Summertime...and the kitten is coughing. Why?
September 17, 2018 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Our tiny, 7/8ths scale adult 16y/o cat has been having hairball like coughing episodes for several weeks. Our vet did a routine exam/blood draw & we played them some footage of a coughing episode. The vet more or less shrugged. Since then, we have been regularly treating her with hairball paste with no improvement.

The coughing is non-productive (i.e. she doesn't throw up any hair, bile, etc.) Her appetite is slightly decreased. She is still fairly energetic. Additional info: it seems like getting up from a resting position will sometimes trigger an episode. She is on thyroid meds. She does sneeze occasionally, but no more so than she has done for her entire life. Also, she HATES traveling to the vet and this is not a great time for our household to spend a ton of money on a pet, so we are hoping to avoid a trip. Could this be a digestive issue which is making her slightly stomach sick? Please help!
posted by Larry David Syndrome to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My cat used to do this and turned out he had asthma. Did your vet rule that out?
posted by danapiper at 10:12 AM on September 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

That sounds a little like human athsma (although I don't know about cat athsma). You could try cleaning her sleeping area, areas she walks and plays in, and/or adding an air filter? Maybe damp wiping her fur (with water, not the super perfumey cat wipes at the store)? These are random low-cost ideas, but they won't hurt anything.
posted by amtho at 10:19 AM on September 17, 2018

My cat who gets outside sometimes, had something like this and they suspected it was botfly larvae that had gotten into her nose/respiratory system. She was sneezing and coughing A LOT. They shot her up with something for worms/parasites and she got better over about a week.
posted by cabingirl at 10:22 AM on September 17, 2018

Thirding asthma. My 10-y.o. cat is asthmatic, and my 1-y.o. kitten has just started showing signs as well. (I live in an area where adult-onset asthma is common in both people and pets.)

If it is asthma, an x-ray can diagnose it, and a short course of prednisolone can nip it in the bud until the next flare-up.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:22 AM on September 17, 2018

Yes, I also have a cat that did that and ended up having asthma. Our vet started him out with some steroid pills, then once things were under control we got him an Aerokat with a human Fluticasone inhaler from a cheap online pharmacy.
posted by foxfirefey at 10:31 AM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

My cat did this -- and still does, a couple times a year -- and our vet gave her a prescription of prednisone tablets which always clear it up quickly. The vet's general idea was "we can spend a lot of money to do a lot of tests to figure out what's happening or we can continue to just give her prednisone when it happens since it works". We're sticking with just the meds, because we also don't have tons of money to be throwing at tests.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:32 AM on September 17, 2018

Sounds like asthma to me, too. Prednisone definitely helped my cat when her symptoms were bad. She was more likely to have symptoms in the summer.
posted by spindrifter at 10:33 AM on September 17, 2018

Our cat had something similar... the vet said it was probably lungworm, gave him some de-wormer, and it went away and never came back.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:59 AM on September 17, 2018

Geriatric-onset feline asthma is exceedingly rare. Heart conditions (especially hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and heart failure) are much more common causes. You say she is on thyroid medication, so is obviously hyperthyroid. Does she have a detectable heart murmur or gallop rhythm? When is the last time her thyroid levels (including a free T4) were checked? What is her heart rate and blood pressure? Coughing in cats is serious. Poorly controlled/untreated hyperthyroid cats can/will develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and the positional nature of the cough could suggest heart enlargement. At the least: rechecking thyroid levels, chest x-rays evaluated by a radiologist, and an echocardiogram depending on what chest x-rays look like. Be extremely cautious about injudicious "empirical" use of prednisone: corticosteroids (like prednisone) administered to cats on the cusp of heart failure can be deadly. It may be that she just needs thyroid meds tweaked and a smidge of lasix.
posted by SinAesthetic at 11:07 AM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thyroid levels checked within the month and dosage was adjusted slightly up at that time. Coughing issues preceded the office visit and have stayed about the same since. She had a similar issue about 5-6 years ago which ended inconclusively (my recollection is foggy, but the vet did do an x-ray and a cardiac exam of some sort then.) At that time she was dosed with prednisone which didn't seem to help. We discontinued the prednisone and eventually she just spontaneously got better. Mrs. Larry David Syndrome is going to call the vet and see what they say, I'll report back when we have an outcome. Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond!
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 11:33 AM on September 17, 2018

well i'm late to the party, but agree asthma. predisolone to treat the acute symptoms now, and then maintenance flovent (from cheap canada pharmacy) is what our treatment plan is. also, a low-dust no perfume litter, an air filter, and more frequent vacuuming. franklin's is usually worse when seasons are changing.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:00 PM on September 17, 2018

I think more info would help! Is she only animal in the household? Does she go outside? Where are you guys loosely located?

To increase her comfort, consider raising the humidity in the house or at least wherever she hangs out. If she's dry and coughy the extra moisture will help her out, regardless of the reason.
posted by Bistyfrass at 2:16 PM on September 17, 2018

I don’t have specific advice but my elderly kitty had some mysterious recurring nasal infections and it was above the pay grade of our regular vet. They referred us to an internal medicine specialist who had some more techniques to try. I know you say this isn’t a great time to deal with this, but finding a specialist may avoid a lot of fruitless back and forth (which I am oh so familiar with).
posted by bleep at 3:05 PM on September 17, 2018

Update: vet felt comfortable prescribing prednisone based on the prior cardiac exam. She's on a 2X a day regiment of it. We also did a thorough vacuuming of the house, I replaced the semi-broken dehumidifier in the basement with a new one in an attempt to keep the mold count down (kitty doesn't visit the basement, but mold could be carried up with air currents/drafts. ) Her coughing is all but eliminated. We changed a bunch of variables at once, so unfortunately I don't think it's going to be possible to make a scientific conclusion about what solved the issue.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 3:12 PM on September 26, 2018

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