Grass – a problem for cats

5th May 2016

Grass blade foreign body

If you’re a cat owner, you may have come across this condition before. Cats love to chew grass, but it can be a real problem. At this time of year, we’re often presented with an otherwise healthy cat showing signs of a sudden onset upper airway problem.

Signs to watch out for

  • Sneezing – constant repeated short expiratory sneezes
  • Gagging – the cat starts to appear to try to vomit and gag
  • Coughing – often harsh and dry sounding
  • Constantly swallowing – licking lips and exaggerated gulping
  • Runny nose – initially watery, then with cloudy mucus
  • Bleeding from the nose – from a few spots to drops

Why does it happen?

Many cats enjoy grazing and chewing on fresh lush grass, You’ll often see them in the garden getting hold of single blades of grass, biting off a blade and chewing. The trouble is that if they gag or vomit the grass back, there is a chance that it can end up in the back of the nose (the nasopharynx). It then starts to migrate further and deeper into the back of the nose, causing more irritation and more gagging. Eventually the grass becomes stuck, with no means of moving forwards or backwards. It’s at this point that you’ll see the poor animal getting quite distressed, constantly sneezing, gagging, retching and attempting to rid itself of the unusual foreign body.

How do we diagnosis the problem?

The signs mentioned above are a good clue, and will always make us ask more probing questions. In the end though we normally need to sedate or anaesthetise the animal to take a good close look as looking in the back of a cat’s mouth when they are conscious is impossible.

We can look at the very back of the mouth and behind the soft palate using a small flexible endoscope or otoscope. With luck, we’ll be able to identify a green object, which by now is usually covered in mucus and sometimes blood.

How do we remove the grass?

Using care and gentle traction and a pair of fine forceps, we remove the offending blade. At Bollington Veterinary Centre we’ve removed some long pieces of grass over the years, some of them being 10-15cm long.

What happens next?

By the time the grass has been removed, there is usually some inflammation and local infection in the back of the nose. To help a speedy recovery, we may flush the nasal cavity and prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics.

If you think your cat may have some grass stuck in its nose, call us

Contact us if your cat is sneezing or gagging