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
Polyps in the back of the throat often sit behind the soft palate and may also require sedation or anesthesia for a proper evaluation. If your cat is going to be anesthetized for a full evaluation, plain X-rays of his or her skull can also be taken to define the pharynx and the bulla, the middle ear at the base of your cat’s skull.
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.