What Is Feline Rhinitis?

Lisa Schmidt
Reviewed by Kelly Roper
Sick cat suffering from rhinitis

Feline Rhinitis, also known as Rhino Sinusitis, is a common condition many cat owners have to confront. It affects the upper respiratory tract and can cause persistent sneezing, wheezing and drainage, making your feline family member miserably uncomfortable.

Symptoms of Feline Rhinitis

VetInfo.com breaks down typical symptoms as:

  • Ongoing sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Nasal drainage
  • Nasal inflammation
  • Redness and inflammation around the eyes and under the eyelids

Acute Versus Chronic Rhinitis

While acute rhinitis and chronic rhinitis have very similar symptoms, it's important to note they are not the same. While chronic conditions may develop as a complication of acute rhinitis, that is not always the case. Chronic rhinitis can impact the long-term health of your cat because their sense of smell (or the lack of it) influences their eating habits. Consequently, chronic rhinitis can lead to more severe complications like anorexia.

Causes of Rhinitis in Cats

There are variety of potential causes of Feline Rhinitis. According to Pet MD, the most frequent causes are:

  • Parasites
  • Fungal disease
  • Dental abscesses
  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral infections
  • Neoplasia (abnormal cell/tissue growth)
  • Congenital defects (cleft palate is one example)
  • Foreign objects getting logged in the nose
  • Polyps in the nose

The most common cause of Rhinitis is a virus (often the Feline Herpes Virus, or Feline Calicivirus). These are the same viruses that cause Cat Flu and the symptoms are quite similar.

Diagnosing Rhinitis in Cats

It is very important to see your veterinarian as soon as you see symptoms to determine the root of the problem. VetInfo.com explains that if the condition is left untreated, it can lead to other complications, or become a chronic problem lasting months or years. Your veterinarian will start with a through physical exam that would include:

  • Nasal swab
  • Blood pressure check
  • Complete blood panel
  • Urinalysis

If your cat is diagnosed with Feline Rhinitis, further tests may be done to diagnose the underlying cause. Your veterinarian may also recommend:

  • X-Rays of the chest and nasal cavity
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Rhinoscopy (exploring the nasal passages with a scope)
  • Nasal tissue biopsy
  • EKG

Your cat would be under general anesthesia for these procedures to protect them from discomfort and trauma.

Treatment for Feline Rhinitis

Most rhinitis cases are caused by a virus or a bacterial infection. In such cases, according to vets at Blue Pearl Velvet, veterinarians commonly recommend:

  • Antibiotics or anti-viral medications
  • Steroid medications to accelerate healing
  • Nose drops
  • Eye drops

Caring for Your Cat at Home

The follow up care you provide for your cat at home is paramount to the success of any treatment. Veterinarians advise:

  • Keep your cat warm
  • Use a vaporizer (to loosen secretions)
  • Consistently offer food and water

For cats that show a decrease in appetite, Blue Cross for Pets suggests offering strong smelling foods that contain a lot of moisture like:

  • Sardines
  • Roasted chicken
  • Ice cream
  • Liquid diets prescribed by your veterinarian

With a little extra care, your cat's quality of life can be greatly improved through the recovery process. These small steps provide comfort for even chronic sufferers. If your cat refuses to eat, begins losing weight, or shows signs of dehydration, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Feline Rhinitis Prevention

The best protection against Feline Rhinitis is vaccination. There are a variety of vaccines available, so talk to your veterinarian to determine the best course of immunizations for your cat. While vaccines are the best defense, they are not 100% effective and the viruses that cause this condition are widespread, so don't stop there. The experts at PetEducation.com also suggest:

  • Vaccinating female cats prior to breeding, or during the time they are pregnant
  • Avoid exposing kittens to other cats until at least one week after their second round of vaccinations
  • Change litter frequently (feline viruses are often spread through bodily fluids)
  • Prepare food away from cats
  • Separate sick cats from healthy cats as much as possible

A little prevention now could save you and your favorite feline from a nasty battle with rhinitis later.

What Is Feline Rhinitis?