Sunday 16 November 2008

Grass stuck in cat's nose


Stephen Cranley was worried when Max, his nine month old male neutered cat suddenly started to sneeze violently.Max was adopted from a local animal rescue group earlier this year, and he has settled well into his new home. He is a smart, inquisitive and friendly cat. He is the only animal in the house, and he seems to enjoy his role as the centre of human attention.
He was sleeping in the armchair in the living room this week, when he suddenly sat up, looking disturbed. He gulped a few times, made a coughing sound, then started to sneeze. It’s common for cats to sneeze from time to time (like humans), but this sneezing was not a mild one-off. Max was sneezing loudly and violently, and he kept on doing it. He sneezed a dozen times, then stopped, then started to sneeze some more. Stephen went over to look at him, but there was nothing visibly wrong with his nose. Max sneezed a few more times, and then began to paw at his nose, as if there was something uncomfortable going on.
Stephen knew that cats can suffer from cat flu, and that this can often make them sneeze. But he had an idea that cat flu caused other signs of illness too, like runny eyes and a discharge from the nose. Max had none of these things. He looked as healthy as ever, but simply, he had started to sneeze. Stephen and his wife had been having dinner when the sneezing started. Could the pepper that they had sprinkled onto their soup somehow have been inhaled by Max? He was some distance away from the dinner table so this hardly seemed likely. Max was now quite distressed, and the episodes of repeated sneezing showed no signs of settling down. Stephen made a quick decision to take Max to the vet.
Stephen could hear him sneezing for most of the ten minute journey to our vet clinic. He took a seat in our waiting room, with Max at his feet, and as he waited, the sneezing was getting even more loud and forceful. He bent down to talk to Max, to reassure him, and it was then that he noticed something strange. A green object was protruding from Max’s left nostril.

At that moment, I called them into my consulting room. As I listened to the story, I opened Max’s cage and lifted him onto the table. There are not many causes of sudden onset sneezing in cats, and as soon as I saw Max, my suspicion was confirmed: the green object that Stephen had noticed was the tip of a blade of grass. When I questioned Stephen, he confirmed that he had noticed Max chewing grass in the garden on several occasions.
Grass-eating is common in both dogs and cats, and it’s generally completely harmless: it may even have some health benefits for pets. But the one complication that can sometimes happen is when a cat regurgitates grass. There is no problem if the grass is brought up as part of a dollup of food and other stomach contents. Cat vomit is not pleasant to clean up, and if your cat ever does this, you may find that it sometimes contains pieces of grass. But if the grass goes “the wrong way”, it can end up passing into the nasal chamber, rather than fully exiting the body via the mouth. The inside of the nose is like a maze, with narrow tubes twisting and turning. Once a blade of grass enters the back of the nose, it is very difficult to get it out. It won’t go back the way that it has come – all the body’s reflexes act against the inhalation of a solid object. Instead, the irritation caused by the grass stimulates the body to try to get rid of it in the opposite direction – hence the violent sneezing. Unfortunately, a wet blade of grass is sticky, and it does not easily move once wedged inside the narrow confines of the inside of the nose.
Max had made the diagnosis of his problem easy for me, but now I had to remove the grass fully, without leaving any behind. Leaves of grass can easily break, and it could get very complicated if a small fragment was left in the middle of his nasal chamber. I have heard of cats needing to be anaesthetised while fluid is repeatedly flushed through the nose when this has happened. I was also aware that the nose has an exquisitely sensitive lining. If that piece of grass was tugged, it could cause Max pain and distress.
I asked a nurse to hold Max firmly, and I took a pair of secure, narrow-tipped forceps. I used these to grasp the piece of grass as far up as I could, then I gave a single, smooth, strong pull. I was ready for Max to react, and he did wriggle, but it was all over in a moment. The entire piece of grass dangled from my forceps tip. It was remarkably long, as you can see from the photo. It was no wonder that Max had felt uncomfortable when this was lodged inside his nose.
The grass had damaged Max’s nose a little, and there were a few drops of blood. But the sneezing stopped at once, and it didn’t start again.


Tips
+ Many dogs and cats graze on grass from time to time
+ When a cat regurgitates grass, pieces can lodge in the nose
+ If a cat starts sudden, repeated sneezing, this is a common cause

29 comments:

tomas said...

Hi,

I read this column with interest. My cat has what looks like the stem of a wheat plant, with lots of little spikes coming out of the stem, in her nose. I can't pull, it seems to be firmly stuck, and the spikes go the wrong way to allow this thing to come out. Any suggestions?

I'm Pete Wedderburn said...

Tomas - you need to take your cat to a vet as soon as possible. Such cases are rare, but they do require professional intervention. A general anaesthetic may be needed, and it should then be possible to grasp the grass stem from the opposite side (i.e. via the back of the mouth, reach up into the back of the nose) and it should come out easily when pulled in the correct direction.

Anonymous said...

This was of interest to me. My persian cat age 16 has been sneezing for about 2 years, took him to the vet, they looked in his nose didn't see anything and told us it was chronic sinutitis. He gave him a shot of antibiotic and he settled down somewhat, but after a week started sneezing all over everything, nasty looking stuff. We took him back to the same vet, nothing they could do, tried a different vet, same diagnosis (chronic sinutitis). We are so attached to this cat, thought we would have to put him down. Then my husband, about 5 days ago had him in the bathroom cleaning his eyes and nose and saw something protruding from his nose, was white, he pulled on it and it came out but of course, the cat was sneezing and acting up, then he saw a green object, pulled on it, blade of grass, 2 inches long. There was some blood and white stuff. Now he is sneeze free.

Anonymous said...

A week ago I never would have believed this was possible, but having listened to my cat sneeze for two days we took her to the vet... The only visible sign of anything being stuck up there was a 'hair' of about 3mm long ... which turned out to be a blade of grass measuring 8cms long!!! Don't know who was more surprised, the cat or the vet!!

JB said...

Thank you for this article. This EXACT same things happen with my kitty. She eats grass outside every now and then. One day, she started a nasal sound while breathing and was shaking her head alot. I had xrays taken. Nothing. The vet saod to simpy watch her,...she was breathing okay, alhtough noisey, and if it continued, we would need to scope it and flush her nose. So a week later, suddenly, one day, she went into a HUGE sneezing fit. Over 20 full-on sneezes...I thought she was dying...and suddenly, a blade of grass started to peak out. Fortunately, I was there a pulled it out..... a 2 inch long thick piece of grass. And after that, instanteously, she was purr-fectly fine. We were both lucky. The body will always try to rid items, and if it can not, it will continue to do so by putting the immune system and other systems into high gear to increase the efforts, whether things are working or not. This can cause serious issues. So watch your pets closely. Alwasy. Much love to all.

Ashley said...

Hey there. Phew! This just happened to my outdoor cat, Suki. She just randomly started to sneeze out of control. I looked at her noticing that the end of a grass blade was sticking out of her nose and there was a bit of bleeding. I panicked and called the animal hospital. Unfortunately, they were closed and I ended up getting the doctor's pager. Not knowing what to do I tried to hold her still to get a better look at it.
She continued to sneeze for another long minute and finally the 2 inch long grass blade finally came out. I was relieved when she stopped sneezing, but was a little more concerned about the inside of her nose although the bleeding had stopped.
I looked this up and saw it was nothing too serious. She's fine now and is asleep on the couch! Haha!
I'm going to watch her for a day or two just to be safe then I'll let her back outside.
Thanks for the story, letting me know I'm not alone!

Anonymous said...

My 8 year old cat , had a short nose bleed. We were very alarmed and the vet was closed. We were going to wait till the next day to take him to the vet. He still had an awful sneeze , yet not a constant sneeze. We were looking at his nose to insure there had been no more bleeding and saw the tip of a piece of grass. Ours was about 4.5 inches long. He still acts like he has something in his nose. I am going to watch him, but should I still take him to the vet to get his nose checked out.

Angela said...

Thank you so much for this article! This really helped me and my cat! Without this, I wouldn't know what to do... Thank you very much Pete! You're my cat's savior. God bless you!

Katharine Lees-Jones said...

My affenpinscher sometimes eats grass which sticks in her nasal passages. Usually it works itself out in a few days, and I can grasp the end and pull it out of her nose, but this time it didn't. She had to be referred to a specialist veterinary centre as my vet didn't have a small enough endoscope. The vet could see a small piece of grass but couldn't get hold of it to pull it out. Repeated flushing didn't shift it. He passed a piece of suture line with a tiny swab on the end through each nostril and out through the throat . However, even with all that, he wasn't sure the obstruction had been removed. ( The bill was astronomical !!). My dog has been on antibiotics and anti inflammatories for 5 days and I am unconvinced that all the obstruction has been removed as although her breathing is less noisy, she is reluctant to breathe through her nose, there is still clear ( ish) mucus coming down her nostrils, and she sneezes at intervals. Apparently, the next step would be an MRI scan ( but would this show up a tiny piece of grass ??) and possibly an operation to go in through her face, as her over-long soft palate makes the throat entry very difficult. Anyone had a similar situation or has any advice ?? I am going to have to contact the vet again tomorrow I think.

Anonymous said...

Exactly the same thing has just happened to my cat. He started to grind his teeth as well, the vet put him under an anaesthetic and managed to extract the grass.

He is now well and full of beans once more. I would advise anyone to see their vet immediately.

Anonymous said...

This JUST happened to my cat TWICE today. I was shocked at how long these blades of grass are. His nose bled but I'm hoping he's going to be ok.

Anonymous said...

Our cat had not been himself for quite awhile. His breathing seemed somewhat noisy from time to time and he was much nicer and wanting more attention than is usual for him. The other day he started vomiting clear liquid and seemed to have very labored breathing. Vet diagnosed respiratory infection and gave antibiotic injection. The next day he was violently sneezing and coughing when my husband noticed something was sticking out of his nose. He pulled out the 1st of two 3 inch long pieces of grass. It bled a little but the sneezing stopped. He hasn't sneezed, coughed or vomited since, but still seems to be recovering, as he's still wanting extra attention and wanting to sit on our laps, which he never does. I kind of like this new, nicer version of our kitty:) I wonder how long it'll last.

Anonymous said...

This just happened to our cat this afternoon. While she was sneezing it out I very, very gently helped pull it out. After a few minutes of being a bit shocked, we were both alright!

It has been very useful to read other peoples experiences of this. Good photos too.

Angel Jennifer said...

My 16 yr old cat was attacked by dogs a couple of months ago. They broke her leg, damaged one eye, huge teeth holes inside her mouth and her palate on top is split now (which i guess they call 'high-rise syndrome')

we had to give her subcutaneous fluids for one month until we could teach her to drink from a dripping faucet because everything she tries to drink comes through the split and out her nose (water, medicine, wet cat food, etc.) she can eat dry food still but now, the problem is that she has started grooming herself and her hair is getting stuck in the split in her mouth and we actually pulled a clump of hair out of her nose the other day.

But she continues to groom herself and then coughs and sneezes and i assume it will try to keep coming out of her nose.

this was the closest thing i could find that would apply to her problem, so i was hoping someone might have some advice..should i try to stop her from grooming (we have been brushing her a few times a day and cleaning her with wipes to no avail), or should i just wait until it protrudes from the nose and help it come out? thanks

sue said...

Just wanted to add my story. My cat Korfa, a 4 year old Somali, is leashed trained. One day we took him for a walk and when we got back home he was not acting right. He was acting like he could not breathe. He always chews grass/plants when he is outside and then coughs/vomits them back up. He started to take a turn for the worse a few days later. He was wheezing and he kept pointing his little face towards the ceiling like he was trying to obtain more air. We took him to the vet and she put him under and checked his nose with a basic instrument and nothing seemed wrong or up his nasal passage. We then took him to another vet who said that he had asthma. We were very worried. But it just did not feel like asthma despite him wheezing. And he had ZERO energy and was basically going more and more into himself. We were so worried. We then took him to another vet who also said asthma and we had to buy all sorts of medication and inhalers. But still we wondered.....so we took him to a nose specialist and he went under for a third time and after a two hour surgery (he almost gave up) he found it!! A TWO inch piece of plant!! Not even grass, but a plant with sides and it was thick!! Poor kitty. No wonder he could not breathe!! Imagine how hard it was to breathe with a two inch plant in your upper nose cavity!? So never stop trying to figure out what is wrong, especially if you feel like the diagnosis was incorrect--you know your pets the best!

BigCityProblems said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

My cat started sneezing a couple of weeks ago and being sick. I thought he had hair balls, however it got worse. His ears were flicking madly if I went near him and he kept sneezing. I then took him to the vet who had a quick look but said they might need to use an anaesthetic, but to try antibiotics first as he had a temperature. Mittens seemed a little happier for a few days then kept on sneezing again. Back to the vets we went. He had a general anaesthetic and lo and behold, he had a seven inch (yes, you read that right, seven inch!!) blade of grass stuck in his nostril and down his throat. He has had it removed and is on medication now, but he's a different cat! He's so happy, and back to normal. I am so glad they sorted it out. Mind you, it was a pretty big vets bill!

Jenny said...

Hi there, my cat had this exact same problem nearly 2 weeks ago. He came in in the early hours of the morning sneezing, coughing and wheezing. We rushed him to the emergency vets who later removed a rather large blade of grass from his soft pallette.

I'm a little bit concerned as although the vet did say that his throat may be sore for a little while he is still sneezing a bit and I've noticed he has quite bad breath. Not sure if this may just be that his throat and nose are still irritated from the procedure of removing the grass and will pass or if he should go back to the vets?

He seems well otherwise and is eating and drinking fine. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thankyou!

Pete Wedderburn said...

It isn't normal for him still to be sneezing, nor to have bad breath, so I would wonder about the possibility of a fragment of grass still being inside the nose. It would be best for you to go back to your vet to discuss the various possible ways forwards.

Jenny said...

Thank you for your quick reply and advice. Was worried that that might be the case and didn't want to have to put him through the stress of it all again, but if there is still something stuck we will have to get it out!

Thanks again!

Drew Vader from the dark side of Filadelphia said...

my cat Moses is a loner he tends to wander around a few days at a time. he got home last night and I saw a piece of grass in his nose, 4.5" when I pulled it out. then this morning I saw another one, easily 10" long! my question is.....how much grass could he possibly have in his nose?! he still doesn't seem 100%.

Anonymous said...

My 7 year old neutered male cat has now had 3 operations in the last 3 months to remove blades of grass from his nose. ( two ornamental grass blades and the other a standard grass blade)
He is otherwise healthy, but having now cost £1400 in the past 3 months ( thankfully insured but still the excess is expensive) I am trying to reduce the likelihood of this happening again. I have dug up all the ornamental grasses in my garden and groom him daily ( he is short haired ) to prevent furball build up in case he is eating the grass because of this. I would be grateful for any suggestions.

Rori Olsson said...

Hi my 5 year old cat seems to have something in his nose. It's not green, it's like a tan color and looks like there's more than one piece. They look like thin hairs almost. My concern is I have no pet insurance and I only work part time. The initial visit I was told would be $50. How much is the actual procedure around? I have a feeling they would have to go in through his mouth. I can't afford $400 but I need my cat to be okay. Any advice?

Kate Wragg said...

Over the past week my cat has occasionally looked uncomfortable, wretching slightly. Yesterday afternoon she jumped on my bed waking me up from my slumbers (I have been on nights this week) and began sneezing violently and frothing at the mouth. Alarmed I jumped out of bed and followed her downstairs where I cornered her by the back door. She was still sneezing loudly. I noticed something on her nose and after wiping the froth from around her mouth with a tissue I wiped her nose as you would with a small child. To my great surprise, when I looked at the tissue I had just used there was a 3 inch long blade of grass on it. I can just imagain that it has spent a week working its way along her nasal passages and imagain that the earlier wretching was caused by the far end of the grass tickling her throat.
Poor old Mog, she looked up at me and almost sighed with relief! No more sneezing, frothing or wretching for her.........until the next time.....after all Mog the big fat forgetful cat will be back to nibbling the lawn again tomorrow, I am sure!

Anonymous said...

I'm am totally stunned, my male short haired cat Max started having a huge sneezing fit, my first instinct was cat flu but upon my husband checking him he saw something sticking out of his nose, he pulled gently and a foot long yes over 12 inches of a piece of hay came out of his nose. It was red coloured mainly and he has just stopped sneezing. It's the strangest thing ever I'm actually finding it hard to stop watching him just incase. Fingers crossed no more hay, I have no idea where it even came from.

jowright.me said...

I think this may be the problem with my cat. However she has nothing protruding. She has sneezed and coughed her way through three lots of antibiotics. The antibiotics work but a week or so after the course is finished the sneezing starts again.
The vet is reluctant to anesthetize her as she is 18 years old. She is currently on bisolvan decongestant to help loosen any mucas and dislodge anything that might be stuck but she has now been on this a week and no joy, any suggestions would be appreciated.

Pete Wedderburn said...

there is a long list of other possible causes of sneezing and coughing, especially in an older cat - so if there is no obvious sight of a piece of grass, it'd wrong to leap to the conclusion that it might be the cause.....

Catherine said...

I just removed the third piece of grass in three months! The first was the worst since she actually had a blood clot. I thought about Neti pots and decided that might help. After removing the grass, I took a small cup of tepid PURE water and a bulb syringe. I squirted some up the affect nostril. She hasn't exactly gotten used to it, but she seems to know what's going on and doesn't panic.

Anonymous said...

My Tonkinese went missing for a couple of days recently and came back in a dreadful state - badly dehydrated but wouldn't drink although she obviously wanted to, wouldn't eat and kept gulping, a most peculiar noise, although she wasn't sneezing. We took her straight to the vet's and she was put on a drip to get her rehydrated, and the next day the vet removed a large grass seed from the back of her nose, under anaesthetic, and flushed out her nasal passages to clear the infection which had begun to develop. She still won't eat and we're having to syringe-feed her, but she's on antibiotics and Metacam and she looks a whole lot better than she did a few days ago. I'd never heard of this happening before, but clearly it does. And as others have mentioned, the vet bill was enormous! Ah well, she's worth it.....