What Causes Cat Coughing | How to Help

We all cough from time to time, and the same is true for cats. Coughing is merely a reflex that helps the body remove debris from inside the respiratory system.

Cats cough when something irritates the “coughing receptors” that line their pharynx (the region between the nose and mouth), larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe), and smaller airways (bronchi) (bronchi).

Infrequent cat coughing is usually nothing to worry about in an otherwise healthy cat. Pay attention to more persistent or severe coughs, especially those accompanied by other symptoms.

If your cat develops a severe or chronic cough, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to a fast recovery!

Here are some potential reasons why your cat is coughing and what you can do to assist.

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Veterinarian examining a kitten in an animal hospital (Image Credit: Getty Images)

Why Is My Cat Coughing?

The list of potential causes for a cat’s cough is extensive, but occasionally the issue is apparent.

Did you buy a new cat litter that is particularly dusty, and now your cat has a coughing episode when in the litter box? When inhaled, irritants of any kind may cause coughing.

More chronic cat coughing may be induced by long-term exposure to irritants such as secondhand smoke.

Other frequent causes of coughs in cats include:

  • Respiratory infections: Bacterial and viral respiratory infections are frequent causes of coughing in cats. Occasionally, fungal or parasitic organisms may be implicated.
  • Asthma: Cats with asthma suffer airway constriction, airway oedema, and mucus buildup in reaction to specific triggers, all of which may contribute to coughing.
  • Pleural effusion: This is an abnormal buildup of fluid around a cat’s lungs that can result in coughing.
  • Inhaled foreign objects: When foreign things like food or bits of grass are inhaled, a cat may cough to expel them.
  • Cancer: Coughing may be one of the first signs that owners detect when a cat has cancer that affects the respiratory system.
  • Trauma: Physical, chemical, or thermal damage to the respiratory system may induce cat coughing.

Heart illness often leads to coughing in humans and dogs, but this is not the case in cats. Coughing cats nearly usually have some sort of respiratory issue.

Dogs Cough
Closeup low angle shot of male and female vets examining Golden retreiever puppy with a stethoscope. The dog is completely healthy and happy.
(Image Credit: Getty Images)

Can Cats Get Kennel Cough From Dogs?

In dogs, infection with a number of bacteria and viruses may lead to kennel cough. Bordetella bronchiseptica, mycoplasma, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus type 2, canine coronavirus, and others may be to blame—alone or in combination.

Cats are vulnerable to some of these diseases, including Bordetella, but not others. To avoid possible transmission, any pet sneezing is coughing, and has discharge from the eyes or nose should be separated from other pets and checked by a veterinarian.

Wet Cough vs Dry Cough in Cats

Veterinarians identify the reason for cat coughing utilizing a thorough health history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing. One clue that pet parents can pick up on at home is the difference between a wet and dry cough in cats.

The phrase “wet cough” refers to a cough that sends up phlegm—the thick mucus frequently generated inside the respiratory system in reaction to illness. Increased phlegm production helps the body remove viruses, germs, disease-fighting cells, and other things out of the lungs.

Dry coughs, on the other hand, do not generate much phlegm. In cats, dry coughs are usually linked with asthma, inhaled foreign substances, and cancer. These differences are not ironclad but may assist guide you and your veterinarian towards a potential diagnosis.

Cat Coughing With Other Symptoms

Coughing tends to occur in conjunction with other symptoms, which may also assist with diagnosis.

Cat Coughing and Sneezing

For example, cat coughing coupled with sneezing is frequently linked with an upper respiratory infection in cats. Condition of the nasal passages leads to sneezing and a runny nose, but part of the discharge runs back into the throat, causing a cough.

Cat Coughing and Wheezing

Wheezing is a typical asthma symptom in cats and is frequently observed in conjunction with coughing and difficult, fast, or open-mouth breathing.

Cat Coughing Up Hairballs

When a cat’s “cough” throws up a hairball, you’re probably not dealing with a cough at all. While it definitely sounds like your cat is coughing, they are really retching or choking because the hairball is coming from the digestive system, not the respiratory tract.

What if My Cat Is Coughing Up Blood?

While the odd cough in an otherwise healthy cat is no reason to worry, a cat coughing up blood is a possible catastrophe. Call your vet immediately away if your cat is coughing up blood.

All of the following may cause a cat to cough up blood:

  • Trauma
  • Cancers that erode into the blood vessels
  • Severe infections
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Close-Up Of Man Holding Cat (Image Credit: Getty Images)

Treatment for Cat Coughing

Addressing a cat’s cough involves treating the underlying cause:

  • Irritants: A cough induced by breathing an irritant will vanish when the cat’s surroundings eliminate the hassles.
  • Respiratory illnesses: When detected early, most bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases will resolve when the cat gets proper antimicrobial medicines. Antiviral medicines are less frequently given but are helpful under certain conditions.
  • Asthma: Treatment for feline asthma includes eliminating possible stressors from the cat’s surroundings and providing inhaled or systemic medicines to widen airways and decrease inflammation and swelling.
  • Pleural effusion: Fluid that collects around a cat’s lungs may be evacuated using a needle and syringe, but further treatment is often required to address the fluid’s cause and/or prevent it from building up again.
  • Inhaled foreign items: Bronchoscopy or surgery may be required to remove inhaled objects, and antibiotics are frequently administered to prevent or cure subsequent infections.
  • Cancer: Cancer that affects the respiratory system is usually treated with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, immunotherapy, and/or palliative care.
  • Trauma: Some injuries that cause coughing may recover with medical treatment, while others need surgery.
  • Heartworm illness: Heartworm prevention is essential for cats because if your cat gets infected with heartworms, the treatment choices for feline heartworm disease are limited.

Coughing cats may also benefit from symptomatic and supportive treatment (fluid and oxygen therapy, for example) (fluid and oxygen therapy, for example).

At home, therapies like frequently wiping away nasal discharge or releasing congestion by putting your cat in a steamy bathroom (if your veterinarian advises doing so) may also be beneficial. Cough suppressants are seldom administered to cats.

Also Read: Dog Coughing | Causes and Treatment Options
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