Dysphagia in Cats: when the cat has difficulty swallowing

Very often our feline friends can have difficulty swallowing. Let’s see together what is the cause of dysphagia in cats.

The dysphagia is a disorder that can occur in the cat for several reasons. This problem is commonly known as the cat’s difficulty in swallowing.

Dysphagia can be both temporary and therefore resolved in a short time, and continuous, therefore more serious and can create health problems in our four-legged friend. Let’s see together what are the causes of difficulty in swallowing in cats and what needs to be done about it.

Cat has difficulty swallowing: symptoms and causes

As previously mentioned, dysphagia is the medical term for the cat’s difficulty in swallowing. Depending on the severity of the disorder, there are 3 types of dysphagia:

  • Oral dysphagia: The cat may have paralysis of the tongue, paralysis of the jaw, and an inability to open the mouth. Felines that have this type of dysphagia often eat by tilting their heads to one side or throwing their heads back.
  • Pharyngeal dysphagia: when the cat eats it has difficulty in swallowing and to swallow food it chews a lot, stretches its neck and head, risking choking.
  • Cricopharyngeal dysphagia: The cat can swallow after many attempts, but subsequently either coughschokes or vomits food. Felines suffering from this dysphagia can lose weight.

The main symptoms not to be underestimated are:

  • Repeated attempts at swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food in cats
  • Cough in the feline
  • Weight loss in cats
  • Signs of weakness
  • Physical deformities of the head or neck

Causes of dysphagia in cats

Causes of cat swallowing difficulties are many, including:

  • Trauma to the jaw, tongue, or other parts of the mouth
  • Dental diseases
  • Foreign bodies in the mouth or pharynx
  • Cyst in the mouth
  • Respiratory diseases in cats
  • Tumor masses
  • Cricopharyngeal achalasia
  • Diseases of the nerves of the tongue or chewing muscles
  • Pharyngitis
  • Stomatitis in cats
  • Gingivitis in the cat

Dysphagia in cats: diagnosis and treatment

After informing your veterinarian of your feline’s onset of symptoms or any recent illnesses or injuries, the specialist will perform various tests, including blood tests, blood tests, and urine tests.

From these tests the veterinarian will be able to diagnose any infectious diseases, kidney or muscle injuries, immune-mediated diseases and hypothyroidism.

In addition, the specialist will be able to perform X-rays and ultrasounds of the skull and neck of your four-legged friend to identify any anomalies. Finally, if necessary, the veterinarian will also carry out: ultrasound scans of the pharynx, CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging in case he suspects any tumors.


The dysphagia treatment in cats depends primarily on the cause of this disorder. In case of oral dysphagia, it is possible to feed the cat by placing a portion of food in the back of the cat’s throat to help him swallow.

In the event that the cat suffers from pharyngeal or cricopharyngeal dysphagia, it can be helped in feeding by lifting the head and neck when swallowing.

In the event of weight loss in the cat, therefore excessive difficulty in swallowing, the vet could insert a gastric tube. On the other hand, in more serious cases such as the presence of a tumor, surgery may be required.

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