Is my kitty sick or in need of a nose job?
December 13, 2007 4:42 AM   Subscribe

Does my cat have a chronic respiratory infection, or is it possible she just naturally has poor breathing passages? Ever since my partner and I adopted her and her sister in August she has had periodic coughing and hacking fits that have been relatively unaffected by three separate rounds of antibiotics. Now I wonder if maybe she just has the equivalent of a deviated septum, or whether it's time for hospitalization.

When Victoria and Margaret first came to us four months ago, they both had coughing issues. The vet said it was kennel cough, prescribed us antibiotics, and after two different rounds Margaret's issues stopped entirely. But Victoria continues to have problems, despite finishing yet a third round of a third antibiotic in October. The cough mainly occurs when she is purring vigorously. She will start coughing and hacking, followed by swallowing, as if she's hacking up phlegm and swallowing it. Occasionally the fits will become so violent it sounds like she is throwing up and swallowing it. It is heartbreaking to watch and I worry she'll choke, but after every incident she never seems much worse for the wear, if slightly sedated for the next ten minutes or so.

There are a couple of reasons why I wonder that this may not be due entirely to illness. One, there are no other symptoms of disease--no fever, listlessness, watery eyes, runny nose, etc. Two, after the first round of antibiotics her condition improved somewhat, and has since then stabilized and hasn't gotten better or worse with subsequent dosages. Three, Margaret hasn't gotten sick again, and they're around each other all the time so there are plenty of chances for re-infection. And four, Victoria is pretty wheezy when she sleeps. When sleeping deeply she snores loudly and regularly, a very high, wheezing snore that sounds like something in her nasal passages is blocked up. So maybe that has something to do with her fits?

Anyway, I am not entirely sure where to go from here. She's been put on three different kinds of antibiotics, and I imagine if this is an infection the next step would be hospitalization so they could give her some really strong stuff. But if it isn't an infection, that could just be a futile effort that does nothing but develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

And f it is just a nasal passageway thing, well, is there anything I can do? Kitty neti pots? Kitty MRI/X-ray and a subsequent kitty nose job?

I plan on talking to my vet, but I was wondering if anyone could give me insight to similar experiences with their dog or cat.
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
We had a similar experience with one of our cats. After several vets wanted to put him on steroids, we discovered that he didn't like drinking standing water from a water bowl, so wasn't getting enough to drink. We got a Drinkwell pet fountain, and the problem went away.

That may, of course, not be your problem, but it's harmless to try. Sometimes medication is the right answer, but sometimes there's a simpler solution. If she likes to drink from water glasses you leave around, that may be a hint.
posted by Caviar at 5:30 AM on December 13, 2007

Your vet will have probably checked for this, but I have a cat who, as a kitten, had similar issues, and the vet found that she had nasal polyps. BIG ones for such a little cat...they were large enough that the vet was able to see them pushing against her soft palate, although I suppose it's possible for a cat to have smaller ones that still cause problems but aren't so obvious. The vet showed them to me when they were taken out, and they were each about the size of the last joint of my pinky finger.

Anyway, good luck with your kitty.
posted by MsElaineous at 5:34 AM on December 13, 2007

polyps, foreign object or, unfortunately, allergies.

Nasal polyps or common. But take a look in her nose. One of my parents' cats had chronic sneezing for almost a week. Then one day he jumped on my my mother's lap and sneezed a two-inch blade of grass half-way out his nose. Mum pulled it the rest of the way out and he was fine after that.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:50 AM on December 13, 2007

I've been told by (various) vets that coughing can be a sign of heart disease in cats, so you might want to get that looked into.

Two of my cats have both suffered from heart disease in varying degrees and they both had that ears-out-to-the-side-tongue-sticking-out hacking cough. One needed treatment and died before he was a year old, the other was given an estimated life-span of 7 years on medication, but as he handled it very poorly we stopped it (with the vet's approval) and he died two weeks shy of his twelfth birthday.

However two of my other cats also do this (cough) periodically, one of which who snores, and they *don't* have heart problems neither is there anything wrong with them.

Good luck with finding out the cause!
posted by esilenna at 6:30 AM on December 13, 2007

My cat has symptoms similar to yours and was diagnosed with feline asthma, which can be treated effectively with cortisone pills or cute little kitty inhalers.
posted by contraption at 6:54 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Find another vet, preferably one who specializes in cats. There are a number of different things this could be, and just throwing antibiotics at it to no effect is not what I would consider good medicine (if the cat isn't coughing/sneezing up mucous with a yellow/green/orange colour, it is less likely to be an infection, and if one course of antibiotics didn't really work, at very least I'd expect a culture and sensitivity to be done).
posted by biscotti at 7:12 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding biscotti and contraption.

Ask your new feline specialist vet to do a viral swab and a full oral examination.
posted by Arqa at 7:21 AM on December 13, 2007

Fred, who we found starving/hit by car/all messed up and who the vet suggested we euthanize, who then went on to live 6 happy years, had constant sinus problems. It may have been because of all the damage done by the car and it may have been the heart murmur (which he did eventually die of) or it may have been that he was just a snotty cat, which was what we decided. Anyway, living with him was more or less like living with a little kid who always has snot running down his nose: there was very little we could do except wipe it occasionally and it never seemed to faze him much at all. He'd cough and hack and wheeze and sniffle and then just go on about his important business of being totally cool. This is gross, yes, but all I can say is that we got used to it and eventually the fact that we had cat snot stains on everything (you really may want to rethink a black pillow on that papasan chair, take it from me) no longer wigged us out because Fred was the Best Cat Ever. So, yeah, have the vet check her out, but if nothing works, I'm here to tell you that it is possible to live with a constantly congested cat.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:52 AM on December 13, 2007

It's possible that it's feline herpes. One of my cats (most likely) has that, which we treat by giving him a dose of lysine (commonly found in your local vitamin/health shop), an amino acid that cuts down on the severity of herpes infections for both cats and humans. He seems to have gotten a bit better. He's less wheezy, although he has been sneezing a lot this week.

We got the recommendation from a local cat-only vet, so I'm nthing everyone who has mentioned that thus far.
posted by nursegracer at 7:55 AM on December 13, 2007

Like nursegracer, my cat has this same problem and it is feline herpes. There seems so be not a whole lot that can be done. Not really any help, I know. I might try the lysine, though, thanks for the tip nursegracer.
posted by greta simone at 10:34 AM on December 13, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers so far, I will try to find a decent cat-only vet (good vets in general are rare where I live). A question, though, could it be feline herpes if my cat has no discharge? There's coughing and hacking, which I think is from the purring disturbing her airways, but no discharge from anywhere in as long as I've had her.
posted by Anonymous at 10:44 AM on December 13, 2007

My cat has had no discharge from the herpes. He just snores and whirs at us a lot. His meow has also become a lot more clear since I started him on the lysine (which is funny, cause he's a Maine Coon, so his meows are more like chirps). He has also achieved a more audible purr.
posted by nursegracer at 5:10 PM on December 13, 2007

Nthing the suggestion of finding a good vet. You might need to look in a larger city, or even the nearest university that teaches veterinary medicine (which will probably have an associated veterinary clinic or hospital).

Note to science buffs: The original poster is schroedinger, so his cat must be Schroedinger's Cat!
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:20 PM on December 14, 2007

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