By Dr Steve Surujbally
Any inflammatory process (whether sudden = acute, or present for a long period of time = chronic) of the nasal passages may be termed a rhinitis. Some germs (viruses or bacteria) have an affinity for the nasal membranes. One such disease hits cats and is called Feline Rhinotracheitis. This is a real highflying scientific name, but it only means that there is an inflammation of the internal nasal lining of the upper respiratory tract.
In both dogs and cats, a rhinitis can be caused by foreign bodies lodged in the nasal passages or there might be a bacterial invasion which produces a mass of inflamed tissue marked by the formation of ‘proud flesh’ (granuloma). Very often, the rhinitis has its origin in allergy. The allergic reaction (hypersensitivity) could be traced back to pollen dust, house dust and moulds (fungus). Researches have proven that a cigarette/cigar smoker could cause in his/her pet a rhinitis, as a reaction to the nicotine and tar which the poor pooch must inhale (second-hand smoke). Irritant gases could also be the cause of a rhinitis.
The symptoms of a rhinitis can vary according to the causal agent. For example, bacteria create a creamy, foul-smelling discharge (pus). Sneezing, increased lachrymation and an accompanying conjunctivitis would suggest a virus problem. Sometimes, the discharge begins as a watery fluid and later develops into a thick mucous discharge. If the problem continues for weeks and defies the usual antibiotic treatment, then we may consider that a fungus infection is involved.
The treatment will be defined by the cause of the rhinitis. It makes no sense using antibiotics wildly and uselessly against, say, an allergic rhinitis. At best, the antibiotics might help against bacteria that have invaded the tissue, weakened and damaged by a granuloma or a tumour or a polyp. In such cases, it might be just better for the vet to surgically remove the offending tissue. And, of course, foreign bodies have to be removed by flushing or by a mechanical (surgical) intervention.
The big problem, in my experience, is that once the rhinitis begins (usually with sneezing and watery discharge as the first signs), the disease is self-perpetuating. The bacteria/ virus/fungus/foreign body/allergy would precipitate the sneezing. But sneezing, which is an attempt by the animal to clean the upper airways of congestive materials, can be so explosive that it damages the nasal membranes, paving the way for a greater germ invasion and, consequently, further damage, and so on. This is why I advise pet owners to take the first bit of sniffles seriously.
Yes, dogs (and cats, perhaps most mammals) do succumb to bouts of sinusitis. Generally, by definition, a sinus is a cavity between two layers of tissue. Usually, when we speak of sinuses, we mean cavities between layers of bones in the skull which communicate with the nostrils. These cavities are lined by a membrane similar to that in the nose. Any inflammation of these membranes is called a sinusitis. In effect, we are referring to the cavities in the frontal and maxillary bones of the skull which are connected to the nasal cavity.
As with rhinitis (see above), a sinusitis can develop as a result of a bacterial or viral infection associated with the Respiratory Disease Complex. Allergies and other forms of hypersensitivities can also create a sinusitis. Smoke aspiration, the inhalation of irritant gases or foreign bodies lodged in the nasal passages can precipitate a sinusitis. Often we have found that tooth problems (eg abscesses) can extend into the maxillary (upper jaw) sinuses, thus causing a sinusitis.
Again, as with a rhinitis condition, the symptoms of a sinusitis would vary according to the casual factor. Sneezing, fluid discharge from the nostrils, increased tear production, conjunctivitis, pain and discomfort can accompany an attack of sinusitis. The affected tissues initially are hyperaemic (increased blood flow to the area) and oedematous (swollen with fluid). The nasal discharge, which begins as a thin liquid, develops into a thick, sticky exudate as the condition continues for a long while. The sneezing aspect is an attempt by the suffering animal to clear fluid from the upper airways.
The treatment should firstly be based on an effort to ease the symptoms. Nose drops containing ingredients to constrict the blood vessels (thus decreasing the hyperaemia) are recommended in the first instance. Later, antibiotics and a bland ophthalmic (eye) ointments/solutions could be used. Very often, veterinary practitioners administer antihistamines, but the value of this medication is questionable in this case.
A polyp is a growth which begins as an enlargement of one of the mucus-producing glands in the nasal membrane. Polyps are not cancerous growths. The cherry-like growths impede the flow of air through the nostril and they bleed easily. You should not attempt to treat these blood-filled growths by yourself. Veterinary intervention is needed.
Remember me writing that the word ‘tumour’ just means swellings. They are of different types. On the one hand the swellings could be just a mass of new tissue, without much (if any at all), inflammation (benign tumours). On the other hand, we can be confronted with a diffuse mass of tissue, which can grow rapidly and give rise to secondary growths (malignant tumours).
Both benign and malignant tumours can be found in the nasal passages and in the sinuses as well. Tumours in the nostrils/sinuses can give rise to varying amounts of fluid discharge – usually only out of one nostril. Large tumours can cause a disfigurement of the face. You can actually see one side of the face protruding. If the tumour is large enough and extending behind the eye, you will notice the eyeball bulging outwards.
Tumours should be removed surgically. Antibiotics and other anti-inflammatory drugs will not help. Any time large amounts of tissue are corrupted by the tumour and encompassing a lot of surface space, it might be too late to even attempt surgery. At this point, a serious discussion with your vet is necessary.
Enjoy the coming week.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237 226-4237.