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Respiratory Illness in Cats

Respiratory symptoms in cats can have many causes and combinations of causes. The main causes of respiratory symptoms in a cat are bacterial and viral infections; physical injury is the next highest cause. Listed here are the top four causes and their symptoms. If you notice your cat is having trouble breathing, call ABC Vet as quickly as possible for an appointment so we can find the cause and start treatment.

Asthma in a cat is caused by the same problem in humans, a constriction of the airways. Asthma can be caused by smoke, heavy use of perfumes, build up of dust or even the dust cloud from the cat litter. Respiratory symptoms in cats from asthma can include a quickness of breath or panting. You will notice repeated wheezing and coughing. You could mistake these signs for a hairball. If you see these signs, but find no signs of hairballs, watch for progression of the symptoms. Over time asthma can limit the activity level and eventually the lifespan of your cat.

Infectious Diseases
Both Pneumonitis and Calicivirus are infectious respiratory illnesses in homes with multiple cats. This means that if one cat catches either illness, all of your cats can become sick from the same illness. Because of this you should be aware of the respiratory symptoms in your cat for these conditions. Pneumonitis symptoms include frequent sneezing, watery eyes, and a heavy discharge from the eyes and nose. Calicivirus symptoms include signs similar to asthma with heavy breathing and shortness of breath; but also include mouth sores and dehydration which will be apparent from an increased need for water.

Feline Viral RhinotracheitisThis is the feline form of herpes and as such the respiratory symptoms in cats resemble many found in humans with herpes. This illness is the most serious of the respiratory illnesses for cats. These symptoms include inflammation of the sinuses, nose, mouth, throat and eyes. You will also see swollen gums, ulcers of the mouth and lethargy.

Physical Problems
If you notice quick or heavy breathing in your cat, but none of the other respiratory symptoms in your cat mentioned above, you should consider the possibility of a physical problem. Labored breathing without other symptoms can be a sign of heatstroke, trauma, poisoning, fluid in the lung or a collapsed lung. If you suspect physical problems, keep your cat cool and immobile while you transport them to ABC Vet for an exam.

Treatment and Prevention
On a good note, respiratory symptoms in cats and their related illnesses can be treated and prevented most of the time. With both Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus there are regular vaccinations which you can get to prevent the illness almost completely. Pneumonitis can be dealt with by a course of antibiotics. As for allergies, you simply must remove the occurrence of excess smoke and dust around your house. You may need to move the litter box away from smoky areas or change the litter to one with less dust. With proper precautions, treatment if needed, and general cleaning of the living area you can easily manage to avoid cat respiratory symptoms and their causes.

ABC Veterinary Hospital
We are a full-service veterinary medical facility, located in San Marcos, California. The professional and courteous staff at ABC Veterinary Hospital seeks to provide the best possible medical care, surgical care and dental care for our highly-valued patients.


If you notice your cat is having trouble breathing, complete the form below to request an in-office examination.

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    ABC Veterinary Hospital
    330 Rancheros Dr
    Suite 102
    San Marcos, CA 92069
    (760) 471-4950

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