My Cat Is Coughing Up Blood
See files for Cats
It should not be a surprise to cat guardians that coughing up blood is a sign of a health problem. Various underlying causes can lead to blood appearing from the nose or mouth. The threat to the cat's health will depend on this underlying cause, as well as the greater context of the symptom. For example, a cat coughing chronically resulting in bleeding is different to a cat coughing up blood all of a sudden. Since the blood is coming from somewhere internal, it is difficult to diagnose without internal imaging tests. Immediate veterinary consultation is necessary when we see a cat coughing up blood as it may constitute an emergency.
At AnimalWised, we learn why my cat is coughing up blood. We look at the common causes of this symptom, as well as the corresponding treatment options available.
Why cats cough up blood
When we see our cat has coughed up blood, we need to know its origin. While we may assume it has come out of their mouth, we should know that it may also emanate from the nasal passages. Although the blood exits through the mouth or nose, it can originate much further within the body. Most commonly, this will be in the gastrointestinal or respiratory systems.
A differentiation also needs to be made between a cat coughing up blood and a cat vomiting blood. Vomiting blood in cats is known as hematemesis and can have different causes. The blood is often not fresh and darker in color due to reaction with gastric acids. In this article, we are focusing on the expectoration of blood from the respiratory tract, a process known as hemoptysis.
Blood from the respiratory tract can present as blood-tinged mucus, a pinkish fluid or blood on its own. It is not common for us to see our cat coughing up blood since it is often swallowed by the feline. Sometimes they are only detected in tests such as bronchoscopy. We can also see a discoloration of the cat's feces due to this swallowed blood being digested (melena). Fresh blood in a cat's stool is not from the respiratory system.
Coughing fits in cats can lead to the breakage of small capillaries. The result may be the presence of small amounts of blood, something which is not usually considered serious. It is the equivalent of small droplets of blood when we blow our nose after sneezing a lot. When this occurs, the blood would come from the nasal cavity or oropharynx. In the following sections we are going to explain some of the causes that may be responsible for our cat coughing up blood.
Cat coughing up blood due to trauma
Physical trauma refers to physical damage sustained due to falls, collisions, blows from objects or even fights with other animals. The violent force of the trauma causes injuries to the cat's body. These can be minor superficial damage such as a cut to the skin, but not all traumatic injury will be obvious. Internal damage can occur. Cats are good at hiding signs of pain, so we need to be very careful if we witness the cat suffer a traumatic injury.
Trauma can cause pulmonary hemorrhage. This is when internal bleeding occurs within the lungs. In these cases, we will see that our cat coughs up blood. We are also likely to observe other signs such as:
- Breathing difficulties
- External wounds and/or other injuries or fractures
- State of greater or lesser confusion depending on the damage caused
- Signs of pain
It goes without saying that this is a veterinary emergency that we must address as soon as possible. It will be the clinician who must carry out the required diagnostic tests necessary to identify the damage and establish the most appropriate treatment. It is usual that surgery and/or hospitalization is needed. The prognosis will depend on the extent of the traumatic damage.
Cat coughing up blood due to pulmonary edema
There are cases in which a cat will cough up blood, but it appears as a pink fluid. This expectoration originates from a pulmonary edema, i.e. an edema produced in the lungs. Edemas are an excessive build up of fluid and when the fluid is pinkish, it is due to the presence of blood. The underlying cause of pulmonary edema can be trauma, systemic disease or inhalation of a toxic substance.
As with trauma detailed above, pulmonary edema requires immediate veterinary attention. If pulmonary edema is present, we will also likely see the following symptoms:
- Breathing difficulties
- Cyanosis (bluish skin tone due to insufficient oxygenation)
- Cough with bloody expectoration
- Exercise intolerance
Diagnosis will usually be carried out with a series of x-rays. This will alert the veterinarian to the condition of the lungs, as well as the heart. This is because pulmonary edema is also associated with heart failure. Other diagnostic tests such as a blood test. Treatment will depend on the result of the diagnosis. Diuretics will generally be required to prevent fluid accumulation, in addition to appropriate treatment of the primary cause of the edema.
Cat coughing up blood due to neoplasms
The presence of neoplasms in the lungs can cause our cat to cough up blood. Neoplasms are tumors, i.e. uncontrolled growth of cells. These can be malignant in the case of cancerous tumors or benign, as is the case with cysts. Neoplastic development can erode surrounding vessels, which is what will cause bleeding. It is a very rare condition in cats. Other symptoms associated with this clinical picture include the following:
- Respiratory disturbances
- Exercise intolerance
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as regurgitation and vomiting
Any of these manifestations is a reason for veterinary consultation. As in any other respiratory condition that involves the lungs, x-rays can provide us with valuable information. Also bronchoscopy and biopsy may be used as appropriate diagnostic tests. In this case, the treatment will depend on the type of neoplasm and the extent of its development.
Learn more with our article on why an elderly cat has a tumor.
Cat coughing up blood due to intoxication or poisoning
Our cat can cough up or sneeze blood if they have ingested something toxic. Some of these products cause bleeding and the cat may lose blood through the nose, mouth or in the form of bloody urine or feces. Other symptoms that may accompany bleeding include the following:
- Lack of coordination
- Respiratory difficulty
- Hypothermia (low body temperature)
Immediate veterinary attention is required. The prognosis will depend on the type of poison, as well as the amount that has been ingested. If we identify the product, we must show it to the veterinarian in order to guide their diagnosis and treatment. Hospitalization is usually required for fluid therapy and vitamin K administration to help control bleeding.
Cat coughing up blood due to foreign bodies
Finally, the presence of a foreign body can also cause our cat to cough up blood in an attempt to expel it. When the cat inhales something it shouldn't, it can become stuck in their respiratory system. The cat will feel like they are choking or will become irritated by the object damaging their tissue. The cat will try to force coughing, something which can agitate the damage further and cause bleeding.
We should not try to remove the object ourselves as doing so can lead to tearing their tissue. The veterinarian will be able to assess the damage through x-ray or an endoscopy. They will then do what they can to remove the object from inside the cat. This may require surgical removal in certain cases.
When a cat is bleeding, it is vital we find out its cause so appropriate treatment can begin. We can see this in different parts of the feline's body. Find out more with our article on why a cat has blood in their eye.
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 Is Coughing Up Blood, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.