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Coughing Cats

Is that usually due to furballs?
Well bringing up a furball does sound like a cough but technically speaking they are vomited up from the stomach.

Are furballs a big problem?
Vomiting up furballs is normal in cats and is not something that needs treatment. Very occasionally the furball may become so big that it cant be vomited up or it may get stuck in the intestines and then it may need surgically removing.

Is there anything people can do to prevent that happening?
There are special high fibre diets and laxative pastes on the market that encourage furballs to move through the system. The fur-ball diets are a good idea but you don’t want to rely on laxative pastes.

Why? Are they not good for the cat?
They are ok if you use them once a week but if you use them more often they will reduce the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Regular longterm use should be avoided. The best prevention is to groom the cat regularly.

Why does that help?
Furballs are often due to the cat swallowing hair when it grooms itself . If you remove the loose hairs by brushing the cat daily then there are less loose hairs for it to swallow.

So what causes cats to cough if it isn’t fur-balls?
There are lots of reasons but some are quite rare so I will just talk about some of the common problems.

Whats the most common cause?
Laryngitis or a sore throat caused by flu virus

Is that something you can prevent with vaccination
Yes and no. We vaccinate against flu viruses and this reduces the number of cats that get full blown flu symptoms that can be fatal. Vaccinated cats can still however get mild flu symptoms including laryngitis.

Why does the vaccine not prevent it totally?
It does in many cats but those cats that have become infected with flu early in life before they were vaccinated will carry the virus for life and periodically show flu symptoms. Vaccinating these carrier cats won’t stop the symptoms but will make them much milder.

What are the other common causes of coughing in cats?
Lungworm which they catch from hunting small animals

Is lungworm easily treated with worm tablets?
No worm tablets have no effect against lungworm . Until recently it has only been treatable with a series of injections. But now we can treat it topically simply by applying a dose of advocate which is a combined flea and worm treatment pour-on.

Do cats get asthma?
Yes they do and its quite common. We diagnose it by taking chest xrays and performing a lungwash to look at the types of cells in the lungs.

Do you treat asthmatic cats with inhalers?
Occasionally but the main treatment is steroids either as a long acting injection or tablets. If that isn’t effective then we can use a paediatric nebuliser with an inhaler.

Are there any other common causes of coughing?
Bacterial infections, lung tumours and chest injuries are all common but after that we are getting down to the rare causes.
You haven’t mentioned choking on foreign objects yet. Isn’t that common?
No surprisingly i put that in the rare category.
Over the past 16 years I can count the number of cats I have seen choking on just one hand. Small fishhooks are often the problem as they are often discarded on the beach and may still have a morsal of bait on them.
We are running out of time but can you mention some of the rarer causes of coughing?
I’ll just give a short list. Ruptured diaphragm, some toxins, build up of fluid in the lungs due to many causes,  haemorrhage due to injuries or rat bait or blood clotting disorders, paralysed larynx, congenital defects to the chest wall. I will stop there but the list is quite long.
 

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