Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs and airways that can occur in cats for a number of reasons. In today's blog our Orange County emergency and specialty vets explain some of the causes of pneumonia in cats, as well as the symptoms to watch for, and available treatments.
What causes pneumonia in cats?
While pneumonia isn't a condition that most cat owners worry about, there are a number of different types of pneumonia that can affect our feline friends.
Infectious pneumonia – Infectious pneumonia results from a viral or bacterial infection in the lungs and airways, this is the most common form of pneumonia seen in cats. If particular bacteria, viruses, or fungal organisms invade the nostrils or trachea of your cat, they could lead to an infection or inflammation which can develop into pneumonia.
Aspiration pneumonia – Your cat could develop aspiration pneumonia after inhaling a foreign material, which leads to irritation of the sensitive lining of the lungs. A common cause of aspiration pneumonia in cats is the improper administration of liquid medications, or the inhalation of vomit if your cat has been sick.
Fungal pneumonia (Mycotic pneumonia) – Fungal pneumonia begins as a fungal infection which gradually develops into pneumonia. Fungal infections are believed to occur when the cat has inhaled spores from the soil.
Parasites - Cats can fall victim to a number of parasites. In some cases parasites including lungworms and flukes can invade the cat's respiratory system, resulting in pneumonia
Although cats of any age can develop pneumonia, the condition is most frequently diagnosed in cats with other underlying health problems, as well as very young kittens, and senior cats.
What signs or symptoms should I watch for?
It can be very difficult for even the most attentive cat owners to detect when their feline friend is feeling under the weather. Cat's tend to hide away when they feel unwell, so that owners will often be unaware of their cat's symptoms. Not only that, many of the symptoms of pneumonia in cats are associated with other respiratory infections (such as cat colds) as well as pneumonia. Here are a few signs that your cat may be suffering from pneumonia:
- Persistent coughing
- Shallow or laboured breathing
- Gurgling or rattling respiratory sounds
- Lack of appetite
- Coughing up mucus or blood
- Nasal discharge
- Unusually fast breathing rate
- Weight loss
- Bluish mouth
- Untidy appearance
Fungal pneumonia in cats can cause additional symptoms such as runny eyes, skin lesions, or even lameness. Whereas, signs of aspiration pneumonia in cats may include difficulty swallowing, increased heart rate and vomiting.
Is pneumonia in cats contagious?
Viral or bacterial pneumonia can quickly and easily be passed to other cats, dogs, and small animals.
To help prevent the spread of pneumonia to other animals, our vets recommend keeping your sick cat separated from other pets in your home. Be sure to provide your sick cat with a quiet and comfortable place to rest, a fresh clean litter box, and plenty of food and water within easy reach.
Anything that your cat comes in contact with could become contaminated and spread the virus to other animals, so it's important to clean your sick pet's food and water bowls frequently, as well as their litter box, and toys. Also, be extra diligent about thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water after handling your unwell cat.
Will my cat fully recover from pneumonia?
If your cat is diagnosed with pneumonia, your vet will begin treatment to help stabilize your cat's condition, clear up symptoms, then work on fighting the underlying infection. Depending on the severity of your cat's condition, treatment for pneumonia may include hospitalization to facilitate oxygen therapy or a nebulizer treatment to help ease respiratory symptoms, as well as intravenous fluids to treat dehydration, and broad-spectrum antibiotics or anti-fungal medications to fight infection.
For most cats with pneumonia the prognosis is good, however aspiration pneumonia can be particularly challenging to treat and often leads to further complications. Your cat's ability to recover from pneumonia will depend upon the underlying cause of the illness, as well as your cat's overall health, and age. Sadly, cats that are very young, very old, or immunocompromised may not be strong enough to battle a severe case of pneumonia.