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Coughing vs Hairball vs Asthma

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hi all, can anyone explain to me the difference between what it looks like for a cat to be coughing, vs 'coughing' up a hairball?


My cats are sleek, one-coated Korats, so I never thought hairballs would be an issue - and I've never seen anything come up.  The reason I ask is we have been battling for about 6 months with a recurrent flu.  We have just finished a long dose of antibiotics this time (4 weeks), and enjoyed seeing Kato's energy come back and he started asking for plays again (previously he was a play-a-holic, like 3 hrs a day).  So we are watching and hoping that no symptoms come back...but last week on one occasion only, after he woke from a nap, he started to cough.  His tongue was poked out a bit, he wasn't crouched low with his neck extended, he was doing a lot of swallowing, and it seemed like he wanted to get up something from his throat.  In   fact it looked a bit in some instances like dry-retching, there was a bit of spit.  We let him out to the balcony where the cat grass is, thinking that might help, and he went straight for it and ate a good bit.  After that, all fine.


If this last lot of antibiotics doesnt work, the next thing to investigate is asthma.  So question no.2, what types of symptoms does asthma present in a cat?  He certainly doesn't look like he is trying to wheeze in air.

post #2 of 5

I don't have a cat with asthma, at least I don't think I do... =\


I've only had my two for so long, but usually within two days after they have their "coughing" fit I see a wet pile of a hairball usually. I've looked up a whole lot of asthma vs hairball videos and it's extremely difficult to tell between the two. I don't think it will hurt to get your kitty checked out for asthma, definitely. 


From the materials I've read, I'd say feline asthma is similar to human asthma. I know that asthma is just not wheezing but also not being able to breathe as well. Depending on the amount of mucous discharge the coughs can be wet vs dry. I find that sometimes that if I have a lot of mucous in my chest my "wheezing" can sound louder, despite being able to breathe fairly well. When I have a cold, I "wheeze" louder.


Sorry i can't help too much. I can only talk about asthma using myself as a subject. 


Hope someone can chime in... 

Edited by pinkman - 1/2/14 at 5:01am
post #3 of 5

When my Munchie has an asthma attack, he will hold his head low to the ground with his neck extended and cough, almost like he is trying to cough something up.  Sometimes his neck is not lowered or extended.  He is in need of a depo medrol shot right now as his inhalers aren't helping him as much.  He is very wheezy when he is breathing. 

post #4 of 5

I thought at one point that Max might be asthmatic as he would occasionally have coughing fits that would produce no hairballs. One of my vets who checked Max didn't think it was asthma but rather irritation from ingested hair. As Pinkman suggests, coughing fits from asthma or hairballs can look very similar, but the difficulty in breathing is one of the basic differences I think. Best to get your cats lungs checked by a vet to know for sure.

post #5 of 5

Charlie cat has asthma. One of the vets just kept giving her de-wormer thinking it was kitten worms. One of the other vets at the practice suggested an x-ray because she is a bit of a wheezy breather at times and just happened to be doing that on one particular vet visit. So then she got a liquid steroid in Pet-tinic that I was to give when she was having a coughing fit--and then maintenance twice a week.


The coughing feeds on itself and the more she coughs, the harder it is to stop. She stretches her neck and coughs making a honking sound.


What is actually very odd though is that her symptoms suddenly stopped this past summer which is years later after being diagnosed. She's nine now. The symptom easing occurred after a seemingly endless supply of antibiotic after she got a tooth pulled.


Usually she has the most difficulty with the season changes--fall to Winter, is hardest but she also has issues when we move from Spring to Summer. There was a bit of coughing this year, but noticeably less. 

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