Why Is My Cat Sneezing?
It can be a weird sight to see your cat sneeze for the first time, and you might even wonder if it’s something you should worry about.
It turns out that a sneeze now and then is fine, but if your cat won’t stop sneezing, there could be something else going on.
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian with Paramount Pet Health, and Dr. Alex Crow, a veterinarian with Happiest Dog, to find out why your cat keeps sneezing and if you should be concerned.
Something stuck in his nose
According to Dr. Burch, if your cat only sneezes every once in a while, he probably just has something irritating his nose.
“Cats can sneeze from a simple nose tickle with dust, pollen or dirt,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo. “If a blade of grass or hair becomes stuck in the nasal passage, the irritation will cause your cat to sneeze.”
Upper respiratory infections
Cats can get upper respiratory infections (URIs), which is a common cat health problem that can cause cats to sneeze (the symptoms are similar to the common cold for humans).
“Upper respiratory infections caused by a viral, fungal or secondary bacterial infection will result in your cat sneezing,” Dr. Burch said.
Herpesvirus and calicivirus are the most common causes of URIs in cats, and they account for about 90 percent of infections. Other common causes of upper respiratory infections in cats include bordetella and chlamydia. (These diseases can all be prevented by getting your cat vaccinated.)
The infection doesn’t last for that long (about 7 to 10 days), but cats can become carriers, which means they’ll have it for life, even if they don’t have symptoms.
“It is essential to realize these infections will be permanent and re-emerge in stressful times,” Dr. Burch said. “Stressful events, such as surgery, boarding or a new introduction to the family, can cause symptoms to reappear.”
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
Feline immunodeficiency virus affects a cat’s immune system, which makes them more susceptible to other infections. The virus moves slowly, so cats may not have symptoms for years as the virus develops. While there’s no cure for FIV, most cats with the virus have normal life spans.
Cats can have allergies, and just like people, they might sneeze if there’s too much pollen in the air.
“Some cats are prone to chronic inhalation allergies or food allergies, which can cause sneezing as a symptom,” Dr. Burch said. “Cats with underlying allergies can also be itchy along their body or have recurrent ear infections along with displaying sneezing.”
Your cat may need prescription medication if he has severe allergies, but for mild allergies, the most common antihistamine for cats is chlorpheniramine.
Try chlorpheniramine antihistamine tablets for cats from Amazon for $4.16
Cat sneezing can sometimes be a sign of cancer. If your cat has a tumor in his nose or sinuses, he could have symptoms that are similar to an upper respiratory infection, such as sneezing, congestion and a runny nose.
While your cat’s teeth may seem unrelated to his nose, dental problems can actually cause sneezing — and dental disease is a super common issue for cats.
“Pets with a history of dental disease can develop sneezing when the tooth root damage is not treated,” Dr. Burch said.
The roots of your cat’s upper teeth are in his upper jaw, which is close to his sinuses. So if your cat’s teeth get infected, the infection can travel into his sinuses and nasal passages, causing your cat to sneeze.
The best way to prevent dental disease is to brush your cat’s teeth at least a few times a week (ideally every day) and take him for regular teeth cleanings. You can also give him dental treats to clean his teeth and freshen his breath between brushing.
Try these Greenies dental treats from Amazon for $8.32
Why is my cat sneezing blood?
The sight of your cat sneezing blood might be scary, but not all of the causes are an emergency. For example, cats can get bloody noses when the blood vessels inside their nasal passages break, similar to how people get bloody noses (which are totally harmless).
“This can mean many things, including upper respiratory infection, a fungal infection, problems with blood clotting, high blood pressure, a head or face injury, or something could be lodged in their nasal passage,” Dr. Crow told The Dodo. “All of these problems need to be assessed and fixed by a vet, so you should take them to a pet hospital right away.”
Some causes of nosebleeds in cats that can be serious or an emergency include:
- Trauma (something hurting or stuck in his nose)
- Eating rodent poison or eating an animal who consumed rat poison
- Liver failure
- Feline leukemia virus (there’s a vaccine for this)
- Medication side effects
- Feline immunodeficiency virus
- Hemophilia (a problem with blood clotting)
- Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (an autoimmune disorder where a cat has low production of blood platelets)
You should treat your cat sneezing blood as an emergency if you notice a lot of blood, if it happens multiple times or if you notice other symptoms.
When should I be worried about my cat sneezing?
The occasional sneezing fit is probably nothing to worry about. Your cat may just have some dust in his nose. But according to Dr. Crow, if your cat’s sneezing way more than usual, it could mean something’s wrong.
“Sneezing is common but should be taken seriously if your cat is sneezing excessively,” Dr. Crow said. “It is important to monitor if it is an excessive amount of sneezing, as you may need to take them to see your vet.”
You’ll know how much your cat normally sneezes, but if your cat’s sneezing multiple times a day for several days in a row, that’s likely excessive.
You should also look for other symptoms along with your cat’s sneezing so you can determine if he’s sick.
“Additional symptoms to look out for are nasal discharge, which may be colored yellow, green or brown; bloody nose; foul odor; increased effort to breathe or open-mouth breathing; and decreased appetite,” Dr. Burch said.
If you notice any symptoms in addition to sneezing, or if your cat keeps sneezing and won’t stop, take him to the vet.
Why is my cat reverse sneezing?
You might have been freaked out if you’ve ever seen your cat reverse sneeze, but it’s totally normal.
Reverse sneezing is usually caused by some kind of irritant, like food or water, strong smells or something getting in your cat’s nose. “Reverse sneezing results from a spasm due to irritation of the soft palate and throat,” Dr. Burch said.
It’s basically like sneezing, but your cat will inhale instead of exhale, and he’ll probably make a weird noise while doing it. It’s harmless, and it’ll stop as soon as the spasm is over.
Cats sneeze every now and then, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. But if your cat keeps sneezing and doesn’t stop, you should take him to the vet to get checked out.
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