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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 17904
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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My cats are sneezing and coughing but are otherwise fine. No

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My cats are sneezing and coughing but are otherwise fine. No temperature runny eyes or anything else. What is wrong with them?
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I'm sorry to hear that your kitties are sneezing, and coughing.
Because this is affecting multiple kitties and as your older kitty has now improved, I suspect that they are passing a contagious upper respiratory infection to each other. 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. 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 can range from sneezing, coughing, slightly red eyes, a nasal and/or eye discharge, to a high fever, open mouth breathing because their nose is so congested, severe lethargy and rarely pneumonia or very rarely sudden death.
You can help them feel better by adding warm water to their food to make it smell more (they don't eat well if they cannot smell) as well as making it easier to swallow with a sore throat. 
Also the more fluids they get the better. Offer tuna juice, low salt chicken broth, run the tap if they like to drink out of the sink.
Take them into the bathroom with you if you run a hot bath or shower as the steam will soothe sore throats and airways and thin the mucous in their respiratory tracts making it easier to breathe.
If their noses become very congested you can use sterile saline to loosen the thick mucous and remove it. They won't like it but it will help them breathe and be able to smell their food better. You can also use sterile saline to remove eye mucous if it accumulates.
You can give them 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.
Some lethargy is understandable, let them rest as they need rest to get better. If your cats normally go outdoors keep them inside until they are back to their normal playful selves.
If you want to try Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to dry up their noses a normal dose is 1mg to 2mgs per pound of body weight every 8 to 12 hours. So a cat 7 to 15 pounds could take one half of a 25mg tablet every 8 to 12 hours. OR you could try another antihistamine, chlorpheniramine at 4mg per cat orally every 12 to 24 hours.
If anyone 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 such that they are 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 10 or so days.
I highly recommend testing for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses if this 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 are an infected tooth root, a foreign body inhaled into the nose or a nasal polyp but those would be individual problems and less likely to affect multiple cats in one home.
Let me know if you have any further questions.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The two younger cats are coughing occasionally and I think have a slight difficulty swallowing. Dip their heads when swallowing although are having no problem eating or drinking.
It sounds like they probably have some post nasal drip and a sore throat from your description of their behavior. I am glad that for now it isn't affecting their appetite or drinking.
I would push fluids though and feed soft foods with added liquids as a support measure.
I would also use steam/humidifiers to keep secretions thin.
And I would give them an L-lysine supplement as directed above. It cannot hurt and could be beneficial.
For now they don't sound like they need a veterinary visit, just supportive home care and keeping a close eye on them. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
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