Swallowing Difficulties Average Cost

From 584 quotes ranging from $300 - 3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

First Walk is on Us!

✓ GPS tracked walks
✓ Activity reports
✓ On-demand walkers
Book FREE Walk

Jump to Section

What are Swallowing Difficulties?

If your cat is having trouble swallowing, it may be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs to be treated as soon as possible.

Every animal occasionally coughs or gags while eating, but if you notice your cat experiencing swallowing difficulties repeatedly, it’s time to see a veterinarian to determine the cause. Besides coughing and gagging, cats may also drool, make repeated attempts to swallow, or get in unusual positions to eat their food when experiencing this condition, called “dysphagia”. If left untreated, cats may begin to rapidly lose weight because they are unable to eat. 

Symptoms of Swallowing Difficulties in Cats

There are three types of dysphagia, and each may present with specific symptoms. 

Oral Dysphagia

  • Struggling to open the mouth or hold food in the mouth
  • Collecting food on the sides of the mouth
  • Throwing head backward to eat

Pharyngeal Dysphagia

  • Repeated attempts to swallow
  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Drooling
  • Spots of blood in the saliva
  • Excessive chewing before swallowing attempts
  • Unusual neck and head movements while eating

Cricopharyngeal Dysphagia

  • Regurgitating food
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Repeated attempts to swallow
  • Gagging

Causes of Swallowing Difficulties in Cats

Each of the different types of dysphagia is caused by different factors. 

Oral dysphagia can be caused by:

  • Jaw or tongue paralysis
  • Muscle swelling
  • Mouth trauma
  • Dental disease or infection

Pharyngeal dysphagia can be caused by:

  • Cancer
  • Enlarged lymph nodes near the pharynx
  • Abscesses
  • Pharyngeal inflammation

Cricopharyngeal dysphagia can be caused by:

  • Strained or deteriorating muscles
  • Nerve damage

In some cases, the cause of dysphagia can be neurological. If your cat is suffering from a brain disorder or rabies, dysphagia may be one of the side effects of the condition. 

Diagnosis of Swallowing Difficulties in Cats

If you notice your cat having trouble swallowing on repeated occasions, bring him into a veterinarian as soon as possible. Tell the veterinarian what symptoms you have noticed, when they first began, and how often they have occurred. If your cat has been injured or suffered any form of trauma, make sure you let the veterinarian know.

After discussing your cat’s symptoms, the vet may perform diagnostic tests to get a better idea of the cat’s health. First, a complete blood count, urinalysis and biochemical profile will be completed to determine if your cat has an infection or muscle injury. 

Vets may also take X-rays of the mouth, skull, and chest, as well as an ultrasound of the pharynx. These tests are done to determine if there is any structural damage or growths. If growths are found, the vet will likely take a biopsy to test for cancerous cells. 

At this point, the vet should be able to determine the cat has some form of dysphagia. But, the vet may still need to run a test, known as a fluoroscopic barium swallow, to see how your cat is swallowing. During this test, food material and barium is given to your cat while the vet observes him swallowing using a video X-ray device. This will help the vet figure out where the issue lies within the cat’s oral cavity and throat.

Treatment of Swallowing Difficulties in Cats

The treatment plan for dysphagia will depend on the underlying cause. If an infection is causing the issue, antibiotics will be prescribed, but if the issue is inflammation, steroids may be given instead. Both of these medications may need to be administered to the cat at home for up to ten days.

If a strained or contracted muscle is causing your cat to gag and cough up food, the vet may prescribe muscle relaxers to help this muscle relax and allow your cat to swallow.

If the cause is some sort of structural damage or abscesses, surgery may be required to correct the issue.

If the biopsy reveals there are cancerous cells within the abscesses, your vet will discuss different chemotherapy and radiation treatment options with you.

Finally, dental disease may need to be treated by removing the infected teeth and administering antibiotics.

Recovery of Swallowing Difficulties in Cats

Unless the cause of your cat’s swallowing difficulties was cancer, he or she should recover within one to two weeks. But, cats will have trouble eating food while they recover from dysphagia, so it’s your responsibility to make eating easier until they are well. Talk to your vet about how you can make your cat more comfortable and help him keep food down. For example, the vet may recommend you only feed the cat soft, mushy foods that will easy slide down the cat’s throat. Or, the vet may recommend you position the cat in a certain way while you feed him. In extreme cases when the cat has lost a significant amount of weight, the vet may keep your cat on a feeding tube while he recovers.

Any medication prescribed by the vet must be administered as advised. Be sure to bring your cat in for a follow-up so the vet can ensure everything is healing correctly.

Swallowing Difficulties Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Sunshine
tabby
19 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Coughing

I have a 19 year old tabby cat who is swallowing water fine but won’t eat and when she does swallowing it follows with a small cough earlier today she was fine but about 2 hours ago when I got home from work she was coughing really bad then she stopped and would swallow then start coughing. When she was coughing bad she also had a little vomit come out of her mouth. My two kittens are also coughing every once in a while but not because of swallowing difficulties.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2310 Recommendations
There are various causes for swallowing difficulties in cats especially as they age which may include masses around the throat (tumours, enlarged thyroid etc…), pharyngeal disorders among other causes. You should try to feed a softer food, I find sometimes mixing some smooth wet food with a little water helps it go down easier. If there is no improvement, I would recommend a check up by your Veterinarian either today or tomorrow. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Add a comment to Sunshine's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Rams
Domestic shorthair
12 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

cough
Shakes head
swallow

Medication Used

Carafate
cerenia

Hello, I did an earlier post about my 12 yr old female Dom Shorthair, Rams, swallowing and gulping a lot last weekend and having trouble swallowing food. Took her to vet & they gave her appetite stimulant, Cerenia shot & prescribed carafate. She was like a zombie for a few days but now is almost entirely back to normal, returning to herself :) stretching, yawning, eating, grooming, has most of her voice back, scratching on the scratchers, playing with toy, jumping up on top of the back of my office chair when Im in it :) running up the stairs zooming past me when I go up :) No signs of gulping..EXCEPT...she still occasionally shakes her head... AND when she gets on my lap and starts to purr she'll do one gulp, a dry cough or sneeze im not sure which is which its just an air blowing sound and she steps off and goes to her spot on the couch and lays down....is this just the last of what still needs to resolve since shes acting so much better?? How long should I keep her on carafate (6 days now) & can I ask my vet for some clavamox as she is prone to slight URIs along with allergies..is antibiotic worth a try?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2310 Recommendations
It is good to read that Rams is improving and has just a few remaining symptoms which will hopefully resolve with time. You can ask your Veterinarian for antibiotics but it would be down to their discretion if they give them to you without an examination or an actual infection being present; you can continue to use the Carafate but discuss this with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Add a comment to Rams's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Rams
Domestic shorthair
12 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Not herself
Lethargy

Medication Used

Cerenia injection
Carafate

My 12yr old female dom shorthair started doing alot of hard swallowing two days ago..she also lost her voice and was shaking her head and the occasional dry cough..she would try to eat but so much trouble swallowing she'd stop :( Took her to vet yesterday she was
hoarsely meowing the whole way and was roaming the examining room rubbing on me/Dr. He didn feel she had anything stuck in throat..he thought maybe something she ate perhaps outside had irritated it(she finds weeds) ..they gave her a cerenia injection also something to help appetite she came out pouring drool and foam from mouth which he said was normal?
He also prescribed carafate 2-3 ml every 8 hours which i had to fill at Walgreens? She has started eating/drinking and only occasionally shakes her head and rarely hard swallows...BUT..shes acting half zombie...just sitting there staring...shes not moving around at all like normal shes in slow mo...sometimes its normal for her to go under the bed for some peace(I have 6 cats..5 of them boys) but shes spent most of her time under there now.
Shes just not acting right but I dont see these kind of behaviors on the side effects list of either drug.....I dont know how concerned I should be since shes eating?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
870 Recommendations
Her behavior isn't a normal side effect of Cerenia or Carafate, both of which seem like reasonable medications, and may help. The medication that they gave her to stimulate her appetite is an unknown at this point, however, and may be responsible for her behavior. Since your veterinarian knows what they gave her, it would be a good idea to call them, and describe her behavior, and ask if that is an expected side effect of that drug. In the meantime, it seems that she is improving otherwise, and may just need time to clear that drug from her system. I hope that she does well.

My comments are not showing can I not reply to this thread?

Add a comment to Rams's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Kitty
Domestic shorthair
3 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Difficulty Swallowing
Gagging
Lethargy
Sounds hoarse

The last few days our cat has had difficulty swallowing. She's still eating and drinking water, but has been lethargic and isolating herself a bit (not wanting to hang out and play). She hasn't been vomiting. When she tries to meow or make a noise it sounds kind of garbled and hoarse. She's coughed and gagged several times but nothing has come up. I took her to the vet today and they did regular X-rays, X-rays with barium contrasts, a pancreatic SNAP test, and basic physical exam. Everything looked okay and they gave her an anti-nausea medication. I trust our vet, but after hundreds of dollars worth of tests I guess I expected an actual answer as to what is wrong, as something clearly is, and hopefully a treatment. Am wondering what else it could be or if its swelling of the pharynx, would that have been picked up in the X-ray or exam?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2310 Recommendations
There are various causes for gagging and swallowing difficulties which may include infections, trauma, foreign objects (usually seen on x-ray), chemical irritation, nerve damage among other causes; x-rays can be useful but an examination with a laryngoscope or even endoscopy would be more valuable if the symptoms continue as well as a swab for culture and sensitivity in case of infection. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Add a comment to Kitty's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Carol
mixed
5 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Excessive swallowing

My cat keeps swallowing constantly and its not just when she is eating or when she is grooming herself its just all the time. She has been having problems with diarrhea and ive been wanting to take her to the vet but when i got her from a shelter, they said she had no problems, so I wasn’t worried about financial problems because I dont have money for the vet. I feel terrible and im so worried that she is suffering and im not helping her. What does this swallowing mean?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2310 Recommendations
It is possible that Carol has an upper respiratory tract infection / tracheitis which can lead to excessive swallowing; other causes may include dental issues or oral irritants. Make sure that Carol is eating and drinking, also supplement her with L-lysine (natural supplement - over the counter) can help too. If you see no improvements you should visit a Veterinarian to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Add a comment to Carol's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Jynxie
Siamese
11 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

not drinking
Weight Loss
Not Eating
Still purrs
Sleeps all day

Does my cat have cancer? Or possibly have had a seizure or stroke? She hasn’t been eating or drinking much for a few weeks and shes lost a lot of weight. She drinks a tad bit of water a day but most of the time she sticks her chin in the water and doesn’t be drink anything. She’s drinking water right now but I don’t think she has eaten all day.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2310 Recommendations
Without examining Jynxie it is not possible for me to give a diagnosis of her condition; infections, muscle inflammation, tumours, oral lesions, dental disorders, hormonal issues, head trauma among other causes may be causing these symptoms. You should have taken her to your Veterinarian earlier and suggest you take her today. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Add a comment to Jynxie's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Limbo
Siamese
2 Years
Moderate condition
2 found helpful
Moderate condition

My cat has been vomiting up his food lately, a few minutes or longer after eating. Sometimes he's OK for a week and then it'll start happening again. One morning, after eating the evening before, he regurgitated his food as though it hadn't even gotten into his stomach. Then a few days ago he started excessively drooling and was in distress as though something was stuck in his throat. By the time I rushed to a veterinarian he was OK. I've spent nearly $1000 on x-rays etc. with no conclusive diagnosis.
It seemed to be worse with kibble so I stopped feeding him that. The only other thing he will eat is canned chicken "fancy feast", he refused to eat any of the food from the veterinarian. I'm wondering if it's a hernia or some condition causing a blockage between his oesophagus and stomach. He's a longhair Siamese and otherwise in excellent condition, good appetite, active and happy. It's definitely not hair balls.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2310 Recommendations
Another x-ray with contrast media may be helpful to look for any strictures or issues in the esophagus or stomach; it is difficult to say what the cause may be, foreign objects and other obstructions would normally show up on a regular x-ray. The undigested food overnight may suggest that the food is settling in the esophagus; but we would expect vomiting to be after several minutes, not hours. I would recommend feeding Limbo in an elevated position (goes against the name I know), try placing his food on the bottom step of the stairs and him on the ground and allow him to eat his ‘Fancy Feast’ to see if this elevation helps (usually helps in cases of esophageal disease). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Add a comment to Limbo's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Minxy
moggy
12 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Not eating or drinking
Not eatin

Medication Used

None on going

Hi, I have taken my cat twice to the vets already and still don't know what's wrong. She's not eating or drinking and is gagging when tried to eat. Just today she brought up a cream foam sticky sick, this is the first time she has done this. The vets have given her fluids under her skin, antibiotics and pain relief aon both occasion and anti inflammatory plus the last visit she got an anti sickness and her bloods taken which came back clear. Meds she has been given so far - aqupharm no11 250ml, lexicon 5mg/'ll ink 10ml, betamox last ink, cerenia 20mg ink as well as fluids. They can't see anything in the mouth. Any idea? Thanks

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
870 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without examining Minxy, I'm not sure what might be going on with her, but X-rays or an ultrasound of her chest and throat may be a good idea, as she may have a growth or a problem in the back of her throat. I hope that she is okay.

Add a comment to Minxy's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Jack
Sphynx
2 Years
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

Hello, we have a Sphynx boy cat. He is 2 years of age. Just turned 2 on February the 18th. We've had him since January the 18th 2017, bred from a licensed breeder. He gets fed two whiskas pouches a day along with some biscuits when he feels like them. Through the night, he normally wakes my daughter up a quite few times for a few biscuits and then goes straight back to sleep or sometimes he wants a little bit of pouch through the night and then goes straight back to sleep. This night he let my daughter sleep through the whole night which is very unusual. When she woke up and he woke up with her, she knew something was different as he seemed very tired and he is normally very energetic and excited in the morning to get biscuits. She give him a few biscuits and as soon as he ate them, he went back to the bed and looked tired still so she put the covers over him and went downstairs to eat her breakfast. When she came back up, he's normally at the door waiting for her meowing to let her know he's had a poo as he has a poo once a day in the morning about 12pm and it was roughly that time when she came up and he was still in the bed looking at her tired looking. So she went over to him and asked if he was okay and give him a few kisses. He still looked tired so she just let him sleep as he naps during the day on and off. He slept until 6pm which is unusual as he naps on and off and runs around the room on and off. 6pm he meowed for some food so she give him a little bit of pouch and noticed a strange crunching sound when he was eating and he was taking quite a long time eating it as he normally gobbles it down and he kept spitting little bits of food out and eating them over and over like he was having difficulty swallowing or chewing. He then drank his water and she stayed with him for a bit and we tried playing with him and he did play a bit. Not too much but a bit and he jumped on his climbing frame fine. I then left him with my daughter and about a half a hour later he went under her bed and started making this strange sound, like a gagging sound. He's made that sound in the past when he's about to vomit either because he's ate too fast or he's eaten more then he should have as he loves his food and won't settle without getting extra. After making the gagging sound, he vomited quite a bit of biscuits and pouch together but mostly biscuits and then he took a few steps and started making that gagging sound again and vomited again but only a little bit this time. She said to him that it was okay as she's learnt him a few words and sentences that he understands and she then put him on the bed to rest as she cleans it up. She let him rest for a while and went out of the room and came back in when he started meowing and she seen poo in his litter tray but it didn't smell and when she was changing it with a bag and cleaning the litter tray, it didn't seem warm. So we don't know if he poo'd through the night but didn't wake my daughter up which is unusual as he always expects some pouch after he's had a poo or he had it before she came in the room and that's why he vomited, because he was constipated and it wouldn't come out that way so it had to come out in vomit. After she cleaned his poo, she give him some more little bit of pouch as he was meowing for some and when he was eating it, she still noticed that crunching sound and he kept spitting out the food in little bits and eating it over and over like the last night as if he was having difficulty swallowing or chewing and he took quite a while to eat and he left some leftovers in his bowel which is unusual as he normally cleans the bowel and licks it. He then drank more water and has been sleeping since then on and off ish. Could you please give us advice. Thank you. Sarah

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
870 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. I'm not sure what might be going on with Jack without seeing him, but he seems to be lethargic, and not eating as much, and not vomiting, all of which are concerning signs. It would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they will be able to examine him, determine what might be going on, and recommend any necessary testing or treatments for him. I hope that he is back to his normal self quickly!

Add a comment to Jack's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Jerry
dsh
15 Years
Mild condition
2 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Swallowing

Hi, my 15 year old cat has been doing emphasized swallowing when not eating or drinking. He has recently gone off drinking and eating but will when heavily coaxed. He has recently had full bloods and a urine test which showed normal signs of health with the exception of some signs of kidney disease but within the normal parameters

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
870 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. In a 15 year old cat, I might consider checking for dental disease or ulcerations in Jerry's mouth as a possible reason for his behavior. Ii would be a good idea to have a recheck with your veterinarian and have them assess his mouth and general condition to see if they can localize the source of his problems, since it is affecting his appetite. I hope that everything goes well for him.

Add a comment to Jerry's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Dotty
Tabby
2.6
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

symptoms last from ten minutes to six hours
this continues till the solid is thrown out
starts foaming at the the mouth
Very difficult breathing after swallowing solids.

Cat chokes on solid food. Even miniscule quantities. But she is able to swallow liquids.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2310 Recommendations

There are a few different causes for the symptoms you are describing, each with a different method of treatment; this may be caused by neurological problems (movement of oesophagus moves food back to mouth), tumours (blocking passage of food, but allowing liquids), foreign body, enlarged lymph nodes putting pressure on oesophagus, problems with the pharynx or another cause not listed. A visit to your Veterinarian would be required to identify the cause of the dysphagia and to come up with a treatment plan. In the meantime, try to slightly elevate Dotty’s food bowl so that she is eating with her head up; another option is to make small balls of food (quarter inch) and to push them to the back of the throat to see if they can be swallowed (but be careful, cats can have a strong gag reflex). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Add a comment to Dotty's experience

Was this experience helpful?