Dennis, an 8-year-old, grey, Domestic Shorthair cat was presented to Dr. Schaeffer at the beginning of May for trouble breathing. His owners, Tresa and John Haines, were up most of the previous night with Dennis. They were very worried because he continually coughed, gagged and sneezed throughout the night. His respiratory rate was increased and at times it was hard for him to breathe. Dennis is an indoor/outdoor cat, and he has a tendency to eat things like grass when outside. His signs were acute, as he had been totally normal the day before.
On examination, Dennis had several violent sneezing and gagging episodes, but between them he was breathing normally. He had no nasal discharge or other outward signs of irritation. Based on his history and his episodes, Dr. Schaeffer suspected that he might have a piece of foreign material somewhere in his nasal passages.
Dr. Schaeffer anesthetized Dennis for a nasopharyngeal exam, and she carefully inspected his oral cavity and throat, as well as his nasal passages. Initially, the back of his throat only appeared a little irritated. On flushing his nasal passages, a little mucus came from the right side, but no foreign material.
For good measure, Dr. Schaeffer looked one last time in the pharyngeal area, up behind Dennis’ soft palate. There, she found the very end of a blade of grass. She carefully removed what turned out to be a rather large and branched blade of grass from his right nasal passage – the cause of his sneezing episodes and irritation!
Dennis recovered uneventfully from anesthesia and his grass blade incident – his owners report he has done very well since coming home, with no further sneezing and gagging.
As our pets spend more time outdoors with the spring and summer weather, nasal foreign body cases become more frequent. Paying attention to the signs, like Tresa and John Haines did is important. And as Dr. Schaeffer can attest, it is always rewarding to find and remove the foreign body – fixing the uncomfortable problem!