Pharyngeal Foreign Bodies

September 11, 2014

Our Veterinary caseload at the Practice varies very much with the seasons. One would immediately think of sheep lambing in the Spring or Dogs with chapped paws in the Winter but cats are also prone to seasonal conditions.


This week, we have seen a series of cats at the surgery with runny noses. All of the cats have presented with a history of sneezing and had very smelly breath. Some were still eating but some were completely off their food.


In each case, the owners were surprised to hear that their cats symptoms might be the result of eating grass.


In Spring and Autumn, when the grass is green and lush, dogs and cats love to chew on the long fleshy grass blades. In winter when the grass is lifeless or in high summer when it is parched, the grass is much less interesting. Some of the grass is swallowed and passes through the digestive system but as cats attempt to swallow a long grass blade, sometimes they become stuck in the throat. As the cat gags, the grass blade catches in the back of the throat and ends up caught behind the soft palate. If the grass blade has fine backward-pointing barbs, it becomes lodged in the back of the throat causing irritation and  trapping infection.


Unfortunately looking into a cats mouth is often of limited value because the tongue often sits against the roof of the mouth making it difficult to see very far down the throat. When we see a cat demonstrating suspicious signs, the only option is to anaesthetise the cat to allow full examination.


In each of the suspected cats this week, examination under anaesthetic has revealed a large grass blade lodged in the nasopharynx. It is always very satisfying to remove the grass blade and present it to the owner knowing that the signs that the cat might have been showing for several weeks are certain to resolve within a couple of days.

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