What is Narrowing of Nasal Passage?
If a cat is displaying possible symptoms of nasopharyngeal stenosis it should be taken promptly to a veterinarian for examination. Proper diagnosis and treatment are key to increasing the likelihood of a full recovery.
Narrowing of the nasal passage, also known as nasopharyngeal stenosis, is an uncomfortable condition that occurs when a membrane develops within the nasal cavity. This thin but durable membrane restricts the flow of oxygen through the trachea when the cat’s mouth is closed. Affected cats will often have extreme difficulty breathing, eating, and sleeping. The condition is often the result of inflammation due to chronic vomiting, regurgitation, or infection. When traditional treatment methods such as antibiotics have failed to reduce or eliminate symptoms, it is likely that a stenosis is present.
Symptoms of Narrowing of Nasal Passage in Cats
Symptoms of a narrowed nasal passage are likely to increase in intensity when the cat is eating. Cats suffering from the condition are likely to display one or more of the following symptoms:
- Unusual nasal sounds (whistling or snoring)
- Difficulty breathing
- Breathing through the mouth
- Decreased appetite
- Excessive nasal discharge
- Difficulty Sleeping
Causes of Narrowing of Nasal Passage in Cats
This condition does not have a higher prevalence in cats of any particular age or breed. Common causes may include:
- Upper respiratory infection
- Chronic regurgitation or vomiting
- Chronic rhinitis
- Presence of a foreign body
- Contact with irritants
- Nasopharyngeal polyp originating in middle ear
- Congenital deformity
Diagnosis of Narrowing of Nasal Passage in Cats
The treating veterinarian will review the cat’s medical history and discuss the onset and severity of symptoms. Owners should be prepared to discuss any possible preceding incidents and provide thorough background information. A complete physical exam will be performed and a standard set of lab tests will be ordered to evaluate the cat’s overall health. These tests will commonly include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, electrolyte panel, and urinalysis. If an infection is present, it may be indicated by a higher than normal white blood cell count. Otherwise, lab tests are expected to return normal results.
Additional diagnostic tests may be ordered including X-rays, CT-scan, and/or bronchoscopy. These visual images will help the vet to determine the location and severity of the stricture and this information will be used to develop a treatment plan.
Treatment of Narrowing of Nasal Passage in Cats
The veterinarian and pet owner will often collaborate to decide on the proper course of treatment. The recommendation will depend on the location and severity of the stenosis, the severity of symptoms, and the veterinarian’s preferences. In almost all cases, the use of anesthesia will be necessary.
Surgical removal of the membrane is often recommended. This is the most invasive of treatment options and tends to have high recurrence rates due to the fact that the condition is often preceded by a chronic inflammatory condition.
In some cases, a less invasive procedure known as a balloon dilation may be appropriate. This procedure involves the insertion of a small balloon into the nasal cavity. The balloon is then slowly inflated to widen the affected nasal passage. This is often an expensive option, and series of treatments is usually needed.
The veterinarian may determine that a stent can be used to noninvasively create a permanent opening of the nasal passage. An experienced veterinarian will need to use advanced procedures such as fluoroscopy and endoscopy to place the stent in the proper location. This treatment carries a low chance of complications when performed on cats that are good candidates for the procedure.
Recovery of Narrowing of Nasal Passage in Cats
In many cases, cats are able to be diagnosed, treated, and released on the same day. Following treatment, the cat will likely be prescribed a course of antibiotics to avoid post-surgical infection, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, and pain medication to ensure comfort during recovery. Nasal discharge may continue for a day after surgery, but should quickly resolve. Within a day or two, the cat is expected to be able to eat, drink, and breathe comfortably. Appetite should return promptly and lost weight regained within a few months.
The probability of recurrence is fairly high in cats that have been treated for this condition. Affected cats will need to be observed closely throughout the remainder of their lives and should be returned to the vet promptly if any signs of relapse appear. Owners should avoid using scented cleaning products, air fresheners, or other chemicals that may cause inflammation of the cat’s nasal passages until it has fully healed.
It is important to follow the veterinarian’s recommendations regarding timing and dosage of prescription medications and to attend all scheduled follow-up appointments. Quickly recognizing signs of recurrence will help to ensure that the cat is treated promptly and given the best possible chance for a full recovery.
Narrowing of Nasal Passage Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Our 8 yr old cat (max) has exhibited some of the signs for narrowing of nasal passage (unusual nasal sounds, breaths through his mouth when highly stressed and difficulty sleeping). The specialist vet we took him to has recommended 1)a CT scan, a Rhinoscopy and 2) while he is under sedation to also perform Naso Esophegeal Balloon and stent.
Through our primary vet, Max has been treated with antibiotics and steroids with no success in treating this condition.
Max began to display the signs of narrowing nasal passage after he had to have two teeth removed due to decay.
Among our questions regarding the specialists recommendations is 1) would he need both the balloon and stent? 2) would an MRI vs. CT scan & Rhinoscopy be more conclusive? 3) given the high reoccurrence predictions of nasal difficulty after corrective procedures, what quality of life can we expect for Max as he ages?
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