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Feline Esophageal Stricture: Causes Symptoms Treatment and Prevention

Esophageal Stricture in Cats

As a cat owner, it can be concerning to witness your feline friend experiencing difficulty swallowing or regurgitating food. A common cause of these symptoms is esophageal stricture, a condition in which the esophagus narrows and restricts the passage of food.

Understanding the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of esophageal stricture in cats can help you provide appropriate care for your furry companion.

Symptoms and Types

Esophageal stricture can result in various symptoms, including regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, weight loss, and excessive salivation. Regurgitation occurs when undigested food and liquid are brought back up into the mouth, often in a tube-shaped form.

This may occur shortly after eating, or even several hours later. Difficulty swallowing, also called dysphagia, can cause your cat to take a long time to eat their food or avoid eating altogether.

Weight loss may result from the cat’s reluctance to eat due to difficulty swallowing. The excess salivation, also called ptyalism, is due to the cat’s inability to swallow their saliva, leading to drooling.


The causes of esophageal stricture in cats can vary, but commonly include gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), surgery, ingestion of irritants or corrosive substances, and foreign objects. GERD is a condition in which the stomach contents flow back into the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation.

This can lead to scarring, which can narrow the esophagus. Surgery, such as the removal of an esophageal tumor or the placement of a feeding tube, can also cause scarring.

Ingestion of irritants or corrosive substances can damage the esophagus, leading to scar tissue formation. Cats also have a tendency to ingest foreign objects, resulting in esophageal trauma and scarring.


Diagnosis of esophageal strictures in cats can involve several tests. A barium-contrast X-ray can allow for visualization of the esophagus and any obstructions or narrowing.

Endoscopy can also provide a clear view of the esophagus and the extent of the stricture. In some cases, a biopsy may be taken to rule out the presence of esophageal tumors or other diseases.


Treatment of esophageal strictures in cats can involve hospitalization, hydration, dilation procedures, and feeding tubes. Hospitalization may be necessary to monitor your cat’s fluid and food intake and to provide additional support if needed.

Hydration can help manage symptoms such as vomiting and dehydration. Dilation procedures, which involve stretching the esophagus, can help to relieve the stricture and improve food passage.

Feeding tubes may be used to ensure proper nutrition and hydration while the esophagus heals.


Prevention of esophageal strictures in cats can involve taking precautions to reduce the risk of injury and other causes. For example, if your cat requires anesthesia for surgery, ensure that they are fasted appropriately beforehand to reduce the risk of regurgitation and aspiration.

Avoid giving your cat food before bedtime since this can increase the risk of GERD. Also, keep toxic substances such as household cleaning chemicals out of reach of pets.

Complications of Esophageal Stricture

Esophageal Tear or Perforation

One of the most severe complications of esophageal strictures in cats is a tear or perforation of the esophagus. This can occur as a result of dilation procedures when the esophagus is stretched too much, leading to a tear.

Observing your cat carefully, being alert to secondary issues, and acting swiftly when you notice a problem is vital in avoiding surgical intervention.

Aspiration Pneumonia

Another serious complication of esophageal strictures in cats is aspiration pneumonia. This occurs when food, liquid, or other foreign objects are inhaled into the lungs, resulting in significant respiratory distress.

Symptoms include coughing, labored breathing, and lethargy.

Treatment can involve medication, antibiotics, and, in severe cases, oxygen therapy.


The prognosis for cats with esophageal strictures can be guarded. The potential for recurrence and scarring can lead to ongoing complications and discomfort.

However, with appropriate treatment and management, improvement in symptoms is possible. Routine monitoring and follow-up examinations are essential to ensure the cat’s good health and quality of life.


Cats with esophageal strictures may experience various symptoms, including regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, weight loss, excessive salivation, and numerous significant complications. Understanding the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of esophageal strictures can help you provide your feline friend with the best possible care.

If you notice these symptoms in your cat, promptly contact your veterinarian to prevent further complications. Monitoring and Follow-Up Care for

Esophageal Stricture in Cats

After a cat has been diagnosed with esophageal stricture and received the appropriate treatment, monitoring and follow-up care are critical for optimal recovery.

The goal of follow-up care for esophageal strictures is to ensure complete resolution of symptoms and prevent recurrence or complications. Monitoring and follow-up care commonly involve repeat barium contrast X-rays and endoscopies, observance for complications, and long-term prognosis and management.

Barium Contrast X-Ray and Endoscopy

After receiving treatment for esophageal strictures, it is common for veterinarians to perform repeat barium contrast X-rays or endoscopies to assess the resolution of the stricture, the lumen size of the esophagus, and ensure no new obstructions have developed. The frequency of such tests will depend on the individual cat’s particular situation and their response to treatment.

However, it is essential to identify any recurrence or complications that can lead to more severe problems.

Observance for Complications

As previously mentioned, complications can arise from esophageal strictures, and it is essential to observe our feline friends for any signs or symptoms of problems. Veterinarians typically advise owners to carefully monitor their pet’s progress and note any unusual behavior, such as regurgitation, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite, or lethargy.

If any of these symptoms occur, seek veterinary care immediately to determine the cause.

Esophageal Tear or Perforation

An esophageal tear or perforation can occur during the treatment of esophageal strictures, resulting in additional complications. These complications may cause a delay in complete recovery or may require surgical interventions to correct.

Observing cats after treatment for esophageal strictures and monitoring for signs such as pain or fever can indicate whether an esophageal tear or perforation has occurred.

Aspiration Pneumonia

In addition, aspiration pneumonia is another significant concern for felines with esophageal strictures. If food or liquid enters the lungs, aspiration pneumonia can become a concern.

Cats with aspiration pneumonia can experience significant respiratory distress, coughing, or lethargy. Owners should observe their cats for any signs of respiratory issues, especially after feedings.

Prognosis and Management

Esophageal strictures’ prognosis can be guarded, but with appropriate treatment and management, a good outcome is possible. The chance of recurrence and complications remains a significant concern, and prompt veterinary care is necessary if signs of any symptoms arise.

Veterinarians may recommend diet modifications, feeding techniques (such as elevated feeding stations), and avoiding feeding cats before bedtime to alleviate the symptoms.

In some cases, long-term management with dilation procedures may be necessary to maintain adequate food passage.

Veterinarians may also prescribe medication to manage symptoms and promote healing while watching for any indications of strictures’ recurrence.

Cats that have suffered from esophageal strictures require careful management and ongoing observation to identify any possible complications, prevent recurrence, and promote a good outcome.

Along with regular veterinary consultations to identify any underlying medical concerns, owners should be observant of their cat’s behavior and monitor any changes that may suggest the return of an esophageal stricture.


Esophageal strictures in cats require ongoing monitoring and follow-up care to ensure complete resolution of symptoms and to prevent any recurrence or the development of complications. Timely observation of any unusual behavior, prompt veterinary care, and scheduled barium contrast X-rays or endoscopies can help veterinarians treat these strictures properly, aid in understanding the recovery progress, and offer peace of mind for cat owners.

By working with their veterinarians and remaining watchful of their feline friend’s behavior, cat owners can ensure successful treatment outcomes for their cherished pets. Esophageal stricture in cats is a condition that can cause discomfort and serious complications.

Symptoms include regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, and weight loss.

Causes include gastroesophageal reflux, surgery, ingestion of irritants, and foreign objects.

Diagnosis and treatment involve barium-contrast X-ray, endoscope, hydration, dilation procedures, feeding tubes, and medication. Complications of esophageal stricture include esophageal tear, perforation, and aspiration pneumonia.

Monitoring and follow-up care are critical to ensure complete resolution of symptoms and prevent recurrence. Long-term prognosis and management may include diet modifications, feeding techniques, and dilation procedures.

By staying observant and working closely with a veterinarian, cat owners can help their pets recover successfully from esophageal strictures and enjoy a healthy and comfortable life.

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