Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Nasal discharge

Synonym(s): Snuffles

Contributor(s): David Godfrey, Ian Ramsey, Nicki Reed


  • Cause: nasal discharge is a clinical sign, rather than a disease. As such, it may be associated with numerous causes.
  • Signs: different types of discharge may be present and the discharge may be unilateral or bilateral. Various accompanying signs may depend on the underlying etiology.
  • Diagnosis: this will focus on the investigation of nasal discharge to obtain a diagnosis.
  • Treatment: symptomatic treatment may be given, with more specific treatments available depending on the etiology.
  • Prognosis: will depend on underlying cause.
Follow the diagnostic tree for Nasal discharge in cats Nasal discharge in cats.



Predisposing factors


  • Respiratory viral infections may be more likely in kittens or cats from high density environments (eg breeding colonies, rescue centers), especially if the queen is a chronic carrier.
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis may be more likely in cats that have a history of an acute respiratory infection.
  • Trauma may be more likely in young, outdoor cats.
  • Nasopharyngeal polyps may be more common in cats suffering from chronic inflammation (eg rhinitis or otitis Otitis media).
  • Nasopharyngeal stenosis may occur following aspiration of gastric contents into the nasopharynx (eg following general anesthesia or severe vomiting).


  • Nasal discharge may arise for two reasons:
    • Over-production of secretions, eg as a result of stimulation of glands by irritant factors.
    • Obstruction to the normal caudal movement of particulate material and mucus to the nasopharynx for expectoration or swallowing.


  • Acute signs are often associated with foreign bodies, trauma or respiratory tract infections.
  • Inflammatory diseases and neoplasia tend to be more insidious in nature.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Reed N & Gunn-Moore D (2012) Nasopharyngeal disease in cats 1. Diagnostic investigation. J Feline Med Surg 14 (5), 306-315 PubMed.
  • Reed N & Gunn-Moore D (2012) Nasopharyngeal disease in cats 2. Specific conditions and their management. J Feline Med Surg 14 (5), 317-326 PubMed.
  • Scherk M (2010) Snots and snuffles. Rational approach to chronic feline upper respiratory syndromes. J Feline Med Surg 12 (7), 548-557 PubMed.
  • Demko J L & Cohn L A (2007) Chronic nasal discharge in cats: 75 cases (1993-2004). J Am Vet Med Assoc 230 (7), 1032-1037 PubMed.
  • Henderson S M, Bradley K, Day M J et al (2004) Investigation of nasal disease in the cat - a retrospective study of 77 cases. J Feline Med Surg (4), 245-257 PubMed.
  • Lamb C R, Richbell S & Mantis P (2003) Radiographic signs in cats with nasal disease. J Feline Med Surg (4), 227-235 PubMed.
  • Allen H S, Broussard J & Noone K (1999) Nasopharyngeal disease in cats: a retrospective study of 53 cases (1991-1998). J Am Anim Hosp 35 (6), 457-461 PubMed.
  • Willard M D & Radlinsky M A (1999) Endoscopic examination of the choanae in dogs and cats - 118 cases (1988-1998). JAVMA 215 (9), 1301-1305 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Sturgess K (2013) Chronic nasal discharge and sneezing in cats. In Practice 3567-74.
  • Sykes J E & Malik R (2102) Cryptococcosis. In: Green CE (ed) Infectious diseases of the Dog and Cat, 4th edition. St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Saunders pp 621-623.
  • Johnson L R (2008) Rhinitis in the cat. In: Bonagura J & Twedt D (eds) Kirks Current Veterinary Therapy Vol XIV Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders. pp 616-618.
  • Sturgess K (2005) Rhinoscopy in cats. UK Vet 10, 50-58.
  • McCarthy T (2005) Rhinoscopy: the diagnostic approach to chronic nasal disease. In: McCarthy TC (ed). Veterinary endoscopy for the small animal practitioner. St Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Saunders. pp 137-200.