Sneezing is a protective reflex that manifests as an explosive expiratory airflow that dislodges and expels foreign particles from the nasal cavities. The onset, nature, duration, and progression may be important. It can be sudden and violent, as in the case of foreign bodies, but tends to decrease as the disease process becomes chronic, even if the discharge persists or increases 4.
Signs of acute sneezing or nasal discharge indicate inflammation of the nasal cavity (rhinitis), which in cats is often the result of bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Sneezing may be frequent, or it may come and go in cases of chronic rhinitis. Affected cats may also experience an aspiration effect (reverse sneezing), a short, rapid inhalation in an attempt to clear the nose 2.
Causes of Acute Sneezing & Nasal Discharge
- Bacteria - Bordetella bronchiseptica (causes respiratory disease), Chlamydophila (causes ocular disease), Mycoplasma (causes feline infectious anemia).
- Viruses - feline viral rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus-1), calicivirus. Viral infections are usually accompanied by nasal and ocular discharge, lethargy, loss of appetite, and fever.
- Fungi - Cats with nasal cryptococcosis also have clear or pus-filled discharge from the nasal passages.
- Foreign body lodged in the respiratory tract. Sneezing is violent and persistent, with pawing at the face.
- Bleeding nasal ulcers. These can be caused by such as squamous cell carcinoma, eosinophilic granuloma or calicivirus infection. Bleeding ulcers may also be caused by intranasal tumors. Sneezing and snuffling worsens with time and becomes more violent. Snorting and snorting may result from nasal obstruction.
Sneezing also may result from exposure to certain environmental allergens causing allergic rhinitis. Cats can be allergic to pollen, house dust, or cat litter. This type of sneezing is often accompanied by clear nasal discharge. Allergies cannot be cured, but they can be managed with medications, such as glucocorticoids and, in some cases, antihistamines 3. Your veterinarian may offer to have your cat tested for some common allergens which you can remove from the environment.
- Jacquie Rand. Problem-Based Feline Medicine
- Scott Line, Cynthia M Kahn (editors). The Merck/Merial Manual For Pet Health
- Michael Schaer. Clinical Medicine of the Dog and Cat
- Lesley G. King. Textbook of Respiratory Disease in Dogs and Cats