The Norman Transcript

September 26, 2013

What to do for cat’s coughing, sneezing

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: In December 2011, my cat started making these coughing/sneezing sounds. Initially, the vet treated her with meds for respiratory issues; however, the cough/sneeze still continued sporadically.

In July 2012, I brought her to the Garden State Veterinary Specialists hospital and an internal medicine specialist saw her. This doctor had my cat get three X-rays, and it appeared that her lungs were a bit cloudy, as if there was a respiratory problem. The doctor prescribed a short term of prednisolone at a very low dosage. This seemed to help. After some time after, my cat started up with the noises again.

In October, another vet saw her and followed up with an X-ray and re-prescribed prednisolone. Again, this worked. In late December, my cat’s vet decided to put her on Clavamox. For six weeks, there were no coughing/sneezing episodes, but they started again in early February. Now, my cat is on clindamycin in the event she has an infection. The vet also included low-dosage prednisolone for the possibility of inflammation. Neither of these helped.

She was given an ultrasound of her heart, and that doctor did not see any abnormalities. Between that specialist and the regular vet, it was decided that she was showing symptoms of lungworm. She was put on Pure C for 10 days — it did not work, and a lab test of her feces showed no parasites.

I brought my cat to see the first specialist this week. It seems that the only recourse now is shoving a camera into both her throat and lungs to see what might be hovering in either location. With my permission, she would do a “wash” of the lungs if nothing appears, or a biopsy if something is found. Help!

Your expertise is needed here — I am terribly concerned for my 9.8 pound, almost 13-year-old cat. She acts perfectly normal in every way: She’s still playful, eats and drinks normal amounts and gets her beauty sleep. And, being a native Californian, she loves to sunbathe on the back of furniture wherever the sun is shining.

— T.M., Sacramento, Calif.

Dear T.M.: As you may gather from my newspaper columns and website, I take a radically conservative approach to many feline health problems because cats can be stressed terribly by various diagnostic procedures.

Cats have sensitive respiratory systems, and various virus infections take their toll; I advocate rhinotracheitis and calicivirus vaccinations. But your cat, otherwise behaving normally, may be having a normal lung reaction to some inflammatory agent — the buildup of fluid leading to bouts of wheezing and coughing.

Consider a possible food allergy or an allergy to inhaled volatile synthetic fragrances. Do some detective work and transition her onto a raw-food or home-prepared diet.

Cats can get lungworms when they eat birds and other animals who have eaten infective snails. This is yet another reason to keep cats indoors and not allow them out.

Purina dog food recall: Nestle Purina PetCare is voluntarily recalling a limited number of 3.5-pound bags of its Purina ONE beyOnd Our White Meat Chicken & Whole Barley Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food from a single production run. The product is contaminated with salmonella.

For further information or to obtain a product refund, call NPPC toll-free at 1-800-473-8546, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at