Achoo! Achoo!

May 13, 2012 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

We all know what  a sneeze sounds like whether it is from a you or your cat. A sneeze  results from irritation in the nose, which is called rhinitis. An important part of the respiratory tract’s defense system, a sneeze is a reflex action made up of two parts. The first is an irritation within the nasal passages that causes release of inflammatory chemicals, which sensitize the nerve endings, sending a message to the brain. That triggers a series of steps resulting in air being forcibly expelled through the nose.

The sneeze reflex is the same regardless of the cause. However, characteristics of the sneeze point to the cause. If your cat’s sneezes are short with no, or clear, spray discharge and is otherwise healthy, then most likely he is suffering from an allergy or minor irritation. Plug in air fresheners, kitty litter,household products and plants(, especially cut flowers) are common causes of allergies in cats. Even indoor cats can be affected by pollen which comes in through open windows or on clothing. There are many options for treating allergic rhinitis, but the first step is to identify and remove the culprit. If that is not possible, there are many anti-allergy products that can be used safely in cats as directed by your veterinarian.

Sometimes the sneeze is accompanied by a thick greenish-yellow discharge or runny eyes. This is usually indicative of an upper respiratory infection. If your cat also shows signs of not feeling well ( eating less, decreased energy, noisy stuffy breathing), then a visit to the doctor is the next step. Most infections are viral. Two viruses that cause the majority of upper respiratory infections are feline herpes virus and calici virus.  Veterinarians recommend that ALL cats get vaccinated against these viruses because they are quite hardy. They can live outside the body for 7-14 days and you can bring them home( via clothing, hands, or objects.) Often viral infections can be treated the same way as the common cold in humans. Occassionally however, there are complications. In rare cases, calici virus can cause serious, if not life-threatening, disease.  A thorough physical exam and consultation with your veterinarian will result in the best plan for a speedy recovery for your kitty.

Uncommonly  a sneezing cat will   have a discharge out of only one nostril. Sometimes the sneezing will be bloody. This type of sneeze can be indicative of a variety of problems. Your cat may have something stuck up its nose.( Grass seeds are a common nasal foreign body in outdoor cats.) , Sneezing may point to a dental problem; often an abscessed tooth. The roots of a cat’s upper teeth lie very close to the nasal passages. The sneezing can be the result of infection or inflammation surrounding the tooth affecting the nose.  Unilateral nasal discharge and sneezing  also can be indicative of chronic rhinitis – the result of having had an upper respiratory infection that damaged the nasal passages. In rare circumstances in older cats, one sided sneezing and discharge may point to a developing nasal tumor.The diverse reasons for sneezing often require a diagnostic work-up by your veterinarian. The prognosis and treatment plan will depend on the diagnostic results and interpretation.

Although it is  a simple reflex action, the sneeze is an important sign.. Its character is a clue to the cause of your cat’s sneezing and to the best treatment . Your cat’s doctor is the best resource for a successful plan to eliminate your cat’s sneezing problem.

Dr Kathleen Keefe Ternes

Dr. Kathleen Keefe Ternes grew up in western Massachusetts. She received an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1974; a BS degree in 1978 and a DVM in 1979 from Michigan State University. Dr. Keefe Ternes returned home to New England in April 1980. In 1984, she achieved one of her professional goals by opening The Feline Hospital in Salem, MA. . Dr. Keefe Ternes, a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP), initially certified as a companion animal specialist in 1990. She became certified as a feline specialist in 2000 and recertified in 2010. Dr. Keefe Ternes is a member of AAFP, the AVMA, the MVMA, and her local organization, the Veterinary Association of the North Shore (VANS). Her involvement in organized medicine includes having been a past president of VANS and current member of the board of directors. She is also a case reviewer for the ABVP and recently joined the Feline Welfare Committee of the AAFP.

Dr. Keefe Ternes lives in Salem with her husband and two college age daughters. Her two senior cats Toby and Petunia keep her on her toes medically.

The Feline Hospital
81 Webb St
Salem, MA 01970

Phone: 978-744-8020
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