What Causes Nasal Discharge in Cats and what Treatments are Available?

Chronic Nasal Discharge in Cats

The average housecat is a fairly independent creature normally not needing much looking after. That may be why the average cat owner has more than two feline friends, while dog owners only have one. Of course, this does not mean they are worry-free pets. Just like their canine counterparts, cats can and do occasionally get sick. It is up to their owners to determine whether the problem requires professional attention.

Chronic nasal discharge in cats occurs when your pet’s nose runs for several hours without interruption. Because it is a common symptom of viral and bacterial infections, it should be taken seriously. More often than not, however, it is caused by seasonal allergies. Let us take a moment to discuss the three types of the discharges and their possible causes.

Allergic Rhinitis in Cats

When there is a clear, watery discharge accompanied by sneezing, it typically means your cat has inhaled an environmental allergen. Also known as atopy, the condition is most likely inherited and causes increased sensitivity to common allergens, such as certain grasses, trees, weeds, molds, insect bites, and dust mites.

Viral Respiratory Disease in Cats

When the discharge is thick and mucilaginous, it is often an early warning sign of a much more serious condition or complex. Your cat may be suffering from a respiratory disease and should receive professional treatment as soon as possible. For example, Feline Herpes Virus can cause recurrent and chronic nasal discharges in cats.

Bacterial Infection Causing Chronic Nasal Discharge in Cats

If the discharge is thick, yellow, and malodorous, it may mean your pet has a bacterial infection. Once again, these are serious issues to be addressed by professional veterinarians.

Progression of Chronic Nasal Discharge in Cats

Whether the infection is viral or bacterial, the discharge generally starts out as a watery fluid and then gets thicker and thicker as the infection spreads. The final stage produces a flavescent, purulent discharge, which means your pet is one sick kitty.

Causes and Secondary Symptoms of Chronic Nasal Discharge in Cats

The common housecat is the result of millions of years of evolution and adaptation. For most of their history, cats survived by catching and eating small prey. Eating these animals whole actually helped keep their teeth clean. But when the feline was domesticated, it had to adapt to a new diet. As nutritious as most of these foods may be, they can increase the risk of plaque and tartar buildup. And carious teeth can result in infections.  Dental problems are, in fact, a common cause of chronic nasal discharge in cats, which is why you should inspect your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. If there is any dental damage or a fetid smell, take your cat to see his or her doctor as soon as possible.

In extreme cases of this unpleasant ailment, your feline friend will experience a whole host of secondary symptoms. These include drooling, eye discharge, coughing, loss of appetite, fever, coughing, and mouth sores. If your pet exhibits one or more of these symptoms, it may mean your cat has feline viral respiratory disease.

Another surefire sign something is wrong is when a cat breathes noisily or through his or her mouth. Felines are simply not designed to be mouth breathers and they generally avoid it at all costs. If you cat is breathing orally, it may mean the nostrils are blocked by swollen membranes. Any cat having problems breathing should be examined immediately.

When a nasal infection occurs, your pet’s olfactory sense may also be affected, which can and often does result in a loss of appetite.  Whether viral or bacterial, these infections can cause sneezing, stertorous breathing, and nasal discharge. On occasion, the nasal infection may spread from the frontal sinus and may result in infected teeth. They may also become carries of herpesvirus, which is a chronic condition reactivated during periods of extreme stress.

Treatment of Chronic Nasal Discharge in Cats

Restoring breathing and preventing infection are always the main objectives when chronic nasal discharge is the issue.  The sick cat should be isolated from other animals, since the disease is contagious. If the discharge is watery, gently wipe the nostrils with a cotton ball to prevent irritation and blockage. Baby oil or pure moisturizing lotions can also guard against cracking and drying of the outside of the nose. If you have a humidifier or a vaporizer, the device can be used to help loosen up the discharge and help restore normal function to the mucus membranes.

If, however, your cat has a thick, yellowish discharge that also smells, your cat will require professional attention. Your veterinarian will almost certainly put your cat on a battery of antibiotics to fight the infection and restore balance to the system. These serious medical issues should never be handled at home with rumored remedies.

Long-term administration of a supplemental lysine may help reduce the symptoms of chronic nasal discharge when caused by Feline Herpes Virus. If your pet’s veterinarian has recommended a product containing L-lysine, please consider these products available at VetRxDirect:

Has your cat suffered from chronic nasal discharge? What was the cause? Let us know in the comments section below so we all know when it’s time to get our feline friend to the doctor.

Keep your nose clean,





25 thoughts on “What Causes Nasal Discharge in Cats and what Treatments are Available?

  1. My 13 year old 17 pound Maine Coon cat overheated in a vehicle. Immediately thereafter he began to show a clear nasal discharge which has continued over the last 6 months. He sneezes and has difficulty breathing. Sometimes he coughs. I realize that the hyperthermia was the triggering impetus to initiate symptoms of other underlying health issues, such as dental. (His teeth are in need of care but cannot clean them unless he’s anesthetized, which I won’t have done again.He has 5 missing teeth.)
    He likely also has a secondary bacterial/viral infection caused by the dental disease. Tried Amoxicillin, but didn’t work. Tried Echinacea, Golden Seal, and now I’m trying Apple Cider Vinegar. (Each oral 3 ml via syringe.) Have used a teeth cleaning gel (Tropiclean) and an antimicrobial wound spray (Nutri-Vet) which I spray up his nose (1 short burst).
    Of all these, efforts to clean his teeth is probably the only treatment that shows promise. It is difficult to impossible to brush his teeth. Therefore, the gel drops are a preferred method to dissolve tartar and calculus without brushing. I’m thinking the Apple Cider Vinegar will change his sinus pH to kill off the upper respiratory infection.

  2. We have a cat who is 14 yrs old he has chronic nasal discharge has had it for years & its green & sneezes a lot nose always congested and thick covering front of nose…We put him on clavamox after amoxicillan also this time antirobe aqua drops and clav. then vet pulled a couple of his teeth that were really infected and nose cleared up and he has been home now for over a week finally eating and looking awful and still on amoxicillan and vitamins and again here comes the green snots & the sneezing..His blood work all came back normal…Are we missing something maybe another kind of med instead of what he is getting now …Thanks

  3. Hello I have a 10 – 12 year old cat that has a thick green mucus coming from her nose and mouth. She has always had breathing problems a lot of wheezing. I inherited her from the older lady that lived on the property I work. Her care giver told me that she has really bad allergies but I had my doubts.. so when the problem escalated I decided to bring her to the vet.. the vet told me it is an URE and he prescribed her antibiotics which eliminated the problem for about 2 to 3 weeks but she still had the wheezing.. well my girlfriend and I decided to get a puppy that we have had for about 2 weeks now.. and my poor cats mucusy nose came back ten fold.. she’s losing weight by the day and she now has mucus coming from her mouth.. I’m furious at the vet because we brought her back to him and he said that it was because of her teeth.. so we spent $300 on a teeth cleaning and her gave her more and different meds… So a total of 3 visits to the vet and $600 later and they still haven’t cured her or obviously they don’t know what’s wrong with her… What do you suggest?

  4. This cat is a guy I have fed for a year. He is a stray I have 5 indoor cats and retired so budget is a problem as far as vet for him. He has green discharge from the nose. How do I treat it since putting him in carrier is impossible. Help!

    • My cat is a stray cat she has yellow discharge from her nose she even sneezes , she is very dull these days kindly suggest a antibiotics syrup

    • Chronic nasal discharge is something my cat has had since before we adopted her from a rescue home over four years ago. She had antibiotics at the home but they made no difference. We let our vet do X-rays of her chest and also a lung wash but nothing made it better. We put a daily pinch of a powder called Bisolvon on her food daily. This is from the vet. It keeps the mucus more fluid so it is easier for her to sneeze it out or for me to wipe her nose gently with a damp muslin cloth wrung out in warm water, which I have to do regularly. She is a Persian so has small nostrils. On her bed at night I put three spots of Olbas Oil, from chemists, to help her breathing. She also allows me to hold a warm damp cloth to her face which she seems to find comforting.she sits on the sink top and I run the cloth under the hot tap, wring it out and hold it gently to her face after it cools for a second or two. Hope you find my methods help you with you pet.

  5. My cat is approx. 7yrs old (adopted from a shelter) & we’ve had him for 5yrs, within 2 months he was sneezing & had heavy green mucus. I’ve heard & read that shelters can be a breeding ground for germs & we wondered if this was where it came from! A vet put him on the standard antibiotic & steroid treatment which “used to” clear it up with it to only return after meds were finished. We kept up the vet visits & she put on the same meds again, again & again. I wondered if she knew what was causing it but alas, she has left clinic & we are now with the owner of the clinic with whom we like very much. I must say she has given it a good with Chinese remedies however it came back, sneezing constantly & the green mucus returned. I read about & wondered if a med called TrizEDTA or something sounding like that should be our next course of action. We eagerly await feedback, especially would love to have this site’s vet chime in with what our next move should be!

    Cedric’s mommy.

    • Hi, I adopted my cat from a shelter. She sneezed and had green mucus… My vet suggested that she may have allergies. He told me to stop giving food with fish (which looking at the ingredients is almost impossible to find), give wet food only, change her litter to the “World’s Best Cat Litter), and give her Lysine (Vetri Science). I did and she improved drastically…. still had some congestion but was significantly better. I have further refined her diet to Blue Buffalo Wilderness turkey and chicken and she has improved even more. She is still not 100% but much better. I try to limit any allergens in the house, too.
      Good luck!

  6. My cat sneezes huge yellow, sometimes chunky boogers all the time. He weezes when he breathes, coughs daily. But is doing normal cats stuff. He doesn’t seem sick, he acts like a kid that just always has boogers n coughs… When he was born, his mom passed on a sinus infection to him n the other kittens. That sinus infection cost him his right eye. His right eye ruptured. But that doesn’t slow him down at all! I just want to make sure he is ok n not sick. My local vet has given him antibiotics but nothing changed. Please contact me if u have any ideas.

    • Take the cat back to the vet, get a swab / culture and the *appropriate* antibiotics. This is routinely fixable. You’re allowing the cat to suffer completely unnecessarily.

  7. what causes the yellow liquid comes out of the cat’s nose. the yellow liquid does not thicken and it smells. lost appetite of eating and drinking too. my cat just died yesterday because of this desease. another cat of mine is losing it’s appetite and it scares me. what should i do?

  8. Out cat Bobby has been suffering for a couple weeks with a severe stuff nose and noisy breathing and now hrs breathing mostly out his nose. I use warm soft rag with warm water to clean his nose and help hoim cope w/mucous. He still eats but very little. I hold a shallow dish water up for him many times a day since he’s feeling weak and doesn’t want to move much. Friend says he has allergies but I know its more than that. A delay in going to vet ONLY because of an other member of family severe health issue s hospitalization, now that he’s better we’re finally taking him to get the are he needs. It is so sad that animals depend on us for their wellbeing and they can’t jump up and say:”I’ve had enough I’m going to the doctors!”! I feel horrible I’ve had to let him suffer this long. Thank God he’s a strong little guy who hasn’t given up !! P.s Does anyyone actually have a humidifier that actually puts out steam AND WORKS?!

    • Our cat (12 yrs old, Maine Coon) just had a nasal flush ( done under General anesthesia). Vet said he had a lot of green mucus. The 1st time this was done 2 yrs ago. He sneezed frequently, made sounds as if to blow his nose, shook head a lot. Lots of various sounds. Since this flush, 3 days ago, kitty is so much better. He was also on prednisolone liquid by now we have the prednisolone transdermal from Chewy.com. Not the transdermal cream in an applicator syringe that is used with a finger cot.

      Hope this helps

  9. I adopted a 2 tear old Turkish Angora from a well known breeder recently who told me before I adopted her about the problem. She said it’s some sort of allergy sinus issue that resulted from the previous adopted abandoning the cat outside after his wife died. The breeder found out and took the kitty back, who was very sick with a bad cold. They got rid of the other illness, but this eye and nose discharge problem has persisted. The records that came with this cat show she has had her vaccines. She was imported to the US from Canada and is completely normal other than the sinus problem.
    I’ve had her two days and she has a weepy left eye (watery, brownish discharge). She has greenish/ brownish, ropy mucus in her nostrils. I wipe it away and it comes back. I got the cat at a cheap price, knowing she will need vet checkups, etc. I’m not rich and wonder what is most important (tests, etc) to do first, since money is tight and I cannot afford huge vet bills. The breeder says the problem is worse in hot weather and right now its pretty hot (I don’t have Air Conditioning but do have many ceiling and large fans. What do you suggest I do to help her best? I am wiping away discharge a few times per day to keep her comfortable.

  10. For people who don’t have the financial means to buy expensive foods with lysine added to it: you can buy lysine really cheap at bodybuilders stores online, and add it to the the cat’s wet food.

  11. I recently purchased a 5 month old Maine Coone kitten. When he first came to us we thought he had a regular cat cold. Sneezing, watery eye, etc. Over the past 4 weeks he has continued to sneeze with large hard discharge. I feel terrible for him! He’s been to the vet twice and they say because he has no fever, swollen lymph nodes, etc. that we should just leave him for the time being. The discharge he sneezes out is huge! Like, dime sized. It’s hard like a human would sneeze out. Any advise?

  12. I have a rescued cat has been on numerous antibodies but he still get a lot of green nasal discharge. Nothing helps or cleans it up he sneezes and has a lot of discharge. He eats ok doesn’t normally seem sick except today just laying around. I put back on antibotics again

  13. My 17 year old cat has had rhinitis for years. Vets have tried every antibiotic, nose drops; many different meds I can’t remember them all. She was a very small black shelter cat that weighs when she’s healthy, about 7lbs. We’ve had a couple of scares where it got bad…she would barely eat (couldn’t smell) and didn’t leave my bedroom. Antibiotics and meds to stimulate appetite would pull her out of it. She’s always had very yeasty ears that required very frequent cleanings. She’s doing very well right now. What are we doing? One med seems to be keeping her snot rockets at bay. It’s an Rx ear ointment called Animax Ointment. Is it what has calmed her nasal discharge? Who knows, but it seems to make sense that something in her ears is affecting her nasal passages. She also tells me several times a day that she’s hungry – she can smell only the freshly opened can of food. If it’s been opened more than 15 minutes, the smell has started to dissipate. She is eating well with that routine. I also have 3 humidifiers (2 cold, 1 hot) going all the time in my bedroom, where she often is and where we all sleep at night. Combing her fur often also seems to keep things calm. She doesn’t clean herself very well and a dust-like undercoat builds up. Perhaps her fur picks up dust(?) She has gorgeous fur with the regular combing, btw. Hope this helps someone. There have been ups and downs the last 12 years, but right now she’s doing so well!

  14. I am only 13yrs amd my mom doesn’t like cats but my sister and I found a cat and started feeding it but I later realized that it was sneezing a lot and has a running nose.How can I treat it since taking it to a vet is impossible.Help!

  15. Actually my cat started sneezing from yesterday night. Today morning he got fever and we gave him medicine to lower the fever but after sometime he started sneezing kind of 10-12 times he sneezed when at night we start to give him the medicine he run here and there and when we see his face saliva starts coming from his mouth and his mouth was kind of greyish or bluish in colour.. what’s his problem? How can I treat it?

  16. a couple weeks ago, my little sister found a “kitten” out by my shed where i feed my outdoor cats. i found it today, and taking a closer look, it wasnt a kitten but maybe a 6 or so year old cat. she said it had a white marking on its nose, but it was actually thick yellow snot– this cat is very skiddish around humans it seems.. i dont know how to treat it, and i honestly dont have the money for vet bills.. how do i help this cat clear the infection?

  17. Has anyone tried olive leaf to get rid of the infections? We have many stray cats show up and we care for them until they leave, if ever,..they shelter in our garage and hang out in our yard and nearby wooded area, but most are getting quite friendly. One that came early this summer arrived with yellow mucus in his nose, we put him on amoxicillin, it came back 5 weeks later and he was put on another antibiotic and cleared up. It’s been about a month and the yellow ooze is back?

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