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Pharyngitis in Cats

By Ned F. Kuehn, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Section Chief, Internal Medicine, Michigan Veterinary Specialists ; Neil W. Dyer, DVM, MS, DACVP, Director and Pathologist, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, North Dakota State University ; Joe Hauptman, DVM, MS, DACVS, Professor of Surgery, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Michigan State University ; Stuart M. Taylor, PhD, BVMS, MRCVS, DECVP

Also see professional content regarding pharyngitis.

Pharyngitis is inflammation of the walls of the throat (pharynx). It accompanies most upper airway viral and bacterial respiratory infections. Calicivirus infections in cats may cause lesions of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat. Mouth pain and resistance to having the mouth opened may indicate abscesses at the back of the throat or the presence of a penetrating foreign object or growth in the mouth or tonsils.

In general, cats with pharyngitis have a normal desire to eat and drink but may have difficulty swallowing. As a result of inflammation and abscesses, an emergency situation can develop because of airway obstruction. The diagnosis is based on complete physical examination; this may include oral examination, x-rays, and endoscopic examination of the throat along with cultures of fluids and sites that are draining.

The primary treatment is to identify and control or eliminate the factors leading to the disease. If pharyngitis has been caused by a foreign object (a relatively uncommon situation in cats), surgery to remove the object and any dead tissue is done under general anesthesia.