Snuffles, sneezing, noisy breathing, snoring and nasal discharge are signs of nasal and sinus disease.
In young cats the flu viruses – feline herpesvirus and calicivirus – are the most common cause. These viruses damage the nasal mucosa and then bacteria infect the nasal passages causing a pussy discharge and a loss of appetite. In some cats this leads to chronic or lifetime infection of the fine bones within the nose and sinuses.
Young to middle age cats sometimes acquire fungal infections like cryptococcosis and aspergillosis if they spend a lot of time outdoors.
Inflammatory polyps at the back of the nose in the nasal part of the throat cause snuffles and snoring in some cats.
Physical damage from foreign objects in the nose like grass seeds, cat bites or car accidents, or associated with severe dental disease
will cause snuffles and nasal discharge in any age cat.
More seriously, some cats develop tumours in the nasal passages or extending from other areas into the nose.
What tests can be done to find the cause of the disease? We first do non-invasive tests, such as a blood test for cryptococcosis, a blood count, biochemistry or tests for feline Leukaemia virus and FIV. Then we consider a general anaesthetic to X-ray the nose and examine the nose, throat and mouth. We take samples and look for bacteria, fungi, evidence of inflammation or cancer cells. If the teeth and gums are diseased a dental treatment often resolves the problem.
We can control but not cure chronic bacterial rhinitis because the chronically damaged bones cannot be repaired. Antibiotics reduce secondary bacterial infection and steam inhalation in a steamy bathroom or from a vaporiser helps clear the passages. The most essential aspect of treatment is good nursing care: keeping the cat’s face clean and clear of discharge, and stimulating the appetite with warm, strong smelling foods.
Other diseases require specific treatments. We remove polyps surgically, treat fungal diseases with antifungal drugs and control some cancers with chemotherapy.