Chronic Upper Respiratory Tract Problems in Cats

It's fairly common for cats to have upper respiratory tract (URT) disease, and it can become chronic.  This is usually indicated by excessive mucus, sneezing, and breathing problems and can be difficult to diagnose.  Gale K. writes:

Velvet has a runny nose pretty well all the time. We have been to the vet multiple times. She has been on medications and had x-rays. She sneezes a lot and mucus comes out thick. I’ve stopped going to the vet because she gets so stressed. It’s been two years since I’ve been there. She seems to be more relaxed now. Velvet was a stray. I don’t know how old she is but she has her adult teeth. She and I are very happy now. She still sneezes out mucus a lot but is much happier. Could this possibly be due to polyps?

Gale, it's important that you continue to seek veterinary treatment for Velvet.  We all know how difficult that can be for cats, but it's absolutely necessary.  The process of diagnosing and treating Velvet's URT disease requires time, with evaluation of the effectiveness of each course of treatment as it proceeds.

We aren't veterinarians here at KHD, but we can give you some paths that you can explore with your own vet.  There are many potential causes of URT disease.  The most common cause of the symptoms you describe is chronic post-viral rhinitis.  That's a fancy way of saying that a cat has gotten a bacterial infection as a result of damage done to nasal tissues by a viral infection of their upper respiratory system.

Other common causes are fungal infections, polyps, allergies, dental issues, tumors, and even physical injury (trauma).  You can see just how difficult it might be to pin down the cause.  If you'd like to treat or cure this problem for Velvet, you'll have to be patient with your veterinarian as he or she works to figure it out.  This will usually require blood tests, urine tests, x-rays, biopsies and/or endoscopic exams, all depending on the indications.

Gale, you're not alone in avoiding taking your feline friend to the vet.  It's hard to put them through any sort of stress when all you want if for them to be happy.  So many cats are distressed by the process that many caregivers neglect even an annual exam.  It's imperative that we get better medical treatment for cats and the only way we can do that is to bring them to the veterinarian.  You can space the visits out and possibly even gather test samples at home, but at the end of the day, your veterinarian is going to need to see Velvet in person.

There are a few vets out there who make house calls, and in some larger metropolitan areas there are practices that cater only to cats.  We've also read about veterinarians who schedule quiet times during which they only accept cats. 

Whatever you choose to do, Gale, just be aware that there are always treatment options.  We wish you and Velvet all the best!