Why is My Cat Gulping When Swallowing?

Occasional gags and coughs are normal for cats when they eat. However, if your cat is frequently gulping, gagging, coughing, or having trouble chewing or swallowing, it may have an underlying health issue.

The Importance of Seeking Veterinary Attention

If you notice unusual behavior in your cat, such as difficulty eating or frequent gulping and gagging during meals, it is crucial to take your furry friend to the vet. Ignoring the problem may lead to further complications that make treatment more challenging.

Understanding the Causes of Gulping in Cats When Swallowing

The most common cause of cats gulping when swallowing is a condition called dysphagia. However, the treatments for this condition depend on the underlying cause.

Hairballs are a common cause of gulping in cats, but frequent gulping could also indicate feline asthma, which is often mistaken for hairballs.

Feline Dysphagia

Dysphagia refers to difficulty swallowing and can occur in different forms. It may be caused by anatomical or neuromuscular issues. Cats with dysphagia may make gulping sounds while attempting to swallow or eat in an unusual manner.

Symptoms of dysphagia can include chewing in a tilted position, food lodged in the cheeks without saliva, hiccups-like behavior, dropping food, or appearing to try to swallow without actually eating.

There are various causes of dysphagia, including dental disease, muscle deterioration, tongue or jaw paralysis, and the inability to open the mouth. Some causes are treatable, while others are not. This condition can lead to distress and weight loss in cats.

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Hairballs in Cats

Hairballs are a common issue in cats and can cause gagging, gulping, retching, and hacking sounds. If not managed properly, hairballs can lead to intestinal blockages. Certain breeds, such as Maine Coons and Persians, are more prone to hairballs.

If your cat has a hairball problem, it may try to gag and vomit the hairball out. However, if your cat continues to gag without success and shows signs of poor appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, or constipation, it’s essential to seek veterinary assistance.

Feline Asthma

Feline asthma is an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens. It can cause hacking, gulping, wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing in cats. Common triggers include dust, pollen, smoke, mold, and various other substances.

Gulping in cats with asthma may resemble hairball coughing, but there are distinct differences. Hairball coughing is often accompanied by retching and vomiting, while asthma is a respiratory condition that can cause breathing difficulties.

Certain breeds, such as Burmese and Siamese, are more susceptible to asthma. The condition may occur in cats aged 2-8.

Seeking Veterinary Diagnosis and Treatment

It is crucial to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Your vet may conduct a physical examination, blood tests, radiographs, and other imaging studies to assess your cat’s condition.

Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause. For dysphagia, treatments may include assisting your cat with eating or employing a stomach tube for nutritional support. Surgery may be necessary in certain cases.

For hairballs, regular brushing or combing, managing overgrooming, using specialized hairball formula, and encouraging increased water intake can help prevent hairball formation.

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Feline asthma is typically managed with corticosteroids and bronchodilators to reduce inflammation and open airways. Monitoring your cat’s respiratory demands and using medication when needed can improve their quality of life.

Remember, occasional gulping may be harmless, but if your cat gulps when swallowing regularly, it’s essential to consider dysphagia, hairballs, or asthma as potential causes. Visit your vet to ensure the health and well-being of your feline friend.

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