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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 10923
Experience:  I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years.
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Hi, My cat last week started making hacking sounds as if

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My cat last week started making hacking sounds as if she needed to bring up a hairball. She is a short haired cat and dosent usually have any hairball problems as far as I know. She is eating and drinking fine, and also using cat litter tray fine. A week later she is still making hacking noises but not quite as often, she also seems to be licking her lips often too. I'm unfortunately not able to take her to the vets for a few days as I cant get anybody to take me. Is this just a hairball do you think? and what would be the best way in getting rid of it? We have a Pets at Home store close so we could go in there to get something.

Hello Natalie, I'm Dr. Deb.

I recently came online and see that your question about Poppy hasn't been answered. I'm so sorry that you've had to wait for a response,but if you still need assistance, I'd like to help if I can.

While it's not likely that Poppy would develop hairball issues at her age (especially since she's never had such problems in the past), it's possible, I suppose, that this could explain the behavior you're seeing. Sometimes a large wad of hair can become lodged in the stomach and essentially act as a foreign body which triggers attempts to bring it up.

If this is the case, then any over the counter hairball laxative designed for this purpose should be helpful. I'm certain that the store located near to your home will have just the thing. I usually suggest 1-2 inches, 2-3 times a day. These products typically are quite safe but will occasionally cause softer stools if too much is given.

Butter is not a very effective lubricant for these cats so I'm not terribly surprised if it hasn't worked.

It's also possible that she has esophagitis for some reason. If so, then over the counter, human Famotidine (Pepcid AC) may be useful. The dose would be 1/4th of a 10 mg tablet twice a day. This drug may be difficult to find in the UK so an acceptable alternative would be Omeprazole at a dose of 1/2 of a 10 mg tablet once a day.

Sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between attempts to vomit and coughing/gagging associated with the respiratory system.

If this latter possibility exists, then there are other possible explanations for her behavior.

1. Feline Asthma which is similar to this condition in a human in that there is inflammation in the lungs which is triggered by something in the environment such as pollens, smoke, aerosol sprays, etc. Poppy is about the right age when this condition can develop.

This condition can often be a difficult diagnosis to make. Chest x-rays might be suggestive as would bloodwork (eosinophils might be elevated but they aren't in every case). I often diagnose this condition based on a cat's response to steroids. If they are 100% better, then this is the diagnosis. It may seem like a crude way to diagnose this condition, but if I rule out other possible reasons for the signs first (see below)then I don't worry about side effects from steroids.
This LINK discusses this condition in detail.

2. Bordetella or mycoplasma infections can cause respiratory issues which can often be confused with gastrointestinal ones (attempts to vomit).

Doxycycline 5 mg/kg twice a day can be given to rule out these diseases. This drug has the added benefit of anti-inflammatory properties

3 . Lung worm which is a parasite that is most often diagnosed with a fecal sample although these cats are coughing more than they are gagging or hacking.

This condition would be less likely in an inside cat.One effective treatment would be panacur.

4. Heartworm disease. This disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and depending on where you live in the UK, may be a real possibility. Again, most cats are coughing, though.

We do have a test for this condition which is often done in a vet's office but it's reliability has recently come into question. Unfortunately, we don't have an effective treatment for this disease in cats. This disease is different in a cat than in a dog and the symptoms are related to inflammation in the lungs. As a result, steroids can often be helpful.

5. Upper respiratory infections are at the bottom of this list for a reason. These cats are usually sneezing and have discharge from the eyes and/or nose. Stress can trigger an episode if a chronic condition and acute ones can be seen if the cats go outside.



I hope this helps; again, my apologies for the delayed response to you. Deb


I’m just following up on our conversation about Poppy. How is she doing? Deb

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi there. Thanks for your response. I went out and bought poppy some hairball remedy stuff and gave her that for a few days. She seems to be ok, not hacking anymore as far as I can tell, but she has a bit of a course meow which I forgot to mention in my last post. Can the hacking cause this you think? She still seems to be fine in herself, grooming etc. Probably not drinking as much as she should but I do feed her jelly food which she loves and this type of food usually holds alot of water ive heard. Any further advice would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Thanks for taking the time to send me an update about Poppy; I'm glad to hear that she's feeling better as far as her hacking is concerned.

Cats can develop laryngitis which is either going to be a primary condition or secondary to something else (the more common of the two) and can cause the meow to sound differently.

Any irritation to the throat which might cause inflammation and/or swelling of the structures in the back of the throat could be responsible.
Infections such as Upper Respiratory Infections (aka Feline Flu), ingestion of irritating substances (such as grass), inhalation of irritating vapors are possible causes. I don't typically associate this condition with vomiting or gagging but I wouldn't entirely rule it out either since I'm not a huge fan of coincidence.

In most cases, a cat's meow will return to normal within about a week or so. I do generally advise soft foods rather than kibble which can further irritate the throat but it sounds as if she's already eating this.

I don't usually recommend any over the counter medications since the problem usually resolves itself in a relatively short period of time especially if she's otherwise acting fine. Deb

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Dr. Deb, thanks for all the advice. Poppy's voice seems to be slowly on the mend. She has been not as vocal over the last few days as must of been a bit sore for her but this morning she was very vocal in letting me know she was hungry! still a bit croaky but I think give it a few days she should be fine. I get so worried when it comes to my animals and hate to see when they are not themselves. Thanks again.

That's excellent news that Poppy appears to be improving:)
I know how hard it is to see our pets when they're ill or acting uncharacteristically but it sounds like you don't have to be as concerned about her least for now, anyway:)

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