Why Is My Cat Coughing?

We all cough from time to time, and the same is true for cats. Coughing is simply a reflex that helps the body clear material from within the respiratory tract.

Pleural effusion : This is an abnormal buildup of fluid around a cats lungs that can result in coughing. Trauma : Physical, chemical, or thermal injury to the respiratory tract can cause cat coughing.

Heart disease frequently leads to coughing in people and in dogs, but this is not the case in cats. In dogs, infection with a variety of bacteria and viruses can lead to kennel cough. Bordetella bronchiseptica, mycoplasma, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus type 2, canine coronavirus, and others may be to blamealone or in combination.

Veterinarians diagnose the cause of cat coughing using a complete health history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. Increased production of phlegm helps the body clear viruses, bacteria, disease-fighting cells, and other materials out of the lungs. In cats, dry coughs are typically associated with conditions like asthma, inhaled foreign bodies, and cancer.

Infection of the nasal passages leads to sneezing and a snotty nose, but some of the discharge flows back into the throat, producing a cough. Wheezing is a classic sign of asthma in cats and is often seen in combination with coughing and difficult, rapid, or open-mouth breathing. Asthma : Treatment for feline asthma involves removing potential triggers from the cats environment and giving inhaled or systemic medications to dilate airways and reduce inflammation and swelling.

Trauma : Some injuries that lead to coughing will heal with medical management, while others require surgery. Coughing cats can also benefit from symptomatic and supportive care (fluid and oxygen therapy, for example). At home, treatments like regularly wiping away nasal discharge or loosening congestion by placing your cat in a steamy bathroom (if your veterinarian recommends doing so) may also be helpful.

What should I do if my cat is coughing?

Cats may cough if they have hairballs, asthma, or heartworm disease. If your cat is coughing, you should have it checked out by your veterinarian. Choking, on the other hand, is a dire situation for which you should seek immediate veterinary care.

Why is my cat dry coughing?

In cats, dry coughs are typically associated with conditions like asthma, inhaled foreign bodies, and cancer. These distinctions are not ironclad but can help point you and your veterinarian towards a possible diagnosis.

What does a cat sound like when coughing?

Some causes of coughing will increase mucus production and produce a wet cough, while others will not and produce a dry cough. A dry cough sounds like a “honk” or “wheeze” and your cat does not swallow afterward.

Coughing is a normal response to any irritation in your kittys airways or throat. Even though its a normal response, cats should not cough often or cough regularly. Most pet parents have never even heard a cat cough before!

The lining of the whole respiratory system contains cells that secrete mucus, or the thick gooey material you see when blowing your nose. A wet coug h sounds like water or something is caught in the back of your cats throatperhaps like cracklesand he will swallow afterward (an exaggerated movement seen in the throat)

Retching occurs when something is caught in the back of the throat, and cats will usually make a sudden loud noise with their mouths wide open briefly before shutting it again. Retching can occur after a fit of coughing, and a very small amount of fluid or possibly food may come out. This is a disease related to inflammation in the air passages and causes chronic dry cough in most cases.

These parasites sit inside the air passages in the lungs and cause inflammation leading to a cough in cats. Pneumonia comes on quickly and makes your cat feel very sicklikely feverish, lacking appetite, no activity, and perhaps struggling to breathe. Occasionally parts of plants, objects your cat attempted to eat, or even a furball can get caught in the throat area or inside the nose.

One way would be if a large mass is growing in the chest or throat area and pushing on the trachea (windpipe) or air passages of the lungs. When cats experience trauma, bleeding can occur inside the air passages resulting in a cough. There are many lymph nodes naturally found inside a cats chest cavity that work within the immune system.

Cough occurs as the heartworm parasites live inside the air passages, causing severe inflammation. This means the air passages of the lungs have had severe chronic inflammation and are permanently thickened and hardened. If these folds are paralyzed or unable to open, it creates inflammation and a decreased ability to breathe in, causing a cough.

Steroids for chronic bronchitis, polyps or other inflammatory conditions such as prednisolone by mouth or a cat inhaler containing fluticasone. Cats that have more serious conditions such as pleural effusion, trauma, or severe pneumonia may need to stay in the veterinary hospital and be treated with oxygen, medications, and special procedures like the removal of fluid from the chest. If a foreign body or polyp is present, your veterinarian may recommend anesthetizing your cat at the hospital and examining his mouth, throat, and nasal cavity while sleeping.

Flushing the nasal cavity may help if a foreign body is stuck near the back of the throat, or if there is a large amount of mucus production. These are rarely recommended for cats as they are largely ineffective and do not treat the cause of the cough which can worsen with time. A cat that is coughing, even occasionally, for two weeks or more likely has a chronic medical issue that needs attention, even if he is not experiencing other symptoms of illness.

Cat coughing is a symptom of a problem, rather than a problem in its own right. When the cough receptors in the larynx (the area at the back of the throat), the trachea (windpipe) or the bronchial tree (smaller airways), are stimulated or irritated a cough will result. There are many reasons why this can occur and you should have your cat checked by a vet if you notice that your cat is coughing to ensure that the problem is identified and treated accordingly.

Feline asthma is a common allergic respiratory disease in cats and the more severe form can be accompanied by wheezing. It is a chronic progressive disease for which there is no cure, but the symptoms can be well managed (as with people with asthma).

It is also seen associated with viral ( cat flu ), bacterial, fungal and parasitic (lungworm) infections. Nasopharyngeal polyps are benign growths that grow in the area at the back of the throat. The first thing your vet will need to do is differentiate between a respiratory and a digestive system problem, as this will guide the investigation.

Can Cats Get Kennel Cough From Dogs?

The list of possible causes for a cat’s cough is long, but sometimes the problem is obvious.Did you get a new cat litter that is especially dusty, and now your cat has a coughing fit while in the litter box? When inhaled, irritants of any sort can lead to coughing.More persistent cat coughing may be caused by long-term exposure to irritants such as secondhand smoke.Other common causes of coughs in cats include:Heart disease frequently leads to coughing in people and in dogs, but this is not the case in cats. Coughing cats almost always have some type of respiratory condition.

Wet Cough vs. Dry Cough in Cats

Veterinarians diagnose the cause of cat coughing using a complete health history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. One clue that pet parents can pick up on at home is the difference between a wet cough versus a dry cough in cats.The term “wet cough” refers to a cough that brings up phlegm—the thick mucus that is often produced within the respiratory tract in response to infection. Increased production of phlegm helps the body clear viruses, bacteria, disease-fighting cells, and other materials out of the lungs.Dry coughs, on the other hand, do not produce much phlegm. In cats, dry coughs are typically associated with conditions like asthma, inhaled foreign bodies, and cancer. These distinctions are not ironclad but can help point you and your veterinarian towards a possible diagnosis.

Cat Coughing With Other Symptoms

Coughing tends to occur in combination with other symptoms, which can also help with diagnosis.

Cat Coughing and Sneezing

For example, cat coughing combined with sneezing is often associated with an upper respiratory infection in cats. Infection of the nasal passages leads to sneezing and a snotty nose, but some of the discharge flows back into the throat, producing a cough.

Cat Coughing and Wheezing

Wheezing is a classic sign of asthma in cats and is often seen in combination with coughing and difficult, rapid, or open-mouth breathing.

Cat Coughing Up Hairballs

When a cat’s “cough” brings up a hairball, you’re probably not dealing with a cough at all. While it certainly sounds like your cat is coughing, they are actually retching or gagging, since the hairball is emerging from the digestive tract, not the respiratory tract.

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Coughing is a normal response to any irritation in your kitty’s airways or throat. Even though it’s a normal response, cats should not cough often or cough regularly. Most pet parents have never even heard a cat cough before!So how do we know if our cat is coughing or if he is doing something else? When should we be concerned? And what causes cats to cough? Read below to find the 11 most common causes of coughing in cats.

Do Cats Cough?

Cats can cough just like people do. However, it is less frequent than us. Any irritation in the respiratory tract could lead to a cough. Coughing on rare occasions (once every few months or even less frequently) could be normal, but most cats do not cough unless something is wrong.A cat’s respiratory system goes from the nose all the way to the lungs—including the nasal cavity (chamber of the nose), pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe), and lungs. Inside the lungs are passageways for air called bronchi that get smaller and lead to bronchioles. Coughing is stimulated by irritation anywhere from the pharynx down to the bronchioles, so knowing exactly why (or from where) the cough is coming from can be tricky.

What Does a Cat Cough Sound Like?

A cat that coughs usually stops what activity they are doing and sticks out their head, extending their neck. You may hear one cough, or several—and if your cat coughs several times in a row, he will stand or sit in one place during this.When coughing, a cat’s chest and belly movements are dramatic since a cough is a forceful push of air out. Cats will not pant or hold their mouth open wide when coughing, and coughing is not really fast—each cough will likely have at least a second or two in between.There are two types of cat coughs: a dry cough or a productive (wet) cough. The lining of the whole respiratory system contains cells that secrete mucus, or the thick gooey material you see when blowing your nose. Some causes of coughing will increase mucus production and produce a wet cough, while others will not and produce a dry cough.AAIt is very challenging for pet parents to know if their cat is actually coughing or producing a different sound. Some other things that could be happening instead of coughing include:To know if your cat is coughing, take a video of when it is happening and show it to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose whether the noise you are hearing is coughing or not. Make sure you are close to your cat for the video to get good sound quality, but not so close that you cannot see the face, throat, and chest areas during the coughing.

Common Causes of Coughing in Cats

There are many causes of coughing in cats—remember, the issue could be anywhere from the throat to deep in the chest. Determining the cause of your cat’s coughing will dictate the treatment plan.Many pet parents think their cat is coughing due to a furball. But if your cat has a furball, he will likely retch or vomit which is different from coughing. If your veterinarian watches a video and determines your cat is coughing, it is almost certainly not due to a furball.Possible causes of cat coughing include:

Viral Respiratory Infection

This can be caused by feline herpesvirus-1 or feline calicivirus (or rarely influenza). These viruses are contagious from cat to cat and very common. Cats can develop an infection as a kitten and harbor the virus for the rest of their lives. Most of the time these viruses affect the upper airways, such as the nose and throat. If the throat is inflamed and irritated, coughing may occur.

Chronic Bronchitis (Also Known as Asthma)

Approximately 1 percent of ill cats are diagnosed with chronic bronchitis (or feline asthma), which is a similar disease to asthma in people. This is a disease related to inflammation in the air passages and causes chronic dry cough in most cases. Cats can hide disease well however and may suddenly begin coughing and struggle to breathe as opposed to showing chronic cough. Siamese and Oriental cats are predisposed to this condition.

Infectious Bronchitis

This is inflammation of the airways in the lungs caused by infection. It can occur due to:

Pneumonia

Pneumonia in cats refers to inflammation of the lungs in general. Pneumonia comes on quickly and makes your cat feel very sick—likely feverish, lacking appetite, no activity, and perhaps struggling to breathe. This can be caused by many things such as:

Foreign Body in the Throat

Occasionally parts of plants, objects your cat attempted to eat, or even a furball can get caught in the throat area or inside the nose. If a foreign body is there, it creates inflammation as well as mucus that can cause a cough.

Nasopharyngeal Polyp

This is a mass caused by chronic inflammation of the nose or throat. Oftentimes there is no specific underlying reason. These swellings create inflammation and usually mucus, creating a cough, as well as possibly voice change or loud breathing through the nose like snoring.

Edema

Edema is when fluid fills the air passages of the lungs, causing coughing as the body attempts to get rid of the fluid and struggles to breathe. This can be caused by the heart (cardiogenic) or not. Coughing due to heart failure is

Cancer

Cancer in cats can cause cough in many different ways. One way would be if a large mass is growing in the chest or throat area and pushing on the trachea (windpipe) or air passages of the lungs. Another possibility is cancer found inside the throat, windpipe, or air passages themselves.

Trauma

When cats experience trauma, bleeding can occur inside the air passages resulting in a cough. Sometimes the lungs themselves can be punctured so air escapes and makes it harder to breathe. In any case, these cats need medical attention right away.

Pleural Effusion

This means some sort of fluid is inside the cat’s chest but outside of the lungs. It can be bacterial infection, fluid from cancer, or lymph fluid (rare). This fluid puts pressure outside of the lungs, resulting in a cough.

Enlarged Lymph Nodes Deep in the Chest

There are many lymph nodes naturally found inside a cat’s chest cavity that work within the immune system. Cancer or severe infection can cause these lymph nodes to swell, and if they swell significantly they put pressure on the windpipe and air passages, resulting in a cough.

Rare Causes of Coughing in Cats

While the above causes of coughing in cats are more common, there are other reasons that may produce a cough. The following causes are rare and do not happen often in our feline companions.

Bronchiectasis (very rare)

This means the air passages of the lungs have had severe chronic inflammation and are permanently thickened and hardened. Because of the inflammation, coughing occurs.

Laryngeal paralysis (very rare)

This condition is more common in dogs than it is in cats. The larynx is the opening to the windpipe and consists of two folds of tissue that open when your cat is breathing in. If these folds are paralyzed or unable to open, it creates inflammation and a decreased ability to breathe in, causing a cough.

Cough Medicine for Cats

How a coughing cat is treated depends on the cause of the coughing, so a diagnosis by a veterinarian is important.Some of the more common treatments for coughing in cats include:Cats that have more serious conditions such as pleural effusion, trauma, or severe pneumonia may need to stay in the veterinary hospital and be treated with oxygen, medications, and special procedures like the removal of fluid from the chest. This is done through a needle—a minor procedure called thoracocentesis.If a foreign body or polyp is present, your veterinarian may recommend anesthetizing your cat at the hospital and examining his mouth, throat, and nasal cavity while sleeping. If a polyp is found, the veterinarian may be able to remove it. Flushing the nasal cavity may help if a foreign body is stuck near the back of the throat, or if there is a large amount of mucus production.

Common causes of cat cough

The following is a brief but not exhaustive list of some of the causes of cat cough.