Tuesday 7 September 2021

Can cats get sinusitis?

Cats can, indeed, get sinusitis just like their human caregiver. Respiratory infections (URIs) are common in cats. They can lead to secondary, bacterial infections of the frontal sinuses. These occur with some frequency. The signs are the same as those that you would expect to see with people. 

Cat with a headache head-pressing to alleviate it
Cat with a headache head-pressing to alleviate it. Pic in the public domain.

The symptoms include a persistent, purulent, nasal discharge, often just from one nostril accompanied by sneezing and sniffling. The cat will probably have a headache although they can't tell you that. Once again, you can deduce this from the fact that people have headaches when they have sinusitis. Sometimes cats 'head-press' when they have headaches.

The cat may appear to sit with his eyes partially closed and his head hanging. He will suffer from a diminished appetite and lose weight. This is all very typical with humans except humans although feeling bad with sinusitis continue to eat normally.

An abscessed tooth can also lead to an abscessed frontal sinus. There may be a swelling below the eye. But this is uncommon in cats.

Sinusitis in cats can also be caused by a fungal infection but this is uncommon. The fungal diseases concerned are cryptococcosis and aspergillosis. Cryptococcus is often associated with exposure to pigeons. This may occur when dust from pigeon poop blows in through an open window.

A veterinarian will diagnose feline sinusitis through external symptoms and demeanour as mentioned above confirmed by an x-ray which may show increased density in one sinus.

Also, the treatment is the same as for people namely antibiotics which should be chosen carefully and based on culture and sensitivity tests. Surgical procedures can be performed but I would expect this to be as an absolute last resort.

Turning briefly to people, as I understand it, sinusitis can be caused by allergens and minute foreign bodies such as pollen being inhaled. A cat might be particularly sensitive to environmental, airborne, particles such as pollen which may cause sinusitis in that individual cat. If that is true, I would expect the owner to run some tests to see whether keeping the cat inside, in a filtered environment, alleviates the condition.

In people, there are a number of treatments that can be used without the intervention of a doctor such as NeilMed sinus rinse. It's a question of using all one's means to prevent the inhalation of particles which can trigger the production of fluid in the sinuses because they irritate the membrane in the sinuses.

Cats have two frontal and two sphenoid (wedge-shaped) sinuses. My book tells me that the small sphenoid sinuses don't often cause problems.

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