A white and brown cat with dysphagia.

Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing) in Cats

Feline Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing)

Dysphagia is the medical term used to describe difficulty in swallowing. Dysphagia has many different causes, some of which are treatable and some are not. Diagnosing and treating the problem early can help increase the chances of a positive outcome.

Dysphagia may be a mild problem in some animals, or it may cause extreme distress in some patients. With longstanding dysphagia, a cat may lose a lot of weight due to their inability to eat and swallow (despite a normal appetite). Dysphagia may represent a transient local problem, or a severe, systemic illness. The recognition of dysphagia in your cat warrants an immediate examination by your veterinarian to determine the cause and institute appropriate therapy.

General Causes of Difficulty Swallowing in Cats

Symptoms of Dysphagia

Diagnostic Tests for Dysphagia in Cats

A thorough examination is very important, as some causes of dysphagia may be detectable through examination. Your veterinarian may also recommend the following tests:

Specialized diagnostic tests may be indicated in select cases and may include:

Treatment of Dysphagia in Cats

Treatment of dysphagia is variable depending upon the cause. Some animals require supportive care while their primary disease is being treated or is resolving.

Supportive care measures may include the following:

Specific treatments may include the following:

Home Care

Administer any prescribed medications and dietary recommendations as directed by your veterinarian. If your pet is not improving, and/or if additional clinical signs develop, contact your veterinarian. Animals with weakness or paralysis of the muscles or nerves to the head may take several weeks to return to normal, once appropriate therapy has been instituted. Consistent nursing care at home is very important to their recovery.