What are nasopharyngeal polyps? Nasopharyngeal polyps are pinkish-white benign growths that appear in the middle ear, lining of the Eustachian tube (the tube that runs from the middle ear into the throat) and the back of the throat. They can form a mass that hangs down into the airway at the back of the nasal cavity and obstruct the throat.
How does my cat get nasopharyngeal polyps? It is unclear how these polyps develop, but this condition is more often found in young adult cats of any breed. It seems to affect male and female cats equally. It is theorized that they may occur in response to infectious agents such as respiratory viruses, but this has not been scientifically authenticated.
How do I know if my cat has nasopharyngeal polyps? Common symptoms associated with nasopharyngeal polyps include snoring, sneezing, nasal discharge and labored breathing. Polyps located in the pharynx can cause difficulties in eating, swallowing and breathing. Balance and hearing problems are evident when the polyps are located in the middle ear. There may be secondary bacterial infections in the ear canal that are evidenced by an unpleasant odor and discharge. These ear infections do not respond to antibiotics. Your veterinarian will confirm the diagnosis after taking a detailed health history of your cat and performing a thorough physical exam that includes inspecting inside the ears and throat. It may be necessary for your veterinarian to sedate or anesthetize your cat in order to do an otoscopic (ear) inspection to look for the presence of polyps. Sometimes, MRI or CT scans are recommended to pinpoint polyps inside the middle ear.
What can I do about nasopharyngeal polyps? Take your cat to your veterinarian at the first signs of imbalance or breathing difficulties. Don’t wait until the polyps grow in size and block the pharynx or cause irreversible damage to the middle ear. In some instances, your cat may need what’s called a bulla osteotomy – especially for polyps located in the middle ear. Throat surgery may also be indicated. If the polyps were in the middle ear, you will need to deter your cat from climbing or jumping until balance is restored. It is advised that the polyps be sent to a veterinary pathologist who will inspect them to determine if they are benign or cancerous.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting nasopharyngeal polyps? Because the cause of nasopharyngeal polyps remain unknown, it is impossible to take steps to prevent them.
Are there certain breeds that get nasopharyngeal polyps more often? Not really. Siamese and Abyssinians may be at slightly higher risks, but this condition is non-discriminate: it can affect any cat of any age or any breed.
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