Could Cats Have a Problem With Swallowing Their Food?

Swallowing disorders can make it difficult for Kitty to eat.
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Even your cat’s favorite tuna-flavored treats are unappealing when he’s having difficulty swallowing his food. Dysphagia is the term given to a number of conditions that can make it uncomfortable for your cat to swallow. If your kitty is refusing food, take him to the vet immediately.

What to Look For

To minimize the pain caused by dysphagia, cats must alter their way of eating. You may notice your cat tilting his head as he eats or repeatedly trying to get down the same mouthful of food. When the pain becomes too much for Kitty, he may simply stop eating chunks altogether and merely lick the gravy from his bowl. You may notice your cat dropping food from his mouth, drooling, gagging or coughing as he tries to swallow. Since eating is difficult, Kitty may lose weight and experience muscle weakness.

Possible Causes

Feline dysphagia is often associated with oral infections, tonsillitis, sore throat and airway diseases that wreak havoc on the throat and mouth. Damage to the cranial nerves, especially those of the tongue and jaw, can make swallowing nearly impossible. When diagnosing dysphagia, your vet will check for any signs of trauma to the tongue, jaw and other structures of the mouth. In some cases, a cyst or mass located in the pharynx or mouth are to blame for your cat’s troublesome swallowing problem.

Treatment Options

Your vet will need to determine the underlying cause of Kitty’s distressing case of dysphagia before treatment can begin. Surgery is an option for cats suffering from trauma to the jaw and palate, including foreign bodies found inside the mouth. If the cause of Kitty’s pain is dental-related, diseased teeth can be safely removed. If your cat possesses an untreatable abnormality of the mouth, you may need to assist him in eating by placing a ball of food at the back of his throat and helping him to swallow.

Home Management

Your vet may prescribe Kitty medication for hormonal imbalances or antibiotics to keep bacteria at bay. If your cat does not improve or if more symptoms develop, consult with your vet. After meals, keep your cat in an upright position for 10 to 15 minutes to prevent aspiration pneumonia from inhaling food into the lungs. Provide several smaller meals throughout the day. Cats experiencing weakness or paralysis of the nerves or muscles may need several weeks of rest before they’re back to their frisky selves.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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