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My cat Oliver started making a lot of noise while breathing and now he is sneezing and has yellowish discharge coming from his nose. What can I do and what do you think is happening to him?

It sounds like Oliver may be suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection (URI). The vast majority of URIs in cats are caused by viruses. These viruses are spread through direct cat to cat contact, contact with an infected cat’ respiratory secretions, and through indirect contact with contaminated people or objects. Some of the viruses that affect the respiratory tract can “hide” in a cat’s body for long periods of time without causing any issues and may only become a problem after a period of stress (a trip to the vet, a change in routine, an unusual visitor).

Other signs that we typically see with upper respiratory infections include red, watery puffy eyes, discharge from the eyes, corneal ulcers or ulcers in the mouth, poor appetite, and lack of energy. Clinical signs can range from very mild to severe. Sometimes, within a few days cats are feeling back to normal without any treatment at all. Other times veterinarians have to intervene and clinical signs of disease can last several weeks.

At home you should keep Oliver warm, comfortable and clean (by gently wiping his noses and eyes as needed). You should also encourage him to eat and drink so that he does not get dehydrated. Nasal congestion often causes cats to loose interest in food because their appetite is closely linked with their sense of smell. You should coax Oliver to eat with something that has a very strong odor-wet fish-based often does the trick and can help prevent dehydration!

If Oliver looses his appetite for more than a day or two or becomes lethargic, it may be time to see your veterinarian. Adult cats that do not eat for several days are at risk for developing hepatic lipidosis, a life-threatening condition that can lead to liver failure and other metabolic derangements. Your veterinarian may recommend rehydrating Oliver with fluids under his skin, or he/she may give him antibiotics and eye drops to manage any secondary bacterial infections.

Most importantly, if in doubt contact your veterinarian for further recommendations regarding your pet’s health.

[doctor name = “Kristin Kicenuik”]