Coughing is a reflex initiated
by an irritant in the bronchial tubes. It can be caused by a respiratory infection; inhaled
irritants such as smoke and chemicals; foreign objects such as grass seeds,
dust and food particles; pressure from a tight collar; or growths arising in
the bronchial tubes. Some coughs are triggered by an allergic reaction. The
type of cough often suggests the location and probable cause:
A cough accompanied by sneezing and watery red eyes
suggests feline viral respiratory disease complex.
A deep, paroxysmal cough with the cat’s neck extended and the production of phlegm
suggests chronic bronchitis.
A sudden coughing attack accompanied by wheezing and difficulty
breathing suggests feline asthma.
Sporadic coughing with weight loss, listlessness, and depressed appetite is
seen in cats with heartworms, lungworms, and
Spasms of coughing that occur after exercise suggest acute bronchitis.
Some cardiac problems, including cardiomyopathy, will cause a cat to
Coughs are self-perpetuating. Coughing irritates the bronchial tubes, dries
out the mucous lining, and lowers resistance to infection-leading to further
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including cats, dogs and humans. This preventable disease has been reported in every state except Hawaii, and annually causes the deaths of more than 50,000 humans and millions of animals worldwide. There’s good reason that the very word “rabies” evokes fear in people-once symptoms appear, rabies is close to 100-percent fatal.
The diagnostic workup of a cat with a chronic cough includes a chest X-ray
and transtracheal washings. These washings are obtained by placing a sterile
tube into the trachea with the cat under light anesthesia. Microscopic examination of recovered cells
leads to a specific diagnosis.
Bronchoscopy is an excellent method of evaluating bronchial tube disease. A
fiber-optic instrument is passed into the trachea, again with the cat under
anesthesia. The bronchial tubes can be viewed directly, biopsies taken, and
phlegm removed via bronchial lavage for microscopic exam and culture and
Treatment: Coughs accompanied by fever, difficulty breathing, discharge from
the eyes and nose, or other signs of a serious illness should be treated by a
veterinarian. Also, if your cat’s appetite is off and she is coughing, she
should be taken in for a veterinary exam.
It is important to identify and correct contributing problems. Air
pollutants such as cigarette smoke, aerosol insecticides, house dust, and
perfumes should be eliminated from the atmosphere. HEPA filters can assist in
this effort. Any nose, throat, lung, or heart disorders should be treated.