There are many reasons why a cat may cough or vomit. Some causes can be very common, like respiratory infections or tummy bugs. In fact we routinely vaccinate cats against the most serious causes of these – the two cat flu viruses and feline parvovirus (panleucopaenia). There are many other causes from asthma and parasitic infections to cancer. In fact we even see coughs caused by emphysema or cancer arising from passive smoking. The following little chap had none of these:
Murdock came in one evening after a sudden onset of vomiting and coughing which was unusual for him. He was was very bright in himself but his owner told us he was also struggling with eating and kept trying to swallow. As Murdock was bright, after discussion with the owner we decided to try some treatment ﬁrst to see if we could get his symptoms to settle.
A few days later Murdock returned, he was eating normally but was still attempting to swallow more often and had also become more snufﬂy. There was nothing on clinical examination to give us any clues. We admitted Murdock to further investigate his symptoms, opting to give him a short anaesthetic so we could have a better look at his nose and throat and to also have a look above his soft palate. Murdock had a history of eating grass, so we started to become suspicious that history was repeating itself.
Sure enough when Murdock was under his anaesthetic after using a spay hook – which we sometimes use for routine operations, we found a very large and sharp grass blade lodged above his soft palate. Without this investigation it is very unlikely that murdock would have been able to clear this obstruction by himself. He was discharged later that day with some pain relief, and looked to be very relieved to be rid of his grass blade.
The symptoms he had been showing resolved almost immediately, and he was back to his usual self by the following day.
Cats and dogs will sometimes eat grass. Cats in particular will sometimes use it to try and clear hair balls. This is normally perfectly harmless and often will not cause any adverse signs. If however, you ever notice your cat sneezing or swallowing more often as in Murdock’s case, it is probably worth booking a check in with one of our vets, especially if the symptoms are not resolving within a day or two.