A Guide to Rhinitis and Sinusitis in Kittens

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

23 March 2019

What are rhinitis and sinusitis?
Although they are often confused, rhinitis and sinusitis are two different types of infections of the nose and sinuses that your kitten may get.
Rhinitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, while sinusitis is an inflammation of the lining of the sinuses. They sometimes occur together, and is then called rhinosinusitis. Viral rhinitis is very common among kittens, so keep an eye out for any of the symptoms of these illnesses.

What are the symptoms of rhinitis and sinusitis?
The symptoms of sinusitis are:
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Stuffy nose
  • “Reverse sneezing” to clear the nasal passages
  • Facial deformity
While a sneeze every now and again is quite normal — just as it is for humans — continual sneezing or sneezing accompanied by one or more of the other symptoms are a warning sign that not all is well.
Nasal discharge, or mucus, can be from one or both nasal passages and the same goes for a stuffy nose — only one nasal passage need to be affected. Don’t wait for both to be affected before seeking medical help, especially if it is a kitten that is ill.

What are the causes of rhinitis and sinusitis?
The most common causes of sinusitis are:
  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Parasites
  • Fungal disease
  • Tooth root abscess
  • Neoplasia
  • Congenital abnormalities (for instance a cleft palate)
  • A foreign object within the nose
  • Nasal polyps (not necessarily malignant)

As you can see, the causes for sinusitis in kittens and humans are quite the same!

How is a diagnosis of rhinitis or sinusitis made?
You will need to take your kitten to the vet to make sure that it is, in fact, sinusitis or rhinitis that they have and not another illness with similar symptoms.
The vet will do an initial health check, check the teeth and mouth for abscesses or ulcers, and will most likely also test for hypertension and lower airway disease. Blood tests may also be necessary, depending on the symptoms your kitten shows.
Always give your vet as much information as you can regarding when the symptoms started, how the symptoms may have changed or worsened over a matter of hours or days, if there has been any chance of poisoning, etc.
One of the signs your vet will look for is whether only one nasal passage or both nasal passages are blocked.
If only one nasal passage is blocked, it may be a sign of:

  • Fungal infection
  • Polyps
  • Tooth root abscess
  • Foreign object in the nose
If both nasal passages are blocked, it may be a sign of:
  • Viral or bacterial infection

What is the treatment for rhinitis and sinusitis?
The treatment for rhinitis and sinusitis will differ depending on the cause. If it is a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be given to clear it up, while medicine for inflammation may also be prescribed. At home, you could use a humidifier to help loosen the nasal mucus.

Be sure to keep an eye on your kitten, however. If there is no improvement, you’ll have to take them back to the vet as another course of treatment may be necessary.

You should also keep an eye on your kitten’s appetite and water intake while they are ill and on the medication. If they stop eating or become dehydrated, it is important to notify your vet. They will be able to advise on other foods you may try or whether you need to bring your kitten in for them to see again.

Photo by Unsplash.


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