Breathing diseases

My Cat Keeps Sneezing But Seems Fine - Common Cold in Cats

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. May 27, 2019
My Cat Keeps Sneezing But Seems Fine - Common Cold in Cats

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Cats can suffer from various diseases which are similar to human illnesses. As with human illnesses, the severity of the symptoms and threat to the cat's general health are varied. We need to look at these symptoms to help us determine what is the problem. It is fairly common for a guardian to notice that their cat keeps sneezing, but seems fine. However, even if the sneezing doesn't seem to have any other related issues, we should find out the causes of this symptom. This will help us to identify certain diseases and to prevent conditions getting worse.

In this article, AnimalWised looks at one of the most prevalent reasons why a cat keeps sneezing; the common cold. Before we do, we will show some less common illnesses related to sneezing in cats.

You may also be interested in: Home Remedies for a Cat Cold
  1. My cat has a runny nose and congested breathing
  2. My cat sneezes without mucus
  3. Chronic cold in cats
  4. Treatment of the common cold in cats
  5. Is there such as thing as feline distemper?
  6. Can humans get colds from cats?

My cat has a runny nose and congested breathing

If we observe our cat has a runny nose and congested breathing, it is more than likely our cat has the cold. However, it is also possible they have cat flu, a general term for various upper respiratory diseases in cats including feline rhinotracheitis. This is also what we refer to as the cat common cold.

The main symptoms we may observe in upper respiratory illness in cats are the following:

  • Runny nose
  • Ocular secretion
  • Ulcers
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Problems swallowing
  • Neck extension
  • Anorexia
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Pain
  • Wounds in the mouth

It is important to note that the nasal discharge can be of varying thickness and abundance. If the cat is also suffering from ocular secretion, it can be quite considerable. If so, the result can be irreparable damage to the cornea such as ulceration. If these ulcers become perforated (something which often happens when cats scratch at them), it can lead to the complete loss of the eye.

Normally these types of upper respiratory disease in cats is caused by a viral infection. This virus could be the feline herpesvirus, calicivirus or others. In principle these are infections which can be cured, but it will depend on the extent of the condition. When symptoms such as sneezing are ignored over prolonged periods of time, the viral infection can become worse and even prove fatal. This is why we need to go to the veterinarian promptly as the symptoms will need to be treated to give them the best prognosis.

Many viruses such as feline herpesvirus will lie dormant in the cat's body, even after sneezing or other symptoms have stopped. This means they may become ill again in the future, especially when their immune response is lowered.

My Cat Keeps Sneezing But Seems Fine - Common Cold in Cats - My cat has a runny nose and congested breathing

My cat sneezes without mucus

Sneezing in cats does not always mean they have the cold or some other respiratory illness. Firstly, occasional sneezing is not cause for concern. They may have simply smelled something strong which has caused them to sneeze. This sneeze is caused by agitation to the nasal mucosa and is an automatic response. However, if there are foreign bodies agitating these mucous membranes, the sneezing may be persistent. This is because the objects are not dislodged and the sneezing can become violent. In these cases, bleeding may occur.

In addition to foreign bodies, irritating substances such as dust or smoke can also cause sneezing attacks. Rhinitis in cats is the general term for the inflammation of the nasal mucosa. This may have various causes, including non-cancerous neoplasms known as polyps. You should look at the other symptoms other than sneezing such as a runny nose. Tell your veterinarian everything you know about their behavior so they can provide the most accurate diagnosis.

Chronic cold in cats

When a cat has a cold resulting from herpesvirus or calicivirus, it can become a chronic problem. These viruses are able to reside in the cat's body in a latent way. This means they may not produce any observable symptoms, but the immune system has still been weakened. During times when their immune defenses are further weakened, for example by stress or age, the virus can re-trigger symptoms. In most occasions, these symptoms will present in a mild way with slight nasal discharge, ocular discharge, coughing or sneezing.

Other times, these same viruses cause damage to the nasal mucosa which can make it more vulnerable to bacterial infection. In the most serious of cases, this can even affect their bones. There are also other causes which can cause nasal discharge to become chronic, although they may be generally less frequent. These include fungal infections, inflammations, tumors or trauma. Chronic cases are difficult to treat and sometimes it is only possible to control symptoms using long-term medication.

My Cat Keeps Sneezing But Seems Fine - Common Cold in Cats - Chronic cold in cats

Treatment of the common cold in cats

If a cat's cold is caused by a viral infection, then the virus is most often unable to be eliminated. Treatment, therefore, will be focused on alleviating symptoms (such as sneezing) and avoiding the development of secondary diseases. Such secondary diseases development will be the reason why antibiotics might be prescribed. Otherwise they will be ineffective and may reduce their efficacy in the future.

There is a a vaccine against feline herpesvirus and calicivirus, usually in a combined serum. Prevention of such disease is why following a cat's vaccination schedule is so important. This should begin when they are a kitten and be complemented by annual boosters. Although vaccination cannot necessarily prevent infection, it can stop the infected animal to develop the disease or, at least, to do so to a very slight degree.

In cats with ocular irritation or discharge, it will be necessary to apply medication to their eyes. This may be in the form of eye drops or ointment. Although it will depend on the extent of the damage caused. In milder cases, the drugs can eliminate discharge in only a couple of days. Even in these cases, it is imperative we continue the treatment for as long as the vet has prescribed. This is essential to avoid both relapses or bacterial resistance. This is why it is not as important question to ask ‘how long does a cat's cold last?’ Each case will depend on individual circumstances. It could last only a few days or can be a couple of weeks.

Additional to the application of veterinarian prescribed medication, you will need to look after the cat in other ways. Regular wipe away secretions with wet gauze and keep them away from any possible sources of infection. General hygiene is important when their immunity is low.

It is also essential in cases where the cat loses a lot of weight that we encourage them to eat. When a cat is congested in the nasal passage, they can lose their sense of smell and, consequently, their interest in food. This is why it is important to do what you can to help decongest their nose. A handy trick is to keep the cat in the bathroom with you while you have a hot shower. The steam can help clear their airways. Serving their food slightly warm (not hot) can also help stimulate their appetite.

Severe weight loss (anorexia) can cause serious harm, especially to kittens. They can become seriously hydrated much more easily than adult cats if they do not eat or drink. This is why it is vital for them to receive veterinary assistance. Some will even need to be hospitalized as they need fluid therapy and other life saving interventions.

Finally, it should be noted that herpes and calicivirus which can lead to cat colds are contagious. Ideally, we should keep affected cats in isolation, change our clothing after handling them and thoroughly clean any common areas.

My Cat Keeps Sneezing But Seems Fine - Common Cold in Cats - Treatment of the common cold in cats

Is there such as thing as feline distemper?

Distemper is a viral disease which is species specific. While it is possible for a dog to develop canine distemper, it is not something from which cats can suffer. The reason many animal caregivers become confused is because they do share certain symptoms such as sneezing and nasal discharge. If we find our cat sneezes a lot, but is otherwise fine, it will not be distemper. One condition which many guardians incorrectly refer to as feline distemper is feline panleukopenia.

Can humans get colds from cats?

What we refer to as cat flu or the common cold in cats is, as we have stated, is a viral disease. The viruses which cause them are unique to each species which means they can only trigger the disease in another animal of the sam species. The common cold in cats is not transferable to humans. This means it is not a zoonotic disease.

My Cat Keeps Sneezing But Seems Fine - Common Cold in Cats - Can humans get colds from cats?

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 Keeps Sneezing But Seems Fine - Common Cold in Cats, we recommend you visit our Breathing diseases category.

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My Cat Keeps Sneezing But Seems Fine - Common Cold in Cats