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Why do Elderly Cats Suffer From Chronic Sinus Congestion?

What does it mean when a cat is congested all the time? Our Cat is 17 years old. She always sounds like she has a...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Feb 20th 2009


What does it mean when a cat is congested all the
time? Our Cat is 17 years old. She always sounds
like she has a cold.

Leigh
Bradford, ON, Canada

Chronic sinus congestion in cats has several causes. Some of them are very benign. For instance, breeds with short noses such as Persians have irregular sinus anatomy. This can cause chronic wheezing, snorting, or sniffling as air moves through convoluted passages in the flattened nose.

Another relatively harmless cause of nasal stuffiness is a previous, severe sinus infection. Such infections can lead to changes in anatomy that cause congestion after the infection has resolved.

You should be aware that medical conditions also can lead to sinus congestion. Active respiratory infections are very common. In some pets, especially the very young and very elderly, these infections may linger for weeks or months. Nasal discharge is a common consequence of respiratory infections.

Sinus infections are more serious than respiratory infections. They will cause nasal congestion, often with discharge. Dental infections are common causes of sinus infections and sinus congestion.

I hate to bring it up, but in older cats nasal or oral tumors sometimes cause sinus congestion.

Less common causes of the symptoms you describe include fungal infections of the nose or sinuses (a fungus called Cryptococcus is especially prone to growing in the nose), a syndrome mediated by the immune system called sinusitis or foreign objects such as foxtails or blades of grass in the nose.

Allergies, a leading cause of nasal problems in humans, rarely cause the same symptoms in cats. Cats with allergies are more likely to suffer skin trouble.

You probably saw this coming: I recommend that you take your cat to the vet. Together you can work to determine whether her symptoms represent a serious problem.

Photo: Juniper’s nose looks healthy.

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