My Cat Is Coughing & Sneezing. What Could Be Wrong?

If your cat suddenly starts sneezing and coughing more than normal, you may start to wonder if something is wrong. After all, cats are notoriously good at hiding illness until it has become severe. At what point should you start to worry?

Much like humans, the occasional cough or sneeze is completely harmless. It’s likely something small like dust up the nose, fur in the throat, or some other foreign matter.

If, however, the symptoms are more frequent and last a while, there may be cause for concern.

So, how do you know when it is time to call the vet?

Sneezing in Cats

Sneezing is simply a response to irritation of the nasal passages including dust and debris, strong odors, or illness.

Some common causes of sneezing include:

Inhaled irritants: Pay attention to when your cat is sneezing. Is he sneezing after using the litter box? Maybe you just sprayed an air freshener to get rid of pet smells. Have you just cleaned your house, and the dust has yet to settle? If you notice a pattern to the symptoms that could link it to a cause, then there is no reason to worry. 

If you suspect dust is the culprit, try switching to wet dusting when cleaning. You can also change to a litter that has a low dust content. 

Virus: The most common reason a cat will sneeze is a respiratory infection, typically caused by feline herpes virus or feline calicivirus. While these viruses are highly contagious among cats, you won’t have to worry about catching it yourself as it cannot be transferred to humans.

If your cat’s symptoms are the result of a virus, you will simply treat the symptoms until it passes. If, however, it turns into a bacterial infection, antibiotics can be prescribed by your veterinarian.

Other causes of sneezing: While the reason for your cat’s sneezing is most likely inhaled irritants or a virus, there are some more serious causes to consider. There could be an infection in the roots of the teeth that is draining into the nasal passages, or your cat could even have tumors in the nose. If you suspect it is more than simply an irritant, you should call your vet. A quick exam will allow them to determine if the sneezing is a result of something more serious.

Coughing in Cats

Coughing is the way we rid our respiratory tract of irritants like dust and mucus. The same goes for your cat. Causes of coughing can range from mild to severe.

Upper respiratory infection: Just like with sneezing, coughing can be a sign of a respiratory infection. Especially if there is an excess of mucus entering the airways.

Asthma: If coughing is accompanied by wheezing, your cat may have asthma. If you suspect asthma is the issue, your vet can help you confirm and come up with a care plan.

Parasitic disease: If your cat is losing weight, uninterested in food, or lethargic, the coughing could be as a result of a parasite. In this case, you should definitely bring your cat to the vet immediately.

Heart disease: Is your cat coughing after exercise and play? Coughing after exertion could point to heart disease.

Lung cancer: Persistent, excessive coughing could be due to a lung tumor; however, there should be other obvious signs if that is the case such as lethargy, loss of appetite, wasting away of muscles, and coughing up blood. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek emergency veterinary care.

When Should I Call The Vet?

It may be time to contact the vet if you notice sneezing or coughing accompanied by:

  • Blood
  • Wheezing 
  • Drooling
  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite/weight loss
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble breathing
  • Excessive discharge (may be yellow or green)
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression

If you don’t notice any of these more severe symptoms but are still concerned, it never hurts for your cat to get a checkup and ease your mind! If the coughing or sneezing is frequent (more than once per week) or fits are severe or prolonged, it is time to call your vet.

Compassionate Veterinary Care in Frederick, MD

Is your pet just not himself lately? Bring them to Old Farm Vet for an exam! Our compassionate staff is dedicated to finding the cause of whatever ails your furry friend, and nursing them back to health. Schedule your appointment today!