coughing in Cats
There are several different ailments that can bring about a cough. The causes can range from mild to severe. A few of the causes are listed below:
- Tracheal irritation/collapse (due by excitement, tugging at collar, or drinking water)
- Fluid accumulation (blood, water, or pus in the airways or lungs)
- Upper/lower respiratory tract disease (e.g. Feline Bordetella)
- Parasitic worms (e.g. heartworm, lungworm, roundworm)
- Chest/lung tumors
- Chronic bronchitis
- Nasopharyngeal polyps (benign growths from the mucous membranes in the nose)
- Heart disease (rarely)
Diagnosis of Coughing in Cats
If your cat's cough is severe and an exact cause is undeterminable, your veterinarian may conduct an extensive workup to figure out the underlying problem. They will want a full medical history, which is where you can greatly assist in the diagnosis of the cough. You can keep track of whether there has been a change of environment for your cat, how often your cat has been coughing, whether or not it's dry or wet, and whether it occurs during specific hours of the day, such as at night. The vet will also take into consideration the indication of any other illnesses, and also your cat's age, as younger animals tend to develop coughs due to viral or bacterial infections.
Concerning tests, your vet may order a chest x-ray to examine the lungs for signs such as fluid or asthma. In the search for parasites, a stool sample will be taken. Further tests include blood work and a urinalysis. In order to check your cat's airways, your vet may utilize a bronchoscope or order transtracheal washing, which involves placing a tube down the windpipe to collect cells. To keep your cat calm, it may be sedated during the examination.
Treatment of Coughing in Cats
How your vet treats your cat's cough will be determined upon discovery of its cause.
If the tests have yielded positive for parasites, then your cat will be treated based on the particular worm. For heartworms, your vet may want to assist your cat's breathing through the use of bronchodilators, and in severe cases, administer medication to kill the worms. The medication, however, poses risks and should only be a last resort consideration. Lungworms and roundworms are more easily treated with simple parasitic medication.
Your vet may prescribe antibiotics in the event of infections. They are often given for at least two weeks or more, but even if your cat begins to show signs of improvement, it is recommended to carry on the treatment for as long as your vet prescribed, as symptoms may return otherwise.
In the case of asthma or allergies, anti-inflammatory drugs or antihistamines may be administered. Also, if the cough has lasted long enough to cause permanent damage to the mucous membrane, then your vet may want to give your cat supplements to repair it or even immune stimulants to help the body fight off any recurrent infections.
Recovery of Coughing in Cats
As coughing is rare in cats, it can be simple to get rid of it once the cause has been determined. If your cat has received treatment, you should still keep a watch in case the cough returns. For coughs caused by simple matters such as hairballs, then fixing your cat's diet should prevent any reoccurrences. As for asthma and allergies, try to keep an eye out in case any other symptoms develop or the coughs become worse. If possible, you may want to consider a change of environment.
In the more severe cases, following up with your veterinarian can only help prevent any worsening of your cat's position. For instance, in the case antibiotics have been prescribed, you should allow your vet to take a look at your cat to be certain the infection has been thoroughly treated.