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Cat breathing hard/wheezing in his sleep

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Hi guys. My 9-year-old cat Simon has some weird breathing in his sleep that is confusing all of us, vet included. The wheezing is in his sleep, but once a week or so he coughs like he has a hairball that can't come up. An x-ray has ruled out asthma.

It all started a little over 2 months ago when he coughed -- it sounds like a dry hairball cough but nothing comes up. In fact, I thought it was a hairball, but a week later it happened again. About this time I noticed that when he slept he wheezed, almost like a snore, and sometimes breathed really heavy. It only happens in his sleep, never when he's awake.

The vet said it was just allergies and suggested Benadryl, but he won't take it. A week later I asked for antibiotics because he had nasal running and green goo in his eyes. The antibiotics cleared up the nasal drip and eye goo, but he was still having rough breathing in his sleep and every 5-7 days he would cough again.

I took him back to the vet. We were thinking asthma, but the x-rays came back showing no asthma. However, she did think he had a slightly enlarged heart, but we sent the x-rays to the local university vet med center and the radiologists there said they didn't think the heart was enlarged enough to be considered abnormal. (Apparently they didn't notice asthma, either.) In the meantime he felt better and hadn't coughed much, so the vet suggested it was either allergies or possibly a nasal polyp.

I question both of these things, because if it was either then he would have weird breathing even when awake, right? And he doesn't sneeze at all. We've gotten him to take 2 mg of chlorpheniramine (generic Chlor-Trimeton) a day, but I don't think it's made any difference.

In the last week he has had 2 very brief coughing spells when awake and continues to wheeze/snore/breathe heavy in his sleep. His appetite is fine, his catpan habits are fine, he doesn't seem lethargic.

I am seriously confused. Does anyone have any thoughts? Could it be asthma despite the x-ray? Any suggestions would be very welcome!
post #2 of 7
It sounds like what my Coco does and she has asthma.
Can you have another vet check for asthma?
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
There aren't many vets in town, but maybe I'll call my vet and ask if she's 100% sure.
post #4 of 7
Good Idea
They can wheeze from some heart problems also.
post #5 of 7
Where do you live? Is the air conditioner running all the time? Try running a humidifier to see if it helps... Is there a possibility of him having inhaled any chemicals? Sprays? Breathing cleaning supplies?

Have you tried steroids along with the antibiotics and the anti-allergic to see if the cough goes away? Not depo medrol, but sometimes a short term steroid injection can take care of the inflammation enough for the breathing passages to heal, taking care of the cough.

My Lucky had a similar cough spell, and that did work for her... We never figured what exactly was, but treating the symptoms helped her heal on her own. if your kitty doesn't, you can try further diagnostics; IMO it is worth trying.

The wheezing concerns me. If it is snoring, then it is better, some cats do snore... But wheezing during sleep can be a sign of heart problems.

Your kitty also sounds congested, and like he had a cold- he might have herpes- have your vet discussed this at all with you? The goo on his eyes, runny nose... Those are classic cold symptoms very often caused by the feline herpes virus. That might be the problem... If that is the case, adding L-Lysine to your kitty's diet is of great benefit, and an easy way to keep him healthy. Here in my house they all get lysine on their water fountain- I don't even need to worry about giving it every day, and it keeps colds at bay. With Lysine, some steam baths and TLC tyour boy should be just fine

I would discuss these things with your vet and see what he thinks- for the heart, have him do a complete chest X-ray they take it in different angles, to see if there is a problem, the one you have might not be the best view for that.

Good luck with your boy!
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
The x-rays were done at different angles, and my vet as well as radiologists at the local university vet med center looked at them. While my vet thought there was slight cardiomyopathy, the vet med center felt the heart was in the normal size range. Simon's blood work also came back normal.

He does have the feline herpes virus, so both our cats get Lysine as a supplement once a day.

We didn't try anything for asthma because the x-rays seemed to rule it out.

It could be snoring I suppose, but he used to snore occasionally and this sounds different. I should mention the vet said when she listened to his chest that the wheeze/noise sounded like it was coming from the neck area and not the chest.
post #7 of 7
The steroid i mentioned wouldn't be for the asthma- yes, I understand it is used for asthma too, but I am referring to a single injection of a short term steroid to calm down the inflammation, giving him the time to heal on his own, without coughing. just an idea- it worked for my cat... she doesn't have asthma either.
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