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What are Mucus?

The respiratory system’s most important function is delivering oxygen to the blood and removing carbon dioxide. However, at times, the mucus in a cat’s respiratory tract becomes too thick to allow a proper amount of oxygen to pass through the nose or mouth, causing the oxygen levels in the blood to become dangerously low. When oxygen levels become too low in the blood, veterinarians use the term anoxia or hypoxia to describe the condition. A cat in the state of hypoxia will begin showing symptoms of respiratory distress, increasing the rate of breathing to compensate for the mucus obstruction and low oxygen levels. The feline will soon fall seriously ill from the lack of oxygen in the bloodstream and develop conditions of respiratory disease.

Respiratory diseases are common in felines of all ages, but the very old and very young are at higher risk for contraction. Weak immune systems at the start of a kitten’s life and the inability to filter the respiratory system, makes this group of felines more vulnerable to contamination of disease organisms found in the air. 

The respiratory system of the cat consists of the trachea, right and left bronchi, the bronchioles found within the lungs, and the alveoli. When the feline breathes in air through the nose or mouth, it passes through each part of the respiratory system, down into the lungs to exchange oxygen in the blood. The air a cat breathes is filled with large particles of dust, dirt, and pollen that can damage the respiratory system, so the respiratory system has a filtration system to protect itself. Mucus is the thick, clear material that lines the entire respiratory system. Airborne particles land on the mucus, or mucous lining, within the nasal passageways. The large particles caught by the mucosal lining are carried down to the throat where the cat either coughs them up or swallows them. Any swallowed particles caught in the mucus lining will be destroyed by the feline’s immune system. 

Mucus Average Cost

From 434 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,800

Average Cost

$600

Symptoms of Mucus in Cats

Mucus is clear in a healthy cat, but a cat with respiratory disease will have brown, reddish, green, or yellow mucus coming from the nose. The excessive mucus will stuff up the nasal passageway in one or both nostrils, making it difficult for the cat to breathe or smell. As the sense of smell is depleted, a cat may lose its appetite and refuse to eat, eventually losing weight. Mucus in cats may also cause symptoms including:

  • Noisy breathing 
  • Painful breath
  • Shallow breathing 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Labored breathing
  • Rapid breath
  • Wet or dry cough
  • Nasal discharge

The feline increases her rate of breath and strains to breathe in an attempt to restore its core oxygen levels. The change in breath causes the spleen to contract, releasing more red blood cells into circulation to carry oxygen, but without oxygen to carry the body responds negatively. The heart rate increases, pushing more blood to grab oxygen and move to the brain. The lack of oxygen causes the brain to depress nerve stimulations and the vital organs including the liver, kidneys, intestine and heart slow activity. 

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Causes of Mucus in Cats

Mucus related respiratory disease in cats is often caused by inhalation of a toxic substance, allergens that cause an immune-mediated reaction, parasites, or a fungal, bacterial or viral infection. Cats that live in shelters, boarding facilities, and pet shops are at a greater risk of developing a mucus condition due to the fact that they are housed in close quarters with several felines. Likewise, if a cat lives in unsanitary conditions or in a tobacco smoke-filled home, the body will react by producing more mucus to filter the toxins. A full list of the causes of mucus in cats include: 

  • Birth abnormalities (cleft palate, narrowed nostrils or trachea)
  • Trauma (such as hit-by-car) 
  • Stress 
  • Overcrowded boarding/shelter facilities
  • Collapsed trachea
  • Chronic nasal disease
  • Nasopharyngeal polyps
  • Tumors
  • Smoke or airborne toxins
  • Viral infections (calicivirus, Feline immunodeficiency virus, Rhinotracheitis virus)
  • Bacterial infections (Bordetella, Chlamydophila felis
  • Fungal infections
  • Parasite infections (lungworms, heartworms) 
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Diagnosis of Mucus in Cats

An overview of your cat’s medical history and a physical examination are the first steps in the diagnosis of mucus in cats. Your veterinarian may use a scope to view the airways, throat, and nose to determine if the mucus accumulation is a problem of the upper or lower respiratory system. Make sure to share symptoms you have noticed your cat displaying at home, such as coughing, wheezing or heavy breathing, as these symptoms can give the veterinarian clues to the condition at hand. Diagnostic tests that your vet may complete next include: 

  • A nasal or mouth swab to identify a bacterial, viral or fungal infection.
  • Blood tests to identify infection and organ function 
  • Blood gas analysis to determine carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the blood 
  • Pulse oximetry to determine pulse rate
  • Chest x-rays to identify low respiratory conditions 
  • Echocardiograph to evaluate the state of the heart
  • Biopsy of tissues to identify a tumor if present
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Treatment of Mucus in Cats

If your cat is experiencing great breathing difficulties, the veterinarian may place her in an oxygenated chamber or place an oxygen mask. Your veterinarian may then administer or prescribe medications to thin and reduce the amount of mucus in the feline’s respiratory tract. If the veterinarian believes the cat can cough up the mucus, a cough medicine or expectorant, may be prescribed. However, if the feline’s airways are too narrow or obstructed for a productive cough, a bronchodilator, such as a steroid, may be prescribed. Antibiotics are prescribed to patients who have been diagnosed with a bacterial infection and diuretics are often given to patients who have accumulated fluid on the lungs. 

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Recovery of Mucus in Cats

Recovery and management of mucus in cats depends on the underlying condition that your cat has contracted. You can aid your cat’s recovery by listening to your veterinarian and administering all medications as directed. In most cases, your cat should have access to fluids 24/7 and her area for recovery should be clean, including the air she breathes.

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Mucus Average Cost

From 434 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,800

Average Cost

$600

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Mucus Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Bombay cat

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13 weeks

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing, Mucus Like Sound When Breathing

My cat breaths loudly, and it sounds like there is mucus in her lungs. She doesn’t show any sings of pain or trouble breathing but I can hear it, can you help me?

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question . Without being able to examine her or listen to her lungs, it is difficult for me to offer any treatment, unfortunately. Your kitten may have upper respiratory congestion, or may be developing pneumonia. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian who can examine her, listen to her chest, and see what might be going on with her. They will be able to let you know more what is causing the sound that you hear, and see what treatment she might need. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 5, 2020

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DSH Cat

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Seizures, Cough/Breathing Issues, Gi Swelling, Low B3, Kidney Issues

4 months ago my cat started having seizures. ER doc could not address the seizures, but I was told he had swelling in his intestine (possible gastrointestinal disease) as well as severe lung swelling, low vitamin B3, & kidney issues. My cat had no prior history of any of this. He was later seen by a neurologist & an internal medicine doctor. They have ruled out many things, but his health is not improving. Thoughts?

Aug. 1, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, without being able to see your cat or any labwork, it is difficult for me to shed any light on the situation. It seems that you have a good team of doctors working on it, and if he is not improving, it would be a good idea to contact your veterinarian, let them know that things are not better with the current treatment, and see what other diagnostics or medications they think may help. I hope that he recovers and is okay.

Aug. 1, 2020

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DSH cat

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Nineteen Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

My cat coughed up a small amount of yellow mucus today A few days ago she coughed up some white semi solid mucus like stuff. (looked a little like partially digested paper.) She has been a little lethargic lately and is swallowing a lot like she has a nasal discharge. This started when we had a lot of smoke in the air from fires.. Is this something I need to take her to the vets for and if so, is it an emergency?

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I think, at her age, that I would probably pay attention to something like this, yes. it would be a good idea to have her seen as soon as possible. If she is acting normally otherwise, and bright and alert, you can probably wait until your veterinarian opens up tomorrow, but if she seems very lethargic, I would take her to the ER today. They will be able to listen to her heart and lungs, and assess her General Health. I hope that all goes well for her and she feels better soon!

July 26, 2020

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Orange Tabby

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7 weeks

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Wet Cough, Wheezing

We rescued a baby kitten from the side of the road at about 5 weeks old. Took him to the ER where he tested positive for anemia. The vet said he is otherwise healthy, gave him a dose of pyrantel and praziquantel, sent us home and told us to follow up with a vet. Since the visit, he has started to have a wet cough that seems to be getting worse. He has at least 10-15 coughing fits a day that last about 30 seconds each. These fits sound wet and we see little bits of mucous are produced. We can often hear fluid when he is breathing. He has still been eating and drinking like normal.

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello So sorry to see that your kitty is not feeling well. He may have an upper respiratory infection or pneumonia. It is recommended that you take him back to the vet to have him checked out. He may need an additional medication. Good luck.

July 10, 2020

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Grayson

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tabby

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10 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Mucous

When I moved into my cottage on this farm, I took in one of the feral kittens. It's been five months. and he's still suffering from mucous & phlegm. His nose is always drippy & sneezes green mucous & gags. His appetite is good & he is playful. Vet suggested warm water drips or saline in his nose. It helps a little, but it has not stopped it. What causes this & how can I help him?

Sept. 25, 2018

Grayson's Owner

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Vernal Equinox

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American Shorthair

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Snoring
Wheezing
Wet Cough
Wretching

He will occasionally start coughing in his sleep, which obviously wakes him up. It sounds like there is possibly fluid on his lungs. Never actually coughs up any mucus. Seems to swallow it if anything does come up at the end of a coughing episode. Has constant eye discharge of a brownish red color. I clean his eyes with a clean wet warm towel multiple times a day and then blot dry with a new towel. He is an indoor cat except for a few times a month I let him roam around the backyard but he doesn't leave the yard and I stay out there with him. (We have many many coyotes in our area). The cough seems to be getting worse and episodes are more frequent. They mostly occur after he runs around or plays.

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Blaze

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Domestic Short hair/russian

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3 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Discharge
Runny Nose
Mucus
Crusty Nostrils

Our 3 month old DSH came to us with an upper respiratory sickness which has caused (for lack of a better word) goopy eye discharge, runny nose that crusts up at the nostrils and needs to be cleared, and mucus at the mouth. He still eats, drinks, and climbs the cat tower but sleeps more and always wants to be by us. He is on prescribed Amoxicillan but the symptoms still persist. Is there anything that can be done, alongside the medicine and cleaning him as best as possible, to help him feel better?

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Tyty

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Orange Tabbt

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Mucus
Mucus, Not Eating

My cat is about 14 years old. He has had breathing problems for almost his whole life, but recently they have gotten a lot worse. Now, he is not eating, stays in one spot for most of the day, has mucus, and is breathing very heavily. We took him to the vet and they said it looked to be pneumonia. We have tried a breathing chamber treatment, he was given antibiotics, but this is still going on and it has been about 3 weeks now. We are having to feed him through a syringe and he is getting weak because he is not getting the nutrients needed. He does not act interested in the food at all. He has had mucus coming out of his mouth, could that be what has caused him to be uninterested in the food? Please help!

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Zeke

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short hair

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing, Wheezing(Nose) Dry Cough

My Cat started experiencing nasal discharge, sneezing, either clear or white at around 10 years old. After a round of antibiotics didn't help the vet suggested a steroid shot and explained that it was better for this than constant suffering, of course I agreed, but didn't receive any other options with this. I started taking him to the Vet for these injections about once every 3 months and it would be a miracle, from sounding like he's snoring loudly and congested one day to clear within a few days. Sometimes this would last 3 months and sometimes only one. I've been doing this for almost 5 years , and I've had to take him in every 2 months the last few years. About 2 years ago I researched about a nasal cleanse, so my vet agreed they could give this a try, but no improvement. Every time he's in for a check up she states his heart and lungs sounds fine, but that a secondary infection must have set in when he was 10 and damaged his sinuses. He has sounded horrible and suffering when not having the steroid. I periodically have given him anti-allergy medicine to help offset but most times this has little or no effect..I've also have taken him into the bathroom for the steam to help loosen anything up. Doesn't seem to work. the only thing that did was the injections. The last one he had worked the best out of all the ones the last few years, almost 3 months. I was very happy, even though his body has to filter this steroid, it's not good for him but it's also not good for him to not breathe. So I'm thinking that maybe his system is getting rid of the steroid enough that it worked better, but when i went in for the last time with a shot, it didn't make any difference, like one shot was a miracle, and the next did nothing. I found out later that the vet helper who administered was let go soon after and they suspected possibly misadministering of the shot..so I took him back, concerned about a possible double shot but accepting that he either didn't get anything or very little. the 2nd shot 2 weeks later had about a 30-50 percent effectiveness of any of the previous shots and even then only lasted about 2 weeks at that rate. It didnt' make sense to me since I had been taking him in about every 2 months for a couple years, then 3 months recently that was most effective. The only difference I could detect is I could feel the steroid lump the time it worked 3 months, but these last 2 I didn't find them. I hadn't been able to see them administering the shots the last few times but insisted the last time due to it being ineffectual. So now I'm at a loss, he sounds horrible, sometimes worse than I do when I snore, but he's not showing much other symptoms any different. I'm wondering if the steroid was contaminated, diluted, the last couple batches, and when I can take him in again without all this steroid building up. Since the one that worked the best for at least 2 years lasted 3 months, and both the preceding shots and subsequent shots had minimal effect and the ball of liquid in his injection site was easily discovered when it worked, but unable to find the last 2 times that same ball of liquid, I'm not sure if I should try another vet or if the steroid build-up has made him nonreactive...even though the 3 month period was excellent...the times before were not and this last 2 didn't have any effect.

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Kitty

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Unknown

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5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Not Eating
Abnormal Breathing
Mucus Drainage
Holes In Neck
Pussing/Oozing Holes

Our cat is both an inside and outside cat, she comes and goes as she pleases. But she recently came back from being gone over four months. She currently has mucus constantly draining out of her nose, a cough, as well as non normal sounds while breathing. She also has two oozing/pussing holes under her chin on her neck. The holes are about the width of a pencil. The fur that was around the holes is no longer there. What could this be?

Mucus Average Cost

From 434 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,800

Average Cost

$600