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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 10379
Experience:  I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years.
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We have a stray we are unable to handle or get to a vet and

Customer Question

We have a stray cat we are unable to handle or get to a vet and he has a terrible cough. Had him with us for 6 years and he's always coughed but now it is much worse can i get something to put in his food to help him

Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 4 years ago.

Hello Vanessa, I'm Dr. Deb and I'll do my best to help you today.

I recently came online and see that your question hasn't been answered. I'm terribly sorry that you've had to wait for an answer; my apologies.

I'm sorry to hear about this concern for your stray cat. I've worked with ferals for quite a while now and it's always difficult to try and make them understand that we're just trying to help them....I've yet to convince many of them of this so far!

There are a number of different possible reasons for a cough in an outside cat like this:
1. Heartworm disease which is transmitted by mosquitoes.
2. Asthma which is similar to this condition in a human: inflammation in the lungs
3. Lungworm which is a parasite that resides in the lungs. (LINK)
4. Upper respiratory infection (although I would expect either a nasal and/or eye discharge to be present, not just a cough).

5. I'll include heart disease on the list to be complete but coughing is more commonly seen in dogs with this condition than in cats.

We don't have good treatment options for #1, although oral steroids such as prednisolone are often used to help reduce the inflammation that triggers the cough associated with this condition.
The treatment for #2 would be steroids.
Steroids would have to be prescribed by a vet, though, and without a patient/client relationship, you may have a difficult time finding someone who will help you....a physical exam would have to be done on this cat, in other words.

The treatment for #3 would be Fenbendazole aka panacur (LINK) which is a powder that could be mixed in with a small amount of smelly, wet food or tuna. Even though the label says it's for dogs, we treat cats with it for this particular problem. This is actually where I would start. You may be able to purchase this drug at pet or grain stroes in England; here in the States, it would have to be prescribed by a vet. You might be able to purchase it online without a prescription...at least I would try.

Depending on the vet, acute and severe upper respiratory infections are treated with antibiotics. Even though most of them are caused by viruses, there is usually a secondary bacterial component. But, again, these would have to be prescribed by a vet. Often a local shelter might work with you to help these cats which might be something to pursue if you think this is the problem.

I wouldn't advise any over the counter cough suppressents without actually knowing the underlying cause of his cough. Cats can be sensitive to many drugs and these might cause more harm....obviously the last think we'd want.

I would try to worm this fella for lungworms before I did anything else.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best with this boy; I know how difficult it is watching him from afar and not being able to significantly help him. Deb