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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 14581
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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We adopted a kitten from the local SPCA he has a cough,

Customer Question

We adopted a kitten from the local SPCA he has a cough, sneezing and discharge from eyes and nose. We were told it was kennel cough and would go away on its own. It has been 4 days no relief. How do I treat this?
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 months ago.

Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I’m sorry to hear that Paws is coughing, sneezing, and has a runny nose and eyes.

I suspect that she has picked up a contagious upper respiratory infection. An upper respiratory infection in cats is just like a cold in you and I, and these are commonly caused by a virus, the most common one being Herpes virus. Because most respiratory infections in cats are viral we don't normally prescribe antibiotics, but rather support these kitties the best we can to allow their immune systems to work.

These infections are easily caught by breathing in virus particles in the air from a sneeze or nasal or eye discharge. Some cats get sicker than others and young, healthy adult cats seem to tolerate them and fight them off better than very young kittens or older cats. Rescue shelters are common places for cats to pick up these infections as cats are stressed, coming from many different places with lots of different backgrounds, are often not fully vaccinated before they come to the shelter, and haven't necessarily had the best diet.

Kennel cough (Bordetella with or without mycoplasma bacteria) is less commonly seen in cats, but it does occur. If we think the kitty has "kennel cough" we are more likely to place the kitty on antibiotics because of the possible bacterial component.

You can help her feel better by adding warm water to her food to make it smell more (they don't eat if they cannot smell) as well as making it easier to swallow soft food with a sore throat. By adding water to her food we are also helping her increase her fluid intake, badly needed with increased loss due to her nasal and eye discharge.
The fluids she gets the better. Offer tuna juice, low salt chicken broth, run the tap if she likes to drink out of the sink.

Take her into the bathroom with you if you run a hot bath or shower as the steam will soothe her sore throat and airways.

If her nose become very congested you can use sterile saline to loosen the thick mucous and remove it. She won't like it but it will help her breathe and be able to smell her food better. You can also use sterile saline to remove eye mucous if it accumulates.

You can give her an amino acid supplement called L-lysine at a dose of 500mg orally twice daily. If this infection is due to Herpes this amino acid interferes with virus replication and will shorten the infection's duration and severity. Good supplements to try are made by the Viralys brand which comes in a powder to add to the food or a tasty gel.

Some lethargy is understandable, let her rest as she needs rest to get better. If your cats normally go outdoors keep her (them) inside until they are back to their normal playful selves.

If she runs a high fever (more than 104F), has a green or yellow nasal or eye discharge, stops eating even with coaxing and clearing her nose and eyes, or starts coughing such that she is having difficulty breathing, or is open mouth breathing, then she needs a veterinary exam.

Sometimes these upper airway infections turn into pneumonia so that's what we need to guard against. In most cases antibiotics aren't needed and can contribute to a decrease in appetite so I don't tend to prescribe them IF this is a viral infection. If I feel there is evidence of a secondary bacterial component (like with "kennel cough infections" then I do prescribe antibiotics. Signs of a bacterial infection include a green or yellow eye or nasal discharge, evidence of pneumonia upon listening to their lungs or an infection that lingers beyond the normal 7 to 10 days.

I highly recommend testing her for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses if her respiratory infection lingers. These immunosuppressive viruses will make a simple infection much worse as they stop the immune system from fighting infections the way it was designed to do.

Other reasons for sneezing and nasal congestion are an infected tooth root, a foreign body inhaled into the nose or a nasal polyp. If she isn't much better in 7 to 10 days she needs a veterinary visit.

Let me know if you have any further questions.

Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 months ago.

Hello, I wanted to make sure that you didn't have any further questions for me, and I'd like to know how things turned out for your new kitty. If you could give me an update that would be great, thank you, ***** *****

Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 months ago.
Hi Sarah,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Paws. How is everything going?

Dr. Kara