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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 16896
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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He is around 4 1/2 Yeats old and suddenly having trouble

Customer Question

He is around 4 1/2 Yeats old and suddenly having trouble swallowing and is sneezing
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 month ago.

Hello, I'm Dr. Kara. I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian and I'd like to help. Please give me a moment to review your concerns.

Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 month ago.

I’m sorry to hear that your little one Sandy is sneezing, and having trouble swallowing despite the use of a vaporizer and a steroid dose (5mg Prednisone).

I suspect that he 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. These are easily caught by breathing in virus particles in the air from a sneeze or nasal or eye discharge. We can even bring them into the house on our shoes or clothing after coming into contact with it in the environment. Or it's possible that virus particles came in through the open windows. 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. Symptoms of respiratory infection in cats range from mild sneezing, mild lethargy, eye tearing and redness, gagging or trouble swallowing due to a sore, swollen throat, to high fever, coughing, severe lethargy, matted eyes and crusted nose to pneumonia. If he has a sore throat his voice may be affected too.

A plain steam vaporizer is helpful, but I would not use Vicks in a cat. The menthyl in it can be a respiratory irritant and cause inflammation/swelling and discomfort.

Steroids can help with allergies, but may worsen an infection by suppressing his immune system. I would not give any more prednisone.

You can help him feel better by adding warm water to his food to make it smell more (they don't eat if they cannot smell) as well as making it easier to swallow with a sore throat.

Also the more fluids he gets the better. Offer tuna juice, low salt chicken broth, run the tap if he likes to drink out of the sink. That can thin the mucous in his respiratory tract.

Take him into the bathroom with you if you run a hot bath or shower as the steam will soothe his sore throat and airways and thin mucous in his respiratory tract.

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

You can give him 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.

If he runs a high fever (more than 104F), has a green or yellow nasal or eye discharge, stops eating even with coaxing and clearing his nose and eyes, or starts coughing or having difficulty breathing such that he is open mouth breathing then he 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 unless I feel there is evidence of a secondary bacterial component. These 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.

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

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

Sometimes these upper airway infections turn into pneumonia so that's what we need to guard against.

I highly recommend testing him for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses if his 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/sore throat are a foreign body inhaled into the nose or a nasal or pharyngeal polyp. If he isn't much better in 7 to 10 days he needs a veterinary visit.

Let me know if you have any further questions.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you. I just adopted him a couple of months ago and he was tested for all those things. I have eight other cats in my household. They are all indoor cats. I will take him to the vet tomorrow but just wondered if there's anything I can be doing in the meantime. One of my other cats a young female who is around a year old is showing some of the same symptoms with dripping nose and eyes. I'm really scared about this.
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 month ago.

I'm sorry to hear that you have a couple cats with similar symptoms. That definitely points toward something contagious. Not all cats exposed to a virus will get sick, some or all of your other kitties may have been exposed before and may not show signs of infection because their immune systems have the ability to fight the infection.

Just like in people if this is a viral infection there is no a lot we can do (beyond L-Lysine for all kitties in case this is Herpes), other than supportive care. That includes rest, great diet, including soft foods, pushing fluids, and clearing noses and eyes with sterile saline as needed to help them breathe more easily.

Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 month 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 kitty. If you could give me an update that would be great, thank you, ***** *****