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Possible asthma

Species: Cat
Breed: Domestic Long Hair
Age: 5-8 years
My 7 year old cat has always had frequent hairballs. I have always suspected he had digestive issues since his fur has always been more dull than his brother's. He also doesn't maintain a practice of grooming to the extent that my other cats do. He would get mats and then I would have him groomed (tiger cut) once a year.

Since he was young he would hack like he was having a hairball, but nothing would come out except (what i assume to be) bile, or a small puddle of perhaps saliva? Usually this happens a few times over the course of a day and then is sometimes followed by a hairball, but not all the time. In the past two years I noticed that this bile/saliva discharge he hacks up has pink in it -- blood. He hacks very hard to get even this bit out. I have tried Laxatone but it didnt seem to do anything. I have him on hairball reduced dry food and Wellness brand wet food. I notice that he does better on Wellness brand catfood that something like Friskies (which is not so great). He experiences the least amount of this non-hairball spit-up when he eats pure meat (ie. tuna, chicken), however this is costly. My question is, is there something more serious going on that should be seen by a vet, or is it an ongoing food sensitivity that I may be able to manage on my own with him? What do you recommend I do in this case? What would be the key symptoms that would make me need to bring him to the vet right away?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for your question. Although I can't give you an exact diagnosis over the internet, I can give you some good ideas as to what could be going on with Neemi.

The most common reason for a cat to cough and hack like you have described is asthma. Often people can confuse coughing with vomiting. Here is a video of a coughing cat that I found on youtube:



Asthma can be affected by Neemi being exposed to things that he is allergic to. So, if he has some mild food allergies then it's possible that when he was being fed the raw food he wasn't exposed to whatever it is that he is allergic to and this is why the coughing was better. (By the way, I'm not a fan of raw feeding. You can read why here: Are raw foods safe for cats?

Asthma can sometimes be hard to diagnose. A vet can sometimes see some hints on xrays, but it's not always obvious.

There are many different treatments. If there is just the occasional cough then I don't do much. But if we're seeing a lot of coughing, then treatment is a good idea. My guess is that the blood is because of the frequency of coughing. He may have some damage to some small blood vessels in his respiratory tract. From what you have described I think it's a good idea to have your vet take a look and see if he needs treatment.

I will often treat these cats with very small doses of prednisone (a steroid) which I usually have the owner give every other day. There are inhalers that cats tolerate well as well, but I reserve these for the really bad cases.

If you live in an area where there is a lot of heartworm, then heartworm is a possibility as well. If you are in an area that sees heartworm your vet can do a very simple blood test to determine if this is the problem.

There are other things that can cause a cat to have these symptoms, but they are not very common.

I think a visit to the doctor is a great idea!

Hope all is well!

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.