Nasopharyngeal Polyps in Cats

Overview of Feline Nasopharyngeal Polyps

Nasopharyngeal polyps are benign growths that can occur in the pharynx (back of the throat), the middle ear and even perforate through the tympanic membrane (ear drum). The exact cause of nasopharyngeal polyps is uncertain. The problem occurs mainly in cats, with no known breed or sex predilection, and tends to be found in younger cats. The polyps appear to be the result of an inflammatory process and an underlying viral disease has been suggested but never proven.

Depending on the location of the polyp, the effect on the cat can be significant. In the pharynx, the polyp can interfere with breathing, eating and swallowing. In the middle ear, it can affect balance and hearing and can cause other neurological problems. In the ear canal, it can lead to a secondary bacterial infection with discharge and odor from the ear canal that will not resolve completely with antibiotics.

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Nasopharyngeal Polyps in Cats

Treatment of Nasopharyngeal Polyps in Cats

Home Care and Prevention

If your cat has a bulla osteotomy to remove the polyp from the middle ear, there will be an incision, usually on the underside of the neck, which will need to be monitored for swelling redness or discharge. Use an Elizabethan collar to prevent scratching at the neck region. The stitches must be removed in 10 to 14 days.

Your veterinarian will discuss the possible side effects of a bulla osteotomy prior to the surgery. These relate to some of the nerves intimate to the surgical procedure. Damage to these nerves, particularly affecting the eye, is not uncommon but is usually transient. Generally, it does not require specific treatment.

Following surgery there is a good possibility that the polyp problem will be resolved and not recur.

Since inflammatory nasopharyngeal polyps in cats are a disease of unknown origin, there is no good way to prevent the problem from occurring. The disease is best addressed as soon as clinical signs develop, before your cat becomes weak and anorexic from the mass in the pharynx, and before the polyp grows in the middle ear to cause severe neurological problems.

In-depth Information on Feline Nasopharyngeal Polyps

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.

Diagnosis In-depth

Treatment In-depth

Home Care of Cats with Nasopharyngeal Polyps

Horner’s syndrome is common following a bulla osteotomy. Your veterinarian will likely have prepared you for this eventuality. No treatment is normally required and the problem usually resolves on its own. This may take a few days to weeks.

Facial paralysis is another possible complication following bulla surgery. In this case your cat may not blink on the affected side. This may necessitate placing drops or oil based lubricant in the eye several times a day to prevent dryness. This problem is again usually transient and will clear up in a few days to weeks.

Oral antibiotics should continue for a few weeks when your cat goes home and this may take the form of pills or drops, whichever is easiest. If culture results suggest that the antibiotic is inappropriate, your veterinarian will change the prescription.

Most cats are discharged with an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from scratching at the surgical site. This is especially important if there is a drain in place. The drain is often a piece of soft rubber tubing that passes through a hole in the skin adjacent to the incision. This area must be kept clean for a few days while discharge and fluid exits the surgical site. It can be helpful to take a cotton ball soaked in a little warm water to wipe the area around the drain clean, twice a day. The drain is usually removed within a few days following the surgery and this will be performed by your vet.

The incision should be examined daily for swelling redness or discharge. Stitches or staples must be removed in 10 to 14 days, at which point the Elizabethan collar can also be removed.