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My one-year old cat started a dry cough about three days ago and I took her to the vet's yesterday. She did not have a fever and is eating and drinking as well as being playful as ever.

Upon examination, the vet said my cat seemed fine but did have a tender spot in her throat area. I'm thinking it's probably because she's been coughing and her throat is stressed a bit. The doctor prescribed doxy-something (antibiotic) and said it could be a respiratory infection and we'd treat it that way to start. She could have also swallowed something and is trying to get it up but is having no luck.

I started her on the antibiotics last night and I realize it may take a few days to kick in but she really had a rough night last night. Like clockwork, every two hours in the middle of the night, she woke us up by her dry coughing. It's almost like she has a hairball (although she's short-hair and has never had a hairball before) and is trying to work it out but nothing comes up/out. I feel so badly for her although she seems to be in good spirits once her coughing is done (lasts a minute or so). I did notice a little bit of rattling noise during once cough episode last night but she does purr fine and meows without any difficulty. I didn't notice any coughing this morning when I was getting ready for work. I've noticed it more during the evening hours the past few nights.

I guess I'm at a loss on what to do next. If it is truly an infection of some sort, and I continue with the medicine (prescribed for once a day for the next two weeks) is it going to take a few days to kick in? Has anyone else experienced this with a cat? Her breathing looks fine and she seems spunky as ever. Also, she is strictly an indoor cat with some access to a screeened porch.

I'm starting to worry and hope it's nothing too serious. I lost a cat to cancer last November and acquired this new kitty in January. I've become very close to her, she is such a sweet, affectionate and playful cat and I'd just be beside myself if something is seriously wrong.
 

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I'm not sure what you mean when you say dry cough versus a normal cough, but my cat had a much less severe recurring cough. He would cough once or twice a week for about 30 seconds. Upon examination, he had asthma, which is quite common in cats.

Have you switched his food recently, or added anything to his diet?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Dry as if there seems to be no fluid present. Almost like she has a dry, smoker's cough. It sounds like she has a hairball and she does not produce any liquid vomit and does not have the heaves like with vomiting. Her body does move when she coughs but not like she wants to vomit - more like she's trying to work something up and out.

Nothing has changed with her diet and the only other things I can think of is that she 1) possibly got stung by a wasp or bee on our screen porch (there is a small opening where these things can get in), 2) she ate something "foreign" and is trying to work it up, 3) has allergies or asthma.
 

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My cat is going through this now too....he coughs throughout the day. Good luck with your cat, I will be interested to find out what your cat has! I have to take mine to the vet. Poor guy.
 

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A while back, Assumpta had what seemed to be a hairball hack (she is very prone to them and was very stressed out and shedding heavily at the time), but after several days of no hairball (and regular laxatone treatments), I took her to the vet. We didn't find any kind of fluid in her lungs or anything else suspicious, so they started her on a course of antibiotics to see if it would clear up on its own, and if not, we'd start checking for asthma. The antibiotics didn't seem to do much good, but several days later, she threw up a hairball about 3 inches long and stopped coughing entirely. Vet and I had a good laugh about that one...she fooled us both. :roll:

Shorthaired cats can get hairballs, though...there is an enormous shorthair at the shelter where I work who produces some of the most impressive hairballs I've ever seen (besides Assumpta's, of course).

On the off-chance, have you changed cat litter brands recently? If the attacks seem to be at night, is she sleeping on your bed at the time (wondering here about perfumes in laundry soap or blankets possibly harbouring dust). Any pattern you've noticed? Is she eating, drinking, and using the litterbox as usual?

Don't know what to tell you about the antibiotics...I've never really seen the point of giving antibiotics for a viral infection (though I do see the logic of using them to help ward off a possible bacterial infection secondary to the viral one). The vet and I decided to discontinue them as soon as we saw the size of Assumpta's expelled hairball. If you're not seeing any improvement in a few days, or if you have a nagging feeling that she must have swallowed something that she's trying to expell, I'd call the vet back and discuss it. When we were dealing with Assumpta, I had a gut feeling that she was working a hairball, but I didn't want to take any chances because of how long she'd been hacking with no hairball to show for it. Then again, Assumpta has a big psychological issue with vomiting...someone must have punished her really severely for it, as it took me almost a year to get her to stop crying and shaking every time she threw up. (now she does it just for fun, usually on or in my work boots)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the replies. I haven't changed litter brands or food and have not used a new detergent (she sleeps on our bed). The only thing I can think of is that since we finished our screen porch a few weeks ago, she is spending a lot of time out there gazing at the birds and relaxing. Maybe the pollens are bothering her? Although, she has had exposure to the outside when we open the front door and she looks out the big screen doors. So, it's not like she's just being introduced to the outside elements. I also brought some oriental lillies in the house on Saturday and have placed them in a few vases. Maybe I'll try taking those away tonight and see if, by chance, that helps matters. She was coughing a little when I went home for lunch. I hope "something" works for my sweet lil' girl...
 

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Wait....I may be misremembering, but I believe that most or all lillies are toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure if ingested, so you'll want to at least remove them from the cat's reach now and find out for sure. It probably wouldn't hurt to let the vet know, as well, so that if any mysterious symptoms DO appear, it will save time and make it easier for the vet to focus the tests quickly and take fast action. I don't want to cause you undue alarm, but I'm just a big believer in telling the vet/doctor everything so that if one of us misses a symptom or odd coincidence, the other might have a lightbulb go on in our head.

Otherwise, is there any new carpeting or furniture pads on your new porch that might aggravate a cat's asthma? Any construction dust? I usually do these things lying on the floor face-down to get the cat's-eye view.

I really hope your kitty feels better soon, but do check into that lilly thing and make sure the vet knows if there is any possibility that your cat could have ingested them.

Edited to add: see the following for more info on lilly toxicity, as well as symptoms to watch for if you think your cat has ingested any:

http://www.medvet-cves.com/Emergency/lilly_toxicity.htm
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thank you for the PM and info on lillies - I did not know!! She does try to eat some of my other plants - have since put them up high where she can not get to them but I haven't noticed her bothering the lillies but I will remove them anyway. Maybe the smell or pollen is bothering her even if she hasn't taken a nibble.
 

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One of my cats had something similar happen this year. He also had a stuffy nose and sneezed from time to time though. He only would 'cough' once in a while, like once a day, not every few hours.

The vet heard something in the lungs and decided to put him on a long dose of antibiotics and that worked. If it hadn't worked the next course of action was to do xrays and check for asthma.

He never had a hairball that I found this summer. He doesn't groom much so he rarely has hairballs.

How is your cat doing today? I think we saw marked improvement within a week of starting the antibiotics.

~Heather
 

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Heather -
That is the EXACT same thing that happened with my cat. I just took him to the vet today, he put him on antibiotics and said that if they dont' work he will need x-rays etc. I'm glad to hear it worked for your cat though, it gives me hope!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
My cat seems to be a little better since the other night. She is now on day 4 of the antibiotics and I've also taken the lillies out of the house. She is still coughing but not nearly as bad as earlier in the week. Actually, it's more of a "snort" than a cough. It sounds like a pig noise - a loud snort with a lot of force. Oh, and she coughed up a few small furballs the other day as well. Hopefully she's on the road to recover. *fingers crossed*
 

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Hm that's odd. When my cat had the cough, my vet did the xrays and bloodwork first. Both are ways of checking for asthma. On the other hand, the procedures were free due to the wellness plan I had, maybe that's the difference.
 

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Hi all, you've pretty much covered the bases in terms of diagnostics and treatments.

You can always give vaseline or other hairball treatment for a few days to make sure any hair is out of the stomach. THe "hairball hack" and an asthmatic cough are very similar if not identical, it's very hard to tell them apart. Throat irritation from ingesting something can also produce a similar noise. Pollens and other allergens tend to produce skin or tummy symptoms, but respiratory signs can occur. Exposure to a bird feeder might also introduce the potential for a fungal infection; these are common in some areas of the country.

Other than that, all coughs in cats are assumed to be asthma until proven otherwise. It's perfectly legitimate to try a few different treatments to make sure it isn't something else, and that's what it sounds like this vet is doing.

We'll be interested to hear the final outcome!

Cheers,
Dr. Jean
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thank you for your response Dr. Jean. I value your expertise.

I have thought of giving Kachina some hairball treatment but am afraid that she'll end up coughing up the antibiotic as well. If the antibiotic is working, which I'm not sure since I don' t know if it's truly an infection, then I don't want it to come up. I give her the medicine in the morning. Should I try the hairball treatment in the evening after the medicine has been absorbed for a while?
 

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Yes, vaseline should be given separately from food and meds; a good dollop at bedtime is ideal. It shouldn't make her vomit; the point is to stick the hair together and slide it on out the *other* end!

Cheers,
Dr. Jean
 

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TAsunder said:
Hm that's odd. When my cat had the cough, my vet did the xrays and bloodwork first. Both are ways of checking for asthma. On the other hand, the procedures were free due to the wellness plan I had, maybe that's the difference.
Well they did do bloodwork on my Maubee. He's got kidney trouble so we get bloodwork done every six months without fail. However the xrays would have added $75 extra onto an already expensive visit (I usually do bring more than one cat in and I do get sticker shock :oops: ). I decided to wait (with the vet's blessing) to see if the antibiotic worked first. They did recommend doing the xrays right away, but they weren't too concerned about waiting a bit.

~Heather
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Oh, I must be so naive. I thought hairball remedy ointment helps them to bring up the hairball. I didn't realize it goes out the other end. Okay, well now I do since if it's ingested.....anyhow.....never mind. :oops: Thanks for the suggestion. I will try it tonight.
 
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