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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 16138
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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I recently cleaned out a room under the stairs and found mouse

Customer Question

I recently cleaned out a room under the stairs and found mouse droppings. I bleached the area. While it was drying (or possibly dry already), my cat decided to investigate the newly vacant room. She now has random coughing fits that sound like she's trying to cough up a hairball, but nothing comes of it. I bought hairball laxative stuff from the local pet store and she won't let me near her with it. She shakes it off her paw rather than licking it off.
Any suggestions as to what might be wrong? It is a respiratory thing from the bleach, a hairball that doesn't want to vacate, or possibly something else? Its possibly she had the cough before the exposure, but I don't think so. Exposure was 9 days ago.
Should I just suck it up and take her to a vet?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 year ago.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.I am sorry to hear about your girl's intermittent cough that seems to have started after exposure to bleach fumes. A cough indicates that her respiratory system is irritated.If her intermittent cough is seeming to linger without any nasal or eye discharge a bacterial or viral infection seems very unlikely.A dry cough can be a sign of heartworm disease. The most common symptoms for heartworm disease in a cat are coughing or gagging/vomiting. A simple blood test will help diagnose heartworm.Another possibility, especially if she is allowed outdoors to hunt, is a lungworm infection. These can be more difficult to diagnose but checking several stool samples for eggs or trying a course of fenbenadazole (Panacur) worming medication may be diagnostic if she gets better.Of course the other possibility is feline asthma. Asthma symptoms can be triggered by breathing in a respiratory irritant like bleach as this stimulates an inflammatory cascade which leads to coughing and a struggle to breathe. We can usually diagnose asthma with radiographs of the chest when they are showing symptoms. But if we don't catch them during an episode radiographs can look clear.Heart disease is another possibility but I would her to be sicker with heart disease, and I wouldn't expect her cough to start after exposure to bleach. If she seems relatively normal otherwise, eating and drinking well, and active than heart disease is less likely. It would be very reasonable to check a heartworm test as well as a stool sample and worm her with fenbendazole. If those aren't diagnostic and she isn't improving the next step would be to take chest radiographs and look for changes consistent with asthma and compare them to the previous ones taken to see if there have been any changes if she has ever had radiographs taken before.If her radiographs look suspicious for asthma or even if they look clear when she isn't coughing then try a course of bronchodilators (oral like theophylline or inhaled) and inhaled cortisone (like fluticasone). In most cases inhaled formulation of both drugs work best. In some cases your veterinarian may start with an injection of steroids to get her some immediate relief. Inhaled formulations can work directly on the lungs, and thus tend to work better in the long run, and because they aren't systemic they have less side effects.Rarely a nasopharyngeal polyp or a fungal infection can be the cause of a cough, so looking further with sedation and a nasal scope, as well as a look behind the soft palate may be needed, if she isn't coming along. These seem less likely given the sudden onset of symptoms, but are possible. There aren't any good over the counter medications to give a cat with a cough, other than a wormer like fenbendazole, but hopefully I have given you the information you need to approach her cough and the diagnostic testing that will help pin the cause down and get her appropriate treatment.Best of luck with your girl, please let me know if you have any further questions.
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 year ago.
Hello, I'm just checking to make sure that you don't have any further questions for me, and see how your kitty is progressing. Please let me know if you have any further questions.