Laryngeal disease

From Cat
A DSH cat diagnosed with laryngeal lymphoma
Cat shown above after 1 week with COP chemotherapy

Laryngeal disease is an important but uncommon cause of dyspnoea in cats, as it can result in severe respiratory distress necessitating tracheotomy or tracheostomy before diagnostic procedures can be performed[1]. Laryngeal disease has been reported sporadically in the literature with causes including neoplasia, laryngeal polyps and cysts, polypoid laryngitis, laryngeal paralysis and laryngeal oedema and trauma[2]. Laryngeal paralysis and laryngeal neoplasia (primarily lymphoma and squamous cell carcinoma) constitute the most common causes of laryngeal disease.

Diagnosis can also be challenging. In addition to dyspnoea, presenting signs may include coughing, retching, dysphonia and stridor, the latter two signs localizing disease to the larynx[3]. Radiography is needed to assess airway and pulmonary status. The laryngoscopic appearance of neoplastic and inflammatory laryngeal disease can be similar, and therefore, histopathology is required to confirm a diagnosis.

Laryngoscopy and fine needle aspiration and/or biopsy are usually required to definitively diagnose neoplastic and inflammatory disease. However, any interference with the larynx can result in worsening airway obstruction and inspiration distress[4].

In cases of laryngeal paralysis, therapy is not indicated if it is a unilateral complaint. Bilateral laryngeal paralysis, which occurs in 75% of cases, is treated if there are complications such as inhalation pneumonia. Reported causes include congenital disease, laryngeal lymphoma and inflammatory granulomas.


  1. Taylor, SS et al (2009) Laryngeal disease in cats: a retrospective study of 35 cases. JFMS 11:954-962
  2. Tasker, S et al (1999) Obstructive laryngeal disease in three cats. JFMS 1:53-59
  3. Costello, MF et al (2001) Acute upper airway obstruction due to inflammatory laryngeal disease in 5 cats. J Vet Emerg Crit Care 11:205-211
  4. Saik, JE et al (1986) Canine and feline laryngeal neoplasia: a 10 year survey. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 22:359-365