Feline laryngitis occurs when your cat’s larynx (their vocal cords, or cords) becomes inflamed and painful. Often, the first thing you notice is a change in your cat’s meow (they may even lose their voice!), along with other signs of a sore throat, such as a dry cough.
Laryngitis can occur by itself, but it’s often also part of an underlying condition, such as an upper respiratory infection. The range of symptoms your cat exhibits depends on what is causing the inflammation in its throat.
You may notice that your cat is quieter than usual, especially if they are normally very vocal. Just like us, when cats have laryngitis, they lose their voice completely!
Clinical signs that your cat may have laryngitis include:
- change cat voice
- loss of voice
- dry cough
- Head down
- hard to swallow
- loss of appetite
- noisy breathing
- open mouth
- less active than usual
- bad breath
If your cat’s laryngitis is caused by an upper respiratory infection, you may also notice:
- watery or red eyes
- runny nose
What causes laryngitis in cats?
Like a sore throat in humans, the root cause of feline laryngitis can be difficult to determine.
Although usually just a sign of a mild cat cold, common causes of laryngitis include:
- Upper respiratory infection (eg, feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus)
- Excessive meowing
- inhalation of irritants, such as smoke, dust, or chemicals
- allergic reaction
- Growths or tumors of the throat (including benign growths, laryngeal carcinoma, or feline eosinophilic granulomatous complex)
- A foreign object in the throat causing a blockage
- Laryngeal paralysis
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)
- Stimulation behind the breathing tube during anesthesia
How is laryngitis diagnosed in cats?
If you notice signs of laryngitis in your cat, you should take them to the veterinarian. If your cat’s symptoms are mild, your veterinarian may suspect laryngitis based on the physical examination and history alone.
However, sometimes further tests may be needed for a more definitive diagnosis. This may include:
- blood test
- A swab of the nose, throat, or eye for an infectious cause
- X-rays of the throat and chest
- Looking directly at the throat with an endoscope (laryngoscopy)
How do you treat laryngitis in cats?
Once your veterinarian has diagnosed laryngitis, they will discuss a treatment plan. This will vary depending on the severity of the laryngitis and the underlying cause of the throat inflammation.
In uncomplicated cases of mild laryngitis in cats, no specific treatment is recommended other than rest at home and some TLC. When your cat has a sore throat, the dry, cold air can make it even more uncomfortable. You can create a warm, humid environment for them by letting them into the bathroom when you take a hot bath or shower.
Soft, moist foods may be easier to swallow when your cat has a sore throat, however, make sure you introduce any dietary changes gradually to avoid an upset stomach. If your cat also has a runny nose, it’s important to keep the nasal passages clear (if they let you!) to help them breathe easier and smell food.
In more severe cases of laryngitis, your veterinarian may recommend medical treatment such as anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, diuretics, or antibiotics if a bacterial infection is suspected. If a blockage or lump is suspected in your cat’s larynx, your veterinarian may recommend surgical removal.
Do cats with laryngitis recover?
The good news is that most cases of laryngitis in cats are mild and can be treated with home care or medication prescribed by your veterinarian alone. These cases usually recover fully within a few days to a week.
Sometimes the underlying cause of laryngitis is more serious, such as throat cancer or a foreign body. In these cases, recovery time will be longer and more difficult, and in rare cases full recovery may not be possible.
Early diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian will give your cat the best chance of a full recovery, so if you are concerned that your cat may have laryngitis, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
Can you prevent laryngitis in cats?
Preventing laryngitis in cats can be tricky — just as it’s hard to avoid colds in humans. However, making sure your cat is eating a healthy, balanced diet and keeping her vaccinations up to date will help keep their immune system as strong as possible.
You can also reduce possible irritation of your cat’s airways by reducing the amount of smoking, dust, aerosols, and other chemicals in the environment.
Like a sore throat in humans, laryngitis is common in cats and usually causes only mild signs of illness, such as a change in meowing. Laryngitis in cats can occur alone or as part of an underlying condition such as an upper respiratory infection.
The good news is that the vast majority of cats with laryngitis fully recover within a few days with simple home care or some medications prescribed by your veterinarian, such as anti-inflammatory drugs.
Sometimes, laryngitis can be caused by something more serious. Therefore, if you notice any signs of laryngitis in your cat, you should take them to the veterinarian.
frequently asked questions
How long does laryngitis usually last?
Most cases of mild laryngitis in cats resolve within a few days to a week with rest and home care, or some medications prescribed by your veterinarian, such as anti-inflammatory pain relievers. If the underlying cause of laryngitis is more serious, such as a foreign object or tumor in the throat, more invasive treatment, such as surgery, may be required. In these cases, recovery may take longer.
Will laryngitis go away on its own?
Like a sore throat in humans, some cases of laryngitis in cats do get better on their own within a few days with some rest and TLC at home. However, moderate to severe cases of laryngitis may require medications prescribed by your veterinarian to resolve.
Symptoms of laryngitis can sometimes indicate a more serious underlying condition in your cat, so we always recommend taking your cat to the veterinarian if your cat is showing symptoms of laryngitis.
Why is my cat’s meow suddenly hoarse?
If you notice a sudden change in your cat’s meowing — or they’ve even lost their voice altogether — this could be a sign of laryngitis. Laryngitis occurs when a cat’s larynx (vocal chords, or chords) becomes inflamed, much like a sore throat in humans. Laryngitis can occur for many reasons, ranging from a simple cat cold to more serious conditions such as throat cancer.
How can I soothe a cat’s throat?
Keeping the air warm and humid can help relieve a cat’s sore throat. You can purchase a humidifier, but an easy and effective way to do this is to take a warm bath or shower in the bathroom, then close the door and let your cat relax inside. You can also help reduce irritation to your cat’s throat by reducing dust, chemicals, smoking or aerosols in your cat’s environment.
Soft, moist foods may be easier to eat and more appealing to your cat when they have a sore throat, but make sure you make any changes to their diet gradually to reduce the chance of an upset stomach.
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