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Coughing cat.

Species: Cat
Breed: Short hair
Age: 2-5 years
My cat has had a horrible cough for two or three months and the vet doesn't know why. He coughs for 3-10 minutes at a time several times every day. His breathing is visibly labored, his sides look like they're forcefully contracting. When it's quiet and he is laying on me I can hear his breath sounds weezey. At first I thought it was a hairball but nothing ever came out. The first vet gave me hairball medicine, which didn't help at all. I also put him on a hairball and weight control diet because he was overweight which I thought might contribute to some respiratory problems. It has gotten worse. I took him in for an x ray, it showed his kidneys were slightly enlarged. This time the vet said he is too skinny, so I have been feeding him two cans of food per day in addition to his regular hard food. He gets excited to eat the canned food, but he never finishes it. He is urinating, but there isn't feces in the litter box now. I am extremely concerned because a little over a month ago I had to put my other 3 year old cat to sleep because his liver and kidneys were failing and the vet didn't know why. His symptoms were different though, he had very runny eyes, while Asiago's eyes are fine right now. But my other cat also became very skinny and his muscles atrophied until he couldn't stand up. I'm hoping Asiago's weight loss is just because of the diet, or maybe he is a little depressed about his brother dying recently. Asiago has been extra sweet since, and wants to play. He doesn't go outside, except on a balcony. I'm sure he eats bugs out there, and I have a bird feeder he loves to watch, but cannot get to. I also have two rabbits with whom he shares a water bowl. I have no idea what is relevant, so I'm just throwing everything out there. As far as Asiago's medical records go, he was exposed to herpes by my other cat, however, he has not had any symptoms of it since he was less than a year old. The vet's tests for for leukemia and heart worms, and some other worms I can't remember were negative. His blood cell counts were normal, and I have the blood work from the most recent vet visit. The following are the results that turned up abnormal. The vet pointed out most of these are just barely outside normal range and therefor probably not alarming of helpful.

HCT 50.4% normal: 30 - 45
HGB 15.1 g/dL normal: 9 - 15.1
EOS 1.00 normal: 0.10 - 0.79
PLT >163 K/uL normal: 175 - 600

Catalyst Dx:
CA 12.3 mg/dL normal: 7.8 - 11.3
ALB 4.0 g/dL normal: 2.2 - 4.0
ALKP <10 U/L normal: 14 - 111
TBIL 1.0 mg/dL normal: 0.0 - 0.9

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for your question.

By far the most common reason for a cat to cough is asthma. While you can usually see signs of asthma on an xray, it is not always visible. Most cats with asthma do really well with steroid medication which is usually given in pill form but could possibly be given as an injection or in some cases an inhaler. You can ask your vet if this could work for Asiago.

Some cats can have asthma because of some type of allergy. We don't usually find out what they are allergic to. One sign of allergies can be an increase in eosinophils (EOS on your bloodwork) so this is possible. The treatment is the same as asthma - steroids.

Eosinophils can also be elevated because of some type of parasite. It is good that he is negative for heartworms. If this were my case I may consider giving him a broad spectrum dewormer just to be sure there aren't any parasites causing this issue even if his tests were negative.

I do also get a little bit worried when calcium levels increase because this can be a sign of certain cancers. However, if there is cancer in the lungs of cats they don't usually cough much. I think cancer is unlikely here.

I hope this helps and I hope he is better soon.

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. 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.