Do cats cough?

Do cats cough? Yes they do! Most cat owners are aware of these animals’ tendency to cough hairballs. However, there are other reasons why cats cough. A cat would cough to clear the air passage. Coughing is not really a disease. Coughing can be a symptom of a health concern. A responsible cat owner would take the time to know the reasons for the pet’s coughing.

Coughing is an occurring reflex that clears the air passage of irritants, foreign particles, secretions and microbes. Cats will produce three kinds of coughs – dry cough, rasping cough and gagging cough. Dry cough is commonly caused by an obstruction the in the air passage. The collar of the cat might be too tight or the cat may have been drinking water too quickly. Dry cough is a “harmless” kind of cough as the cat is merely trying to clear its throat. Rasping cough is another non-dangerous kind of cough as it usually occurs when the cat is trying to expulse hairball. After the hairball is vomited, the cat’s rasping cough will stop. A cat’s gagging cough can be due to a variety of causes. A gagging cough is typically the cat’s attempt to clear the air passage of mucus buildup.

A cat owner should never ignore the coughing of the pet especially if it is of the gagging kind. While there are non-threatening reasons why a cat would cough, it is also possible that the coughing of the cat is a symptom of a serious health concern. Cough treatment would depend on the underlying cause. It is therefore necessary to identify the causes of the pet’s coughing. In cats, the most common reason for coughing is asthma and Bordetella infection. Bordetalla is a highly contagious disease of cats. Infection will easily spread in areas where many cats are found such as kennels, groomers and veterinary facilities. Asthma attacks occurs not only in humans but in cats as well. One of the clinical symptoms of asthma is coughing. Allergens would cause the swelling and the narrowing of the airways making it difficult for the cat to breathe. A cat infested with internal parasites would cough as well. Hookworm and roundworm infestation can cause verminous cough. Upon reaching the lungs, larva of these parasites are coughed up by the cat. Heartworms would cause the cat to cough too as these parasites migrate to the cat’s lungs. Cardiomyopathy is a condition characterized by the heart’s inability to pump properly. The buildup of fluid in the lungs that results to congestion causes the cat to cough.

A vet’s diagnosis may not be necessary if the cat’s coughing is caused by hairballs. After a bout of dry coughing, the cat would be able to expulse a cigar-shaped wad of hair mixed with undigested food. Coughing caused by hairballs would not need treatment either although formation of hairballs can be minimized if the pet is regularly groomed and provided with a high fiber diet. Coughing arising from other causes would certainly need to be treated thus a vet’s diagnosis of the pet’s condition would be very necessary. If the pet that is coughing and wheezing at the same time is suffering from breathing difficulties, a vet would commonly require chest x-ray. Other diagnostic tests would be complete blood count, fecal flotation to rule out roundworm infection and antibody and antigen tests for heartworm. Coughing can be due to lung tumors and nasopharyngeal polyp. Biopsies and tracheal endoscopy may be required by the vet.

Treatment for the cat’s coughing will depend on the causative agent. Bronchodilators will be given to a cat with asthma; antibiotics will be given if the vet suspects that the cause of the coughing is bacterial infection. Deworming medications will be given if the coughing is caused by parasite infestation.

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