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Nasopharyngeal Polyps in Cats

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Other diseases that can mimic nasopharyngeal polyps are those that can cause upper airway noise or snoring sounds when breathing, problems with balance, signs related to disorders of the middle ear, or chronic ear infection.

  • Bacterial infection is the most common cause of inflammation of the middle ear. An infection moves to the middle ear either through the blood system, through the eustachian tube, which is the natural connection between the pharynx and the middle ear, or through a ruptured ear drum. In the case of bacterial infection, the ear is usually painful to touch, and a discharge or a foul smell may emanate from the ear canal. However, an examination of the ear with an otoscope does not find an underlying polyp. There is no airway obstruction with an infection. An X-ray of the skull or a CT scan cannot differentiate a polyp from an infection, but treatment for both problems would most likely be the same, requiring surgery to open up the middle ear. An infection is more likely if both middle ears appear to be affected on an X-ray or a CT scan.

  • Tumors affecting the middle ear are uncommon. It is more likely that tumors originate in the ear canal and then invade into the middle ear. Tumors, like polyps, should be considered when an ear infection fails to respond to appropriate antibiotic treatment alone.

  • Tumors in the back of the pharynx can cause airway noise, snoring and difficulty eating and drinking. In cats such tumors may arise from the tonsils, e.g. tumors like lymphoma or squamous call carcinoma. Under sedation or general anesthesia these lesions look quite different from the smooth, pink fleshy growths typical of a nasopharyngeal polyp.

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