Q: I am concerned about my 4-year-old Siamese cat who has recently started to wheeze and occasionally sneeze. She doesn't have a runny nose or runny eyes and has a great appetite. She will walk around the house and just act like she has a very bad chest cold. At first, I thought she was purring differently but now it occurs more frequently. Could she be having a cold? Why would she seem sick sometimes and act healthy the rest of the time?
Elaine Zamora, Santa Ana
A: Respiratory ailments are very common in cats and can have a variety of causes. Most are caused by viruses and develop into signs similar to our colds: runny eyes and nose, coughing, fever, and occasional lack of appetite. Cats are also prone to develop allergic bronchial disease which could be due to antigens picked up from grooming or even fighting with other cats. Severe chest diseases such as pneumonia and pleural effusion can occur and are very serious. Tumors and fungal infections do occur and may cause congested-like signs in cats. You should definitely have your cat examined by your veterinarian. An X-ray will be necessary to look for the condition of the lungs, major airways and heart. It may be necessary to get a blood sample to determine if an infection is occurring. Your cat should also be current on vaccinations. Appropriate medication will be started and may need to be continued for several weeks. In some cases, a recheck X-ray may be necessary to follow progress. Your cat may be only having a mild allergic bronchitis but it is important to have her checked out.