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Monday, May 23, 2011

Coughing Kitty...Or Is It?

I received this email from Dan:

I came across your blog while looking up a possible diagnosis for my cat. He's a big-un, at 20 lbs, and he seriously flipped out when we took him to the vet for his peculiar cough. I've filmed a video of it and uploaded it to YouTube

Any idea what this could be? He's eating fine and going to the bathroom, has plenty of energy. Normally when he coughs like this it's six or seven times in rapid succession, and we caught him at the tail end of it here.

Any help you can provide would be welcomed. We are poor (my wife hasn't been able to find a job for a year) and really can't afford to take him to the vet again.

Thanks if you can give any assistance.

Thanks for sending the video, Dan.   Being able to see something like this is invaluable for a vet since we don't always get to watch what is going on in our clinics.

When I watch your cat, I don't actually see a cough.  I'm also not hearing what is a typical cough.  To me this looks like a type of swallow or regurgitation.  Coughing involves a sudden and forceful expelling of air through the trachea, usually exiting the mouth.  In his case he doesn't actually open his mouth and there doesn't seem to be an expulsion of air.  Additionally it seems like he's involving his abdomen as much as he is his chest.  Maybe my veterinarian readers will have seen something like this and would offer a different opinion.

I would be more concerned about something in his esophagus rather than something in his trachea or lungs. I've seen similar motions from cats when they have a string or blade of grass stuck where they can feel it in their esophagus but cannot swallow it.  My recommendation would first be to show this video to your vet if you haven't already.  If you were in my clinic I would want to sedate him and get a very thorough look at his tongue and the back of his throat.  If this didn't show the problem, I would first make sure there were no signs of pulmonary disease and then look at having endoscopy to look deeper in the esophagus.

Good luck with your kitty and I hope you find the problem.


  1. if it is any help - I watched the video and thought the same before I read your comment.
    Definitely want to look under the palate and see if there is a piece of grass caught in there. We used to get it a lot in Whangarei - far north NZ, as the Kikuyu grass up there was particularly abrasive.

    Hopefully one last expense - but it does need a quick sedation and check as it tries to work its way out to the nose causing infection and damage and pain.

  2. I was thinking regurg as well. Definitely agree on the rads and possible scope of the esophagus and up into the nasopharynx. Might even want to check under the tongue for anything string-like that could be sitting there and irritating the esophagus. Unfortunately, all easiest done with sedation. Unless you see something obvious on radiographs that would not necessitate anesthesia, I think sedation is unavoidable in this case.

  3. Yes, need a thorough oral exam first. He may let you get a quick look without sedation. Radiographs should also be fairly simple without sedation as well.
    A really good history will help... is he outside at all? Any house plants around? Has he been in the trash?
    Good luck!
    Dr. Bill


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