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Causes of respiratory diseases in cats and their treatment

Respiratory diseases in cats are very common diseases, during which cats need plenty of fluids, rest, and nutritious foods, in addition to some medications that the veterinarian may prescribe.

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Treatment of respiratory disease in cats


Some of the symptoms that appear on cats, such as sneezing, nasal congestion, discharge from the nose and eyes, and others, are often evidence of a respiratory infection, which are common disease caused by a variety of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. The extremely contagious infections were not completely eradicated despite the immunizations significantly reducing the likelihood that cats would get major respiratory disorders. What are the causes of respiratory infections, what are the symptoms caused by each of them, and how can they be treated?


Symptoms of respiratory diseases in general in cats


Respiratory infections may affect the upper or lower respiratory tract, as the upper respiratory tract includes the nasal passages, sinuses, pharynx, and larynx, while the lower respiratory tract includes the bronchi, bronchi, and lungs. As for the symptoms that affect the upper respiratory tract, they vary according to the cause and location of the infection, but there are some common clinical signs of it, and they include the following:


  • Sneeze.
  • Congestion.
  • Runny nose.
  • Cough.
  • Secretions from the nose and eyes.
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite or lack of appetite.
  • Nose and mouth ulcers.
  • Rubbing the eyes.
  • Idle.
  • Hoarse voice.


While the symptoms of a lower respiratory infection include the following:


  • Cough.
  • Lethargy.
  • Anorexia.
  • Difficulty or rapid breathing (the number of breaths should not exceed 35 breaths per minute while resting).


Causes of respiratory diseases in cats and the symptoms characteristic of each

Viruses are the most common causes of respiratory infections, in addition to that they may be caused by bacteria and fungi as well. In general, the most common respiratory pathogens are:


  • Feline herpesvirus: This infection is sometimes referred to as feline viral rhinitis and about 97% of cats become infected with this virus during their lifetime, and young and teenage cats are more susceptible to infection. Symptoms of infection with this virus include those of the aforementioned upper respiratory tract infection, corneal ulcer (erosion of the outer layer of the cornea, also called keratitis, the cornea is the transparent layer that covers the front of the eye), and fever.


  • Feline calicivirus: This virus is highly contagious and common in cats all over the world. Although most cats infected with calicivirus present with symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection, the infection may spread to the lower respiratory tract and cause pneumonia. Viral pneumonia may be exacerbated by secondary bacterial infections in the lungs, leading to increased breathing difficulty. In rare cases, cats may suffer from infections or ulcers in the mouth, swelling of the head and limbs, scaly sores, hair loss in the nose, eyes, ears, and paw pads, and the mouth and ears may turn yellow due to liver damage, and cats may suffer from bleeding in the liver. Gastrointestinal tract and under the skin, which results from the hemorrhagic calicivirus.


  • Chlamydia trachomatis, also called Chlamydia: Is a bacterium that requires close contact between cats for infection to occur, and infection is often transmitted through eye secretions. Infection occurs most commonly in kittens and cats in crowded shelters. The characteristic symptoms of this infection are conjunctivitis and abundant discharge from the eyes that are transparent at first and later turn into a mucus-like consistency with a pus-like appearance. In addition, infected cats rarely lose their appetite or become lethargic.


  • Fungus: There are several types of fungi that cause respiratory illnesses in cats, the most common being (Cryptococcus Neoformans), which may come from bird droppings and decaying plants. Among the most common symptoms of this infection is the presence of a swelling in the nose or face with sneezing, abundant secretions from the nose that may become bloody, and non-healing wounds or polyps that may appear in the nose. In addition, affected cats may experience changes in the tone of their voice, with a snoring sound or a loud sound during breathing, and they might also lose a lot of weight and start to lose their appetite. If the infection spreads to the lungs, cats may exhibit difficulty breathing or rapid breathing.


Diagnosis of respiratory diseases in cats


As soon as you notice symptoms affecting the upper respiratory tract, you should take the cat to the vet, who will look at the symptoms and may order some additional tests to determine the type of infection, such as:


  • Blood tests.
  • Eye or mouth swabs.
  • X-ray imaging.


Treatment of respiratory diseases in cats


Your vet will determine the best way to treat a sick cat, and this may include isolation, rest, intravenous fluids, nutritious foods, and medications. Among the treatments that the veterinarian may prescribe are the following:


  • Eye drops if the cat has purulent discharge.
  • Nasal decongestants or saline spray if nasal discharge is copious or nasal tissue becomes painful.
  • An appetizer for cats with very low appetites.
  • Certain antibiotics, because although viral infections do not respond to antibacterial medications, may be prescribed to prevent secondary bacterial infections from complicating the disease in cats.
  • Certain antivirals to treat certain upper respiratory symptoms.
  • Some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce oral pain, especially when infected with feline calicivirus.
  • Antibiotics such as doxycycline or amoxicillin/clavulanic acid to treat chlamydia bacteria.
  • Some antifungal medications are when infected with fungus.
  • A group of vaccines against viruses such as the feline herpes virus, calicivirus, and others that the doctor can recommend. Although these vaccines do not prevent infection with viruses, they reduce the severity of symptoms, and these vaccines require regular booster doses.

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While your cat is recovering at home, you can take some steps at home to help her feel better, such as:


  • Put it in a private and comfortable place.
  • Encourage her to eat enough food and hydration, as cats with respiratory diseases may lose part of their sense of smell, so you may need to lure her with some smells that she loves, such as the smell of fish.
  • Gently clean secretions from eyes and nose.
  • Exposing the cat to hot water steam or a hot bath if breathing is difficult, and this is something that the doctor may suggest.
  • Use the medications prescribed by your doctor exactly as directed.


In conclusion, it is indicated that if respiratory diseases in cats, especially upper respiratory tract infections, are not treated, they may turn into pneumonia or cause other serious complications, such as blindness or chronic breathing problems.

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