Narrowing of the Nasal Passage in Cats

By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 29, 2009

Nasopharyngeal Stenosis in Cats


Nasopharyngeal stenosis, a narrowing of the nasal section of the pharynx, occurs due to the formation of a thin but tough membrane in the passage of the nasal cavity. Any of the four portions of the nasal cavity may be affected and narrowed, including the common, inferior, middle, or superior portion. Chronic inflammation and subsequent fibrosis (the formation of excess fibrous tissue) after suffering an infection is one probable cause. Inflammation of the nasal tissues after chronic regurgitation, or vomiting of acidic material are also suspected to be causes of this problem. This disease may be seen in cats of any breed and age.


Symptoms and Types


  • Whistling or snoring noise
  • Extreme difficulty with breathing
  • Breathing with open mouth
  • Nasal discharge
  • Aggravation of symptoms during eating
  • Failure to respond to conventional therapy, including antibiotics



  • Upper respiratory infections and diseases
  • Foreign body, or any irritant contacting the affected area




You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health, including a background history of symptoms. After taking a complete history, your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination. Standard laboratory tests including a complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. The results of these routine laboratory tests are usually within normal ranges. Outward symptoms will suggest a need for radiographic studies, including X-rays and computed tomography (CT-scan) to diagnose the narrowing of the nasal passage. Your veterinarian may also pass a catheter through nasal passage or use a bronchoscope for further confirmation.






Surgery is the treatment of choice in affected patients. The membrane will be excised and the wound sutured. A less invasive technique your veterinarian may use is balloon dilatation, by which a small balloon is inserted into the compromised nasal space and then slowly filled with air in order to widen the narrow passage. Balloon dilatation is usually performed using fluoroscopy, which provides real time moving images and simplifies the procedure. If surgery is conducted, antibiotics will be prescribed for few days to prevent infections.


Living and Management


Recurrence is not uncommon in patients that have had nasopharyngeal stenosis, even after successful surgery or balloon dilation treatment. In such cases a second procedure may be necessary for treatment. Watch your cat for any recurrence of symptoms and consult your veterinarian immediately if they should become apparent. Your cat may feel very sore after surgery and may need pain killers for a few days until the wound has healed completely. You may also need to administer antibiotics at home for few days after surgery. Give all prescribed medications at their proper dosage and time to enhance recovery time for your cat.


While your cat is recovering, avoid using products which may irritate the nasal passages, including scented floor products and air fresheners.


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