This past month seems to have been a bad one for human sneeze attacks, and pets are not immune. I’m still recovering from coughing, sneezing, sniffle-attacks, and I’m not alone. Now it looks like Karma-Kat has a cat cold.
Human Colds & Coughs
My trouble started when I returned from the Cat Writers’ Association 25th Anniversary Conference in St. Louis. As soon as my plane landed at DFW Airport on Sunday, I began to sneeze. Torrential rain in the area had stirred up lots of pollen and mold, so I assumed that was the culprit. Usually, seasonal allergies don’t bother me, but there’s always a first.
My husband had suffered through coughing and congestion the whole previous week–he is an allergy sufferer, but this was worse. As he slowly recovered, my sneeze attacks got worse. By Friday, the tickle in my throat prompted coughing, and Saturday afternoon, I just felt “off.” The next day, although sneezes subsided, a headache, fever, and queasy tummy left me afraid to risk eating anything. Today, I’m at the end of two weeks of “galloping crud” and finally feel a bit more human. The experience gives me sympathy for how Karma feels, and I hope his “sneezles” soon resolve.
Did Karma Catch My Cold? Well…
Neither Bravo-Dawg or Karma-Kat have ever had problems before. In fact, two weeks ago Karma-Kat visited the vet for his annual wellness check, and was pronounced very healthy, yay! Unfortunately, that’s not the case with many pets, and upper respiratory issues are a common problem in cats. Karma sneezed several times last Sunday, lost his appetite, and hasn’t acted like himself since.
At least Bravo-Dawg remains healthy. He also had his wellness check, At 15 months and 112 pounds, the veterinarian pronounced him a happy healthy boy.
Pets endure their share of stopped up noses, crusty eyes, and hacking coughs. Cat colds and canine coughs not only make pets feel miserable, these signs can also be a sign of a wide range of health problems.
Feline Upper Respiratory Infections
Upper respiratory infection, caused by several different “bugs,” often affects cats. Some of these are related to the common human cold virus. No, Karma-Kat didn’t “catch” my bug. People don’t catch colds from their pets (or vice versa). Cats catch URI from other infected cats, and kittens infected as babies can have outbreaks with cold-like symptoms the rest of the lives. Stress can trigger these episodes. So while I’ve never seen Karma suffer from a cat cold before, he may have had a bout before he adopted us at 8 months of age. His visit to the vet could have been the stress that tipped him over into a sneezy situation.
The viral and bacterial agents that cause kitty congestion usually aren’t lethal i
n adult cats. But cats lose their appetite when they can’t smell their food, so sick felines potentially can starve if they get a stopped up nose.
Some cats and dogs also are affected by inhaled allergens that cause allergic reactions. Rather than sneezing, though, pet allergies more often result in itching.
Fortunately, Karma-Kat hasn’t stopped eating. He has a slight runny nose that causes the sneezing, but he’s not stopped up. He’s getting extra wet cat food to keep him eating and hydrated, and has slept more. As of last night, he felt well enough to share my pillow again, so he’s on the road to recovery.
Are Canine Coughs Dangerous?
Goopy eyes and nose in your dog could be a sign of a life-threatening illness, though, such as distemper. A cough—especially the characteristic honking sound—often accompanies kennel cough (canine infectious tracheobronchitis).
Just as the feline URI can have different causes, kennel cough arises from infection with one or combinations of several infectious agents. It’s spread from dog to dog and can run quickly through a kennel situation. There also is a dog flu disease that thankfully isn’t very common.
Only your veterinarian can diagnose the cause of your pet’s discomfort, and prescribe the best treatment. Preventive vaccinations can help protect cats and dogs from these common illnesses.
Home Remedies for A Cat Cold or Canine Cough
Home nursing tips that can help relieve the discomfort. Use a vaporizer to help unclog the nose. Put the pet in a fairly small room with a cool mist humidifier and use it just the same as you would for a child a couple of times a day. That not only helps break up the congestion, it can moisten inflamed or tender eyes and nostrils and make them feel better.
If you don’t have a vaporizer or humidifier, a hot shower can work. Take the pet into the bathroom with you and run the hot shower so that the air becomes filled with steam. I know tha
t a hot shower helped me with my sneezle-issues! A 10-minute session several times a day works great for cats. Don’t go for longer than that, though, because heated air for too long can be hard for some pets to breathe, especially short-faced Persians or Bulldogs.
Use warm wet cloths or cotton balls to soak and soften eye or nose secretions and clean them off. Don’t peel dried matter off, because that can hurt or even form scabs. To soothe sore tissue after you’ve cleaned off the mucus, dab on a bit of plain saline solution, or some baby oil. That can also make it easier to clean away any more crusts that might form.
Keep Them Eating
Refusing to eat can make a cat sicker or even threaten her life. Offer pungent and more tempting foods to spark the sick cat’s appetite. Warm the food for five seconds in the microwave to just below cat body temperature—about 95 to 98 degrees. That not only makes the treat more alluring, it also unlocks the aroma so the food smells more pungent and penetrates even a stopped-up kitty nose.
Moisture also helps enhance aroma, so try adding a bit of warm water, chicken broth, or tuna juice from the can to the cat’s regular food. Run it through the blender to make a mush, and there’s a good chance that will tempt her appetite.
For cats with frequent recurring URI problems, some veterinarians recommend L-Lysine supplements. I received the product IMMUNE SUPPORT from one of our Cat Writers’ Association sponsors (maple flavor!) and have been giving that to Karma.
With continued bad weather in our future, take steps now to prevent the “achoo” in your Peke-apoo. When your pets feel under the weather, get vet help at the first sniffle.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!