Breathing diseases

My Cat Has a Runny Nose and is Sneezing

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. March 13, 2019
My Cat Has a Runny Nose and is Sneezing

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When your cat shows any signs of illness, it's easy to grow worried. Unless there is an underlying illness you are already aware of, you can think the worst. Unfortunately, many symptoms have various causes, some more benign than others. If you see that your cat has a runny nose and is sneezing, you might think they have a simple cold. But the presence of mucus or snot may have other causes, none of which should be ignored. If your cat has a runny nose, then you should also look for other signs of possible disease.

At AnimalWised we explain the probable causes of your cat's runny nose and sneezing, but we don't do so in lieu of visiting a vet. The reason for nasal discharge in cats should be diagnosed professionally so that an appropriate course of treatment can be engaged.

You may also be interested in: My Cat Is Reverse Sneezing
  1. Nasal discharge in cats
  2. Why does my cat have a runny nose and eyes?
  3. My cat has a runny nose and sneezes a lot
  4. Other reasons a cat's nose is running
  5. How to treat a cat's runny nose
  6. How to decongest a cat's nose
  7. Do cats get distemper?

Nasal discharge in cats

A runny nose in a cat, as with a human being, can vary in severity. If your cat comes home when it is cold outside and has a little sniffle, it is likely not too worrying. However, if the sniffle turns into sneezing and their nasal discharge grows in intensity, you will start to see more mucus and snot.

You will also need to know the context of why they have a runny nose or sneezing. When the cat is near something which might irritate their nasal passages, it is understandable you might see them sneeze. This could be some dust, a strong odor or even something which might otherwise seem harmless such as a lemon. If a cat sneezes once, but don't have a runny nose, then you probably don't need to be concerned. If a cat sneezes repeatedly and has a profuse runny nose for seemingly no reason, then you will need to look further.

Does your cat have a runny nose from one nostril?

Another important thing to look at is where the mucus is coming from. If your cat has a runny nose from both nostrils, then there might be a widespread infection. If the mucus only seems to be coming out of one nostril, then the problem may be more localized. You should also see if the runny nose is accompanied by ocular discharge. Mucus in the eyes can mean there is a serious problem.

Why does my cat have a runny nose and eyes?

If your cat has both nasal and ocular discharge, then the most common cause will be a vial disease. This is especially the case in young kittens. Feline viral rhinotracheitis is a respiratory disease which, although affecting the cat's breathing, can lead to serious nose and eye discharge. It is not only characterized by an intense amount of mucus, but by lesions in the mouth, dehydration, anorexia, fever, coughing and sneezing. The amount of sneezing will likely be profuse.

The presence of the virus damages the mucus membranes in the nasal passages as well as the conjunctiva of the eye. An environment conducive to the proliferation of bacteria is then created and a large amount of mucus is produced as part of the body's immune response. Rhinotracheitis is very contagious, so you will need to separate any affected cat and their belongings from the rest of the felines in the home.

As kittens are most often affected, the problem can be very serious. Kittens are by nature very vulnerable and they have not yet developed a strong immune system. In these cases, the disease can be life threatening, especially without prompt intervention. Take the kitten to the vet for immediate treatment.

Rhinitis is the inflammation of the nasal mucus membranes, so you may see the cat is very congested when they are trying to sneeze. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses which may also be the problem. Both of these are symptoms which can be accompanied by a runny nose and sneezing, but the initial cause will be something else. Most commonly they will be a bacterial or viral infection.

My Cat Has a Runny Nose and is Sneezing - Why does my cat have a runny nose and eyes?

My cat has a runny nose and sneezes a lot

We have already seen that nasal discharge and sneezing can be due to a variety of infections. However, one of the most frequent reasons is the common cold. This presents inflammation of the mucus membranes and discharge as well as respiratory distress, fever, apathy, loss of appetite, coughing and watery eyes. If your ct is a runny nose and is also breathing badly, then this may be the cause. If you are looking for some cat runny nose home remedies, then you can look at our article on cold remedies for cats.

Another problem might be due to feline flu. It results in similar symptoms to the cold, but usually more acute. This is usually caused by feline calcivirus or feline herpesvirus, both contagious viral infections which need immediate treatment. Said treatment will depend on the strength of the initial virus. Vaccinations are very important in preventing these diseases or at least reducing the severity of their symptoms.

Other reasons a cat's nose is running

The consistency of nasal discharge might also help us to know what the underlying cause might be. For the cold or similar viral infections, the cat's nose might have a thinner liquid. With more severe diseases or worse infections, the mucus might be thicker. Also, fungal infections might lead to the runny nose. If you see your cat has blood in their mucus, then this makes it especially important to take your cat to the vet, it is usually a sign of a serious illness, so be very careful if you see blood coming from your cat's nose.

We mentioned earlier about the importance of checking if the problem is from one nostril or two. Certain diseases will affect only one because the problem is localized. these may include neoplasms which grow on one side. If the neoplasms (abnormal tissue growth) continue to develop, they may spread to the other nostril. Some of these might be cancerous, so it is very important you take the cat to the vet.

Dental problems might also be the cause of your cat having nasal discharge from only one nostril. If a tooth becomes infected, then the inflammation can spread to the sinuses and produce mucus. When you take your cat to the vet, they should provide a through inspection which involves looking into the mouth.

My Cat Has a Runny Nose and is Sneezing - Other reasons a cat's nose is running

How to treat a cat's runny nose

If we observe a lot of mucus coming from your cat's nose, then we need to go to the veterinarian. A disease such as rhinotracheitis can't be diagnosed at home. It will require the vet to look at the cat's symptomatology as a whole. If they do detect the presence of a viral infection, they will most likely prescribe antibiotics. Serious illnesses such as hose caused by herpesvirus can't be stopped with home remedies, even if some might have a slight effect on associated symptoms. The vet will also be able to treat other symptoms which might be associated with the bacterial, viral or fungal infection.

If the cat does not respond well to treatment, then the vet may need to run more tests. They will likely take a sample and then run a culture test. An antifungal treatment might need be initialized. These treatments will generally take longer and require you to come back for further checkups.

With the presence of a polyp, tumor or cancer then other rests may need to be carried out. these tests might include a rhinoscopy (where a camera is inserted into the nasal passage), x-ray, biopsy or blood tests to determine the exact cause. If we are dealing with a case of chronic nasal discharge, there may be a problem with bone alignment. These problems may be irreversible. Palliative care may need to be initiated if there is a problem which isn't treatable.

Another reason your cat might have a lot of discharge is due to their breed. Brachycephalic cat breeds such as Persian or Exotic Shorthair cats have a bone structure which leads to nasal and ocular problems. Most of these will need to be managed throughout their lives, but it makes it even more important to take them to the vet for an examination.

How to decongest a cat's nose

Regardless of the reason for your cat having a blocked or runny nose, you will see that the mucus will dry once it comes in contact with air. It's important that we clean these areas to stop the promotion of more bacteria and worsening the infection. With brachycephalic breeds, you will likely have to clean their eyes throughout their entire lives.

To clean a cat's nose and eyes of dry mucus, you need to know you should never pick it off. This can pull their fur and even cause a wound on the delicate tissue. We should use a saline solution on clean gauze to moisten the hardened mucus and make it easier to wipe off. If they do not come off immediately, use more liquid and let it soften. Don't rub harder as this can also be harmful. You can even bring the cat into the bathroom while you have a hot shower to let the steam moisten it. In more serious cases, the vet may need to clean the nasal passages themselves. They may even need to treat the cat under anaesthetic to ensure a clear nose.

My Cat Has a Runny Nose and is Sneezing - How to decongest a cat's nose

Do cats get distemper?

In dogs, distemper is a viral infection which causes serious nasal discharge. Some people believe that distemper might be the reason a cat has nasal discharge also, but this is not the case. Rather, it is likely referring to a different serious viral infection known as either feline panleukopenia or feline infectious enteritis. This is also an acute problem which can be fatal, so a vet's intervention is necessary.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Has a Runny Nose and is Sneezing, we recommend you visit our Breathing diseases category.

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1 comment
Griselda Izmajtovich
If the cat had already contracted a virus is it wise to vaccinate ?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Griselda,

Yes, you will definitely need to wait otherwise the vaccine is likely to be ineffective. Speak to your veterinarian and they will arrange the correct vaccination schedule for them.
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My Cat Has a Runny Nose and is Sneezing