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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 21260
Experience:  Small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats, happy to discuss any questions you have.
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I recently adopted a 2 year old shelter cat and already have

Customer Question

Hello, I recently adopted a 2 year old shelter cat and already have two of my own. A few days after bringing shelter kitty home she started having this harsh hacking cough like she was trying to cough up a hairball, but nothing comes up and it has been a week of random coughs. Now one of my other cats has started doing the same thing, but worse, very loud hacking cough with sneezing. My original two cats were under treatment for feline herpes virus that my kitten brought in from the shelter when we got her. They are not showing signs of the FHV anymore just the hacking cough. It scares me when they do it. Please help!!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Actually to hear that you have multiple cats coughing an some sneezing is highly suggestive of an FHV flare up. As I am sure you can appreciate, this virus is a life time infectious agent. This means once they have it, they do so for life. Often the virus is latent and the cats are asymptomatic. But in periods of stress (ie coming to a new home, new cats meeting one another, etc), the virus often rears its head to cause signs. And as the cats are all adults, we won't expect to see full blown flu signs but instead more mild signs like a cough inducing tracheitis.

Now as long as they are not showing any snotty discharges (a sign of bacterial infection and an indication for antibiotics from their vet), you can use supportive care at home. We want to make sure everyone is getting at least 500mg of L-lysine daily. Furthermore, you can offer soft foods since this will be less abrasive to the throat. If any cat has a poor appetite, then wet kitten food or a liquid diet (ie Clinicare, Catsure, etc) could be used to offset that.

As well, if we have a lot of coughing, then you can try soothing their throats using a mild could suppressant. Examples we can use here are honey+glycerin cough syrup or even plain honey. A few milliliters of these can be given as needed. Alternatively, you can use Robitussin DM but you must take care not to use one with cold medication added to it. It will take some label reading, but do avoid any syrups with cold medications in (ie acetaminophen, paracetamol, ibuprofen or any human cold medications since many are toxic for cats), you just want one to lubricate and soothe the throat. When using Robitussin DM, we tend to give 1 milligram per pound of their body weight every 8 hours.

Overall, this situation sounds highly suspicious of herpes. It often causes subtle signs involving the throat (as its old name is "viral rhinotracheitis") and can affect multiple cats in a stressful situation like this. Therefore, we'd want to keep up as you are but also add the above to soothe their throats. As long as bacterial agents do not creep in, most cats will settle with supportive care within 2 weeks. Of course, if anyone goes off food or seems severely affected, then we'd want a check with their vet as cat safe anti-inflammatories are sometimes needed to reduce those herpes induced effects.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.

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