Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Chima's lodged hairball

Chima, a well-loved and beautifully-natured 3 year old Rag Doll cat from Leeton, became suddenly unwell after a short stroll outside (she is an indoor cat). She vomited once and then developed a nasty nasal discharge and loud “snoring-type” nose. Worryingly she also stopped eating.

Chima’s local vet, Leeton Vet Hospital and Wagga Wagga Veterinary Hospital worked in collaboration ruling out common causes of this problem and provided excellent care of Chima through her illness, but Chima needed a special piece of equipment – a small endoscope – to diagnose and treat her problem.

“When cats present with these symptoms, it could be anything from a simple viral infection – like the flu – to a nasty cancer in the nose”, says Dr Ali Montgomery.

“Fortunately CSU has just invested in two new endoscopes which allows us to examine our patients more thoroughly. The scopes can look into the nasal passages; the throat and oesophagus and even down to the stomach and intestines. It also had the ability to take biopsy samples from areas that we see look abnormal.”

With endoscope the CSU SARH Team were able to see the cause if her symptoms – a hairball had been vomited up and lodged in the back of her nasal passage. This then caused a secondary bacterial infection and discomfort causing her not to eat.

“This is a very unusual case”, Dr Ali comments. We do see strange objects (nuts, toys, string etc) causing obstructions of the respiratory or gastrointestinal “but I have never seen a hairball in the nasal passage before! It highlights how we must always seek to diagnose the cause of a problem before we can possibly give a prognosis or a treatment plan. This could have been assumed cancer which is not an uncommon cause of these symptoms in a cat and Chima might have been unnecessarily put to sleep. Nut luckily we were able to diagnose and treat her all in one procedure and she’ll go on to live a happy life with her family. ness, but Chima needed a special piece of equipment – a small endoscope – to diagnose and treat her problem.

“When cats present with these symptoms, it could be anything from a simple viral infection – like the flu – to a nasty cancer in the nose”, says Dr Ali Montgomery of CSU Small Animal Referral Hospital.

  “So to be able to treat the problem and to give owners a prognosis we first have to diagnose the problem and this often requires specific tests or pieces of diagnostic equipment”, she says.

Dude was anaeasthetised and advanced imaging (computed tomography, CT) was performed to assess the degree of nasal cavity damage and rule out any nasal cavity masses (polyps, tumours). Samples were taken for bacterial and fungal testing. Results showed Dude had a fungal infection called cryptococcosis of his nasal cavities and frontal sinuses.

Cryptococcus is acquired from the environment, particularly from soil and decaying plant matter (eucalyptus) and can be shed from pigeons. Humans can become infected with this disease as well but the risk of spread from animals to humans is low. Good general hygiene should be practiced when handling infected animals to reduce the likelihood of exposure.

Dude has started antifungal medication and will require treatment for several months. He will have regular blood tests to check how he is responding to treatment (cryptococcus antibody testing). We will monitor Dude’s progress and are hopeful he will make an uneventful recovery. It was lovely meeting Dude and his owner- he is a beautiful and good natured cat!