Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Cats

If your cat's sneezing and/or nasal discharge is mild and he/she has a normal appetite and energy level, it is okay to monitor him/her for the first couple of days. Keeping your cat separate from other cats is recommended until a veterinarian gives the okay, since he/she may have a contagious upper respiratory infection.

Signs that Your Cat Needs to See a Veterinarian

  • Sneezing and nasal discharge that persists for more than just a few days
  • Amount of sneezing and nasal discharge increases
  • Color and/or consistency of the nasal discharge changes (i.e., it goes from clear in color and a liquid consistency to yellowish/green in color and a mucous consistency)
  • Rubbing the nose or pawing at the face
  • Noisy or raspy breathing
  • Sneezing and nasal discharge accompanied by other signs of illness (e.g., yellow/green eye discharge, coughing, decreased appetite, vomiting, lethargy)

What You Can Do in the Meantime

  • Keep the living area clean and free of dust particles and foreign matter that can be inhaled. This will protect your cat's nasal and throat passages from further aggravation.
  • The use of a humidifier, a vaporizer, or the steam from a hot shower may help your cat breathe more easily.
  • Gently wipe nasal discharge from your cat's nostrils with a soft damp towel.
  • Your cat may not be able to smell his/her food as well as before. Feed a strong smelling canned food (e.g., tuna, salmon), and warm it slightly.

Common Causes of Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Cats

  • Upper Respiratory Infection (most often caused by herpesvirus or calicivirus)
  • Inhaled irritants and allergens (e.g., smoke, dust, cleaning agents)
  • Dental disease
  • Blockage of the nasal passage (e.g., polyps and foreign objects like grass awns)

Treatment of Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Cats

  • Antibiotics, nasal decongestants, antihistamines, appetite stimulants and/or subcutaneous or intravenous fluids may be needed.
  • Diseased teeth may need extraction.
  • Surgery may be required for the removal of polyps, tumors, or foreign bodies.

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