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Nasal polyps can be a cause of concern for cat owners. These fleshy growths in the nasal passages can cause various respiratory problems and discomfort for the feline friends we love. But what exactly are nasal polyps and how can we address this issue effectively? In this article, we will explore the symptoms and treatment options for cats with nasal polyps.

What are Nasal Polyps?

Nasal polyps, also known as nasopharyngeal polyps, are benign masses that develop in a cat’s nasal passages. These growths can also be found in the throat, middle ear, ear canal, or above the soft palate. Although they are more commonly observed in younger cats, older felines can also develop nasal polyps. It’s important to note that there is no specific breed or sex predisposition, meaning that cats of any breed or sex can be affected.

The structure of nasal polyps suggests that they are mainly composed of fibrous connective tissues and inflammatory cells, indicating that most nasal polyps are inflammatory in nature. They are referred to by different names depending on their location, such as nasal polyps, nasopharyngeal polyps, inflammatory polyps, middle ear polyps, or oropharyngeal polyps.

While the exact cause of nasal polyps in cats is still unknown, there is increasing evidence that points to inflammatory responses as the primary factor. Chronic inflammation in the nasal passages, resulting from viral or bacterial infections, can predispose a cat to develop nasal polyps.

Symptoms of Nasal Polyps in Cats

Nasal polyps often manifest as signs of upper respiratory problems in cats. The severity of symptoms depends on the location and size of the polyps. Common symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge, reverse sneezing, snoring, and breathing difficulties.

If the polyps grow from the ear canals or middle ear, affected cats may display head shaking, loss of balance, excessive ear scratching, and head tilt. A persistent ear infection can also indicate the presence of inflammatory polyps in the ear canals.

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In some cases, cats with larger polyps may experience a decrease in appetite and have difficulty swallowing if the polyps partially block the laryngeal area. However, it’s important to note that general signs of illness like weakness, lethargy, or decreased appetite are rare unless the size of the polyp obstructs the cat’s airways or oral cavity.

How are Nasal Polyps Diagnosed?

Diagnosing nasal polyps in cats can be challenging, as the signs associated with them can resemble those of other conditions affecting the upper respiratory tract or ear canals. Often, cats with symptoms of nasal polyps are initially treated for more common causes of nasal or ear problems before considering a nasal polyp diagnosis.

When clinical signs fail to improve with treatment, veterinarians may explore the possibility of nasal polyp growth. Physical examination is usually enough to detect visible polyps in the ear canals or nostrils. Diagnostic imaging tests, such as radiographs, CT scans, or MRIs, can provide further confirmation by revealing the presence of growths in the nasal passages or ear canals. However, obtaining a sample of the growth for biopsy is essential for a definitive diagnosis, which may require sedation of the patient.

If your cat is displaying symptoms similar to those described, it’s best to seek a thorough assessment from a veterinarian to determine the cause and rule out the possibility of nasal polyps.

Treatment Options for Cats with Nasal Polyps

The ideal treatment for nasal polyps in cats is surgical removal of the benign masses. Polyps located in the back of the mouth or throat can often be gently plucked out using a pair of long surgical forceps in a technique called avulsion/traction. However, this method may result in polyp regrowth within a few months or weeks if the underlying condition is not addressed.

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Polyps in the ear canals may also be removed using the same technique, but in some cases, access to the middle ear cavity or bulla is required to remove the polyp roots and reduce the risk of regrowth. The surgical procedure involving bulla access is known as ventral bulla osteotomy.

Cats that undergo surgical removal of nasal polyps will need to wear an Elizabethan collar for about two weeks to prevent them from disturbing the surgical site. They may also be prescribed antibiotics for a couple of weeks to prevent secondary infections after surgery.

It’s important to note that certain side effects may occur depending on the location of the polyp removal. Cats may experience temporary difficulties in blinking due to possible nerve trauma during the manipulation of the growth. However, these side effects typically resolve within a few days to a few weeks. In rare cases, permanent nerve damage may occur depending on the extent of the manipulation.

In addition to surgery, systemic anti-inflammatories such as corticosteroids can be used to manage the condition. These may be administered after surgery to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of recurrence or prior to the surgery to shrink the polyps and facilitate their surgical removal.

If you suspect that your cat may have nasal polyps or any other condition, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.


Nasal polyps in cats can cause discomfort and respiratory problems. They are often inflammatory in nature and can be attributed to chronic inflammation in the nasal passages. Identifying the symptoms and seeking appropriate veterinary care is crucial for the well-being of your feline friend. If you suspect nasal polyps or any other health concern, reach out to a veterinarian for guidance. Remember, your cat’s health is important, and seeking professional help is the first step towards ensuring their well-being.

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