Nobody enjoys having a stuffy nose because it makes it difficult to smell their food, difficult to fall asleep, and just generally miserable! Rhinitis, the medical term for a stuffy nose, is fairly typical in cats, who can experience both acute and persistent (chronic) rhinitis. Cats who have rhinitis frequently sneeze, have nasal discharge, and/or have loud, “congested” breathing.
Some affected cats may paw at their faces, have a deformed nose, or be limited to mouth breathing. Discharge from the nose can come from either one side (unilateral) or both sides. Nasal discharge can be either clear, mucus-clouded, pus-like, or bloody in appearance. Your veterinarian can use all of these observations to identify the source of the issue and help your cat feel better.
It’s important to remember that some cat breeds, like Himalayan and Persians, have “pushed in” face structures that frequently make them sound a little more “snuffly” than other breeds. Even though this is typically nothing to worry about, if you have any questions you should consult your veterinarian. Here is a quick list of the top 10 factors that, in my opinion, contribute to feline rhinitis:
1. Viral Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
The extremely contagious herpes and caliciviruses account for 90% of acute rhinitis in cats. Young cats, cats living in boarding and shelter conditions, and recently adopted cats are also susceptible to these diseases. The discharge is typically bilateral, clear or cloudy, and frequently comes with fever and eye discharge. Although the initial viral infection is typically transient and may go away within seven to ten days, cats may develop a chronic virus infection and are more likely to experience recurrent symptoms in the future.
2. Bacterial Infections
The majority of nasal bacterial infections result from another disease process. The most frequent causes of primary bacterial infection in cats are the bacterial species Bordetella, Mycoplasma, and Chlamydophila. Bilateral discharge that frequently resembles pus is what would be anticipated.
3. Fungal infections
Both indoor and outdoor cats can become infected by environmental fungi, with Cryptococcus infection being the most prevalent. The swelling of the face and nose can be asymmetrical due to fungal infections, and the discharge is typically unilateral, pus-like, or bloody in nature.
Cats rarely develop nasal parasites. When outdoor cats poke their heads inside or prowl around small animal burrows, they may become infected with botfly eggs (known as Cuterebra). Cats frequently paw violently at their faces when botfly eggs hatch into larvae inside their noses. This can result in significant unilateral discharge that looks like pus or is bloody.
5. Foreign body
Cats frequently have grass blades, seeds, or even grass awns lodged in their noses. A nasal foreign body could be the cause of an acute one-sided discharge that is frequently accompanied by facial pawing and severe sneezing.
6. Oral disease
An oronasal fistula—a gap between the mouth and the nose—is occasionally caused by the increasing infection of severe periodontal disease. Cleft palates, which allow a similar abnormality to form, can also harm young kittens. Mouth debris can get stuck in the nasal passages and cause serious irritation and subsequent infection. The associated discharge of an oronasal fistula is unilateral, frequently pus-like, bloody, and may even contain food or plant particles. It might be bilateral if it results from a cleft palate. When a kitten is nursing, milk may come out of its nose. A quick veterinary examination is advised.
7. Inflammatory polyps
Polyps are soft, benign growths that are frequently found in the nasal cavity and can occasionally extend into the middle ear. Young cats are frequently affected by inflammatory nasopharyngeal or nasal polyps, which can cause persistent unilateral nasal discharge, congestion, and sneezing, though the exact cause is unknown.
8. Nasal cancer
Older cats with unilateral discharge that is frequently bloody in nature are typically the ones with nasal cancer. Lymphoma and adenocarcinoma are the two most prevalent malignancies of the nose.
Environmental allergens like mildew, dust mites, grasses, and tree pollen can cause cats to develop clear bilateral discharge and sneezing.
Idiopathic refers to intermittent, repeated episodes of sneezing and nasal discharge in cats that have no known cause. It is believed that certain cats may be predisposed to the development of persistent nasal alterations leading to chronic continuing inflammation as a result of acute bacterial or viral URIs. A cat’s medical history and the results of a physical examination are used to make the diagnosis of rhinitis. As mentioned above, some rhinitis causes are more prevalent in outdoor cats, kittens, or cats who have unilateral or bloody discharge.
Although your cat’s medical history will be crucial to your veterinarian in reaching a diagnosis, many of these issues may necessitate an anesthetic examination in order to identify their root causes. Cats with chronic rhinitis are particularly affected in this way. To make sure there are no abnormal abnormalities (holes), your veterinarian may carry out a thorough oral examination while you are under anesthetic.
It is possible to undertake a polyp and foreign body evaluation. To make the proper diagnosis of infectious disorders, your veterinarian may advise a combination of X-rays, nasal flushing, nasal culture, or other diagnostic testing. To make a diagnosis, nasal biopsies and a procedure known as rhinoscopy, which involves scoping the nose, may be required. A CT scan may also be advised for cats that have cancer or fungal infections.
The underlying cause of the rhinitis and how well your cat responds to treatment determine the prognosis. Visit your veterinarian right away if you notice your cat is making more respiratory noise than usual. It is a medical emergency and you should take your cat to the vet right away if it seems to be having trouble breathing.