My cat keeps sneezing. Is it okay? Or is she sick?
Cats, like humans, sneeze. Sneezing is a reflexive action when something tickles or irritates the inside of the nose. Usually, sneezing is harmless and not a cause for concern.
Allergies, Toothaches, and Objects
Cats can suffer from allergies, although they tend to have itchy skin more often than sneezing. If you’ve started using a new household cleaner, a different brand of cat litter, or made other changes that affect air quality, your cat’s nose might be irritated. If you can’t eliminate the irritant, your cat might get used to it. If he doesn’t, our CVETS staff can suggest ways to relieve your cat’s symptoms.
If you notice that your cat has difficulty chewing or eating, it might have a dental disease. Bacteria from the mouth can travel to the sinus cavities. An examination of your cat’s mouth and nose will help us diagnose and correctly treat the underlying medical issue.
Occasionally a foreign object gets lodged in a cat’s nose. Usually, a few sneezes will expel it. If not, one of our veterinarians can remove it. We strongly urge you to avoid trying to remove it yourself as you could injure your cat doing so.
Respiratory Infections Are the Primary Cause of Sneezing
Unrelieved feline sneezing is often the result of an infection. Infections may be bacterial, fungal, or viral. Cats do not get infections from you, nor are their infections passed on to you. Their symptoms, however, are often the same as human symptoms.
As well as sneezing, symptoms of a respiratory infection include:
• Discharge from eyes
• Loss of appetite
• Runny nose
• Wheezing or breathlessness
Feline infections are more often viral than fungal or bacterial, but cats can develop a secondary bacterial infection.
Any of these symptoms justify a visit to CVETS. You can remove any discharge with a warm, soft cloth, but it’s important to describe what it looked like to our vet. Knowing if the discharge was thick or watery and its color helps us in making a diagnosis and determining the proper treatment.
There’s More Than One Cause of Feline Respiratory Infections
Two common feline bacterial infections are chlamydia and mycoplasma. Both have a range of symptoms, but chlamydia often targets your cat’s eyes. Among the other symptoms, a cat with chlamydia may develop conjunctivitis. Its eyes will be red and swollen. We’ll do testing to determine what kind of bacteria has invaded your cat and prescribe the appropriate antibiotics. The prognosis is good with early treatment.
Cats usually don’t have many fungal infections. Cryptococcosis is the most common, and it has many of the symptoms seen in other respiratory infections. Diagnosis is made by physical exam and lab work. Prompt treatment is necessary to prevent the spread of infection to your cat’s brain or other organs.
Several viruses can infect cats. These include:
• Feline Herpes Virus
• Feline Calicivirus
• Feline Panleukopenia
• Feline Leukemia
• Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
These must be treated with antiviral medications as antibiotics are ineffective against viruses.
When you bring your sick cat into CVETS, we will ask you to describe the symptoms you’ve observed. That and a physical examination will give us a start on determining what is causing her symptoms. In most cases, we will draw blood and collect urine for testing. We may take swabs from the eyes, mouth, or nose. Once we confirm the diagnosis, we’ll begin treatment, which may include prescriptions for an antibiotic or antiviral, appetite stimulant, and eye drops.
If blood shows up when your cat sneezes or coughs, bring him to our emergency facility immediately. Never ignore blood or try to solve what’s causing it yourself.
CVETS is Columbia, SC’s state-of-the-art regional center for pet emergencies. Bring your distressed pet to us; your pet’s life may depend on it.