Cat Specialist Services veterinary investigations

Chronic rhinitis (the chronic snuffler cat)

Chronic rhinitis is a term that means chronic (over 30 days is deemed chronic) inflammation of the nose. The main causes of chronic nasal discharge in cats are viral, bacterial or fungal infections, cancer and also inflammatory disease. Please see the information page here.

Chronic rhinitis is a term that is often used to describe cats with long (many years) intermittent nasal discharge and sneezing.

This is suspected to occur when cats have had previous infections with cat flu (e.g. herpes virus) that causes damage to the delicate tissues inside the nose. The nasal cavity has a very complex immune system and this damage affects the immune defences of the nose, causing ongoing and intermittent infections with bacteria. Over time bacterial infections penetrate deep into the bones of the nose and also the sinuses, making it very difficult to clear infections.

Chronic rhinitis
Chronic rhinitis

This image demonstrates the delicate tissues inside a cat’s nose. Previous infections can cause damage to these tissues resulting in intermittent ongoing infections.

In order to diagnose cats with chronic rhinitis, we need to exclude all other causes of nasal signs in cats.

Chronic rhinitis

This image shows the back of the nostrils (choanae) as evaluated on rhinoscopy. Note the smooth appearance to the tissue. Compare this with the image below, which shows a cat with more marked inflammation.

Chronic rhinitis

Unfortunately there is no one treatment that works perfectly for all cats with chronic rhinitis. The disease can be managed but rarely cured. Every cat will require treatment tailored specifically to them. Treatment can include the use of broad spectrum antibiotics and long courses (6-8 weeks) maybe needed. Continuous or pulse antibiotic therapy maybe required. Using antibiotics carefully is very important however to try and reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance so this should always be discussed with your vet.

A helpful treatment for most cats involves using saline nebulisation (enter link to video) or steam inhalation for 10-15 minutes two to three times daily. Alternatively. Instilation of 1-2 drops of saline in each nostril daily can also help to break up nasal secretions and encourage productive sneezing.

Nebulisation units can be purchased from a chemist and can be very
helpful. https://breathatech.com.au/products/portable-nebulisers/ is a particularly good, quiet unit.

Intermittent nasal cavity flushing under anaesthesia can help to remove thick secretions and many cats will have a significant period of reduced symptoms after this procedure.

Topical glucocorticoids (inhaled or drops) maybe appropriate if biopsies show lymphoplasmacytic inflammation however steroids can exacerbate viral infection or cause recurrence of previous infections so they need to be used carefully. Feline recombinant interferon therapy use remains controversial.

Famciclovir is an oral antiviral medication that has shown promise against feline herpes virus and can be trialled in some cats.

For cats with severe infections (e.g. Pseudomonas) we can perform a small surgical procedure to open the sinus, remove as much infected material as possible and instil an antibiotic gel that will slowly release the antibiotic directly into the frontal sinus and nasal cavity.

So as you can see there are numerous therapies available, which typically means, that there is not one "cocktail" that will work for every patient. It is a case of tailoring treatment to the individual.

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Veterinary Specialist Services