What is Oronasal Fistula?
A cat can develop oronasal fistula as a result of neoplasia, trauma, foreign bodies, severe periodontal disease, improper tooth extraction and damage to the alveolar bone during surgery. An oronasal fistula forms along the dental alveolus lined with epithelium tissues that will not heal without medical intervention. Therefore, oronasal fistula in cats must be treated by a licensed veterinary professional or veterinary dentist in order for the condition to be resolved.
An oronasal fistula in cats is a communication between a feline’s oral cavity and nasal cavity that does not heal. This oral and nasal defect allows food and water to easily enter into the nasal passageways from the mouth. As a result, the feline will develop a great deal of nasal discharge, sneeze, and develop chronic rhinitis.
Symptoms of Oronasal Fistula in Cats
An oronasal fistula defect allows food and water to easily enter into the nasal passageways from the mouth. As a result, the feline will develop a great deal of nasal discharge, sneeze, and develop chronic rhinitis. Cat owners may also notice dropping of food when the feline eats, depending on where the fistula is located in the dental arcade. An oronasal fistula may cause a small amount of blood to accumulate in the feline’s mouth and the cat may seem to produce more saliva secretions than usual.
- Chronic rhinitis
- Nasal discharge
- Excess salivation
Causes of Oronasal Fistula in Cats
A cat can develop oronasal fistula as a result of neoplasia, trauma, foreign bodies, severe periodontal disease, improper tooth extraction, and damage to the alveolar bone during surgery. Loss of the palatine, maxilla or incisive bones can often result in a fistula. A feline may lose these bones due to periodontal disease or trauma. Periodontal disease in an infectious disease of the mouth that causes progressive destruction of the mouth. Common trauma-related causes of oronasal fistulas are dental extractions and bite wounds.
Diagnosis of Oronasal Fistula in Cats
An oronasal fistula in cats can be diagnosed upon physical examination of the feline’s mouth. Oronasal fistulas are commonly found during routine dental cleanings, but if the feline was brought into the clinic in concern to the presenting symptoms, the vet may use an otoscope (a medical tool used to view the nose, ears, and throat) to look into the feline’s mouth. If your cat is a regular to dental cleanings, the veterinarian will review the feline’s medical history, focusing on previous dental extractions. As dental extractions can cause oronasal fistulas, this piece of information will prove to be highly beneficial to the veterinarian in making a diagnosis. Trauma is also a likely cause of oronasal fistulas in cats, so it is at this time that your veterinarian will ask you questions regarding any recent trauma cases, such as bites, your cat has given or received.
Once your veterinarian has pinpointed his or her diagnosis on an oronasal fistula, pre-surgical lab work will be requested for treatment purposes. In order to evaluate your cat’s overall health, a biochemistry profile will need to be run on the feline’s blood. A biochemistry profile will provide important information as to how the feline’s internal organs are functioning. To ensure the kidneys are working properly, a urinalysis will be conducted, which is a simple examination of a urine sample.
Treatment of Oronasal Fistula in Cats
Oronasal fistula in cats can only be treated surgically. In most cases of oronasal fistula repair, the veterinarian can simply place a single mucogingival flap of tissue over the affected area. The treatment option your vet chooses depends on the location of the oronasal fistula, presenting complications, and the availability of adjacent skin.
Recovery of Oronasal Fistula in Cats
Following surgery, your cat will be prescribed pain medications and possibly an antibiotic to prevent bacterial infection. Your cat will be placed on a soft food diet to prevent the stitches from being pulled out and physical activities will be limited. Any activity that may damage the oronasal fistula repair, such as playing with cat toys, should be halted until the repaired area is completely healed.
The overall prognosis for oronasal fistula in cats is excellent, if surgical treatment is received. Cats that do not receive veterinary treatment will not recover, as oronasal fistulas do not resolve by themselves. Ask your veterinarian about the right treatment plan for you and your cat’s specific needs in regard to her oronasal fistula.
Cat owners can potentially prevent oronasal fistulas in their cats by following an at-home dental cleaning program and following up with in-clinic dental cleanings every year. Trauma incidences should also be prevented, as bites can damage the teeth and lead to an oronasal fistula. Keeping your cat away from other felines or animals in your neighborhood should help to prevent trauma-related oronasal fistulas.