Can a Cough Kill Your Cat?

Nobody enjoys a kitty coughing, especially when it’s such an uncommon trait in cats. Read on to learn more about the causes, treatments and preventions so your cat remains cough-free and healthy.

Different causes can bring about coughing in cats. Some are less complicated than others so it’s vital to get it checked by your vet as it could potentially be life-threatening if left untreated.

Causes:
Coughing is generally a means of preventing a build-up of foreign objects and secretions in the airways. It can, however be prompted by the following:

  • Allergies and asthma
    A cat’s air passages may become inflamed and contract when something agitates them, thereby making breathing difficult. The associated cough could be minor yet persistent.

    • Allergy and asthma triggers include:
      • mold
      • obesity
      • stress
      • perfume/essential oils
      • cigarette smoke
      • cat litter dust
      • pollen
  • Lung cancer
    Feline lung cancer may present itself in the form of a dry cough and the cat will usually appear lethargic. Medication can treat some tumors but if they fail to do so, surgery may be required. 
  • Tight collars
    Any pressure against your kitty’s windpipe can cause damage, resulting in coughing.
  • Heartworm Disease
    Heartworm is caused by infested heartworm larvae that spread via mosquito bites. One of the many symptoms of heartworm is coughing and preventative medication can be given to avoid this condition.
  • Aspiration pneumonia
    Aspiration pneumonia in felines can be caused by inhaling foreign matter from regurgitating gastric acid or vomiting. This then results in the cat’s lungs becoming inflamed.
  • Congestive Heart Failure
    Cardiac disease could be a reason for your kitty’s coughing spells. Your vet will conduct an electrocardiogram, X-ray, ultrasound or MRI to verify if the heart is, in fact, the reason for the coughing.
  • Respiratory Disease
    Coughing in cats could also indicate disease affecting the lower or upper respiratory tracts.

Helping Your Vet
To assist your vet in identifying the precise cause of the cough, you will need to give them a thorough account of the cough concerned:

  • Description: Does the cough sound wet (productive) or dry (unproductive)?
  • Time of occurrence: Night coughs could be associated with fluid in the lungs or cardiac failure
  • Triggers: Coughing during or after exercise could prove to be heart disease. If coughing occurs after consuming food, it could be attributed to issues with the larynx or the esophagus.

This knowledge is invaluable to the vet in identifying probable causes; conducting relevant tests to pinpoint a diagnosis and to remedy the cough with appropriate treatment. 

Treatment
The cause of the cough will determine the treatment administered.

Treatment options could vary between antibiotics, steroids, cough suppressants, other drugs or surgery. Always finish a course of antibiotics, even if the symptoms appear to have subsided.  Be vigilant in administering the prescribed dosages to your cat as over-dosage of these medications can be fatal.

Prevention
Take actions that will reduce the chances of your purring pal developing a cough by:

  • Regularly testing them for internal parasites.
  • Avoiding aerosol cleaners, perfumes and air fresheners that may agitate your cat.
  • Adhering to consistent feeding, play and cleaning schedules each day as cats are usually prone to falling ill when their routines change.
  • Buying cat litter that is dust-free and scentless.
  • Exercising your cat regularly so they maintain a healthy weight.
  • Never subjecting your feline fur ball to cigarette smoke.
  • Using a humidifier in dry air.
  • Ensuring your cat is protected from heartworm by giving them preventative medication.

Give your vet consistent updates about how your cat has responded to the prescribed treatment and any improvement of the cough or lack thereof. Follow-ups with your vet will be necessary for them to assess your cat’s progress and if medication needs to be adjusted. In some cases, ongoing treatment may be required for a kitty to make a full recovery.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

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Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.