Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs and airways that can occur in cats for a variety of reasons. Today our Internal Medicine Specialist Vets at Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group–OC (VMSG-OC) in Orange County explain more about the causes, symptoms and treatment for pneumonia in cats.
What causes pneumonia in cats?
A number of different types of bacteria, viruses, or fungal organisms can enter your cat's airways and develop into an infection or inflammation which can lead to pneumonia. If your cat develops pneumonia they will experience breathing difficulties and oxygen deficiency in the blood, which can weaken their immune system.
While cats of any age can develop pneumonia it is most commonly diagnosed in very young kittens, senior cats, and cats with other underlying health problems. Pneumonia can be contracted by cats in a number of different ways:
- Infectious pneumonia in cats results from a viral or bacterial infection in the lungs and airways, this is the most common form of pneumonia seen in cats.
- Aspiration pneumonia in cats is caused by the cat 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 the cat is sick.
- Fungal pneumonia in cats (also called mycotic pneumonia) begins as a fungal infection that progresses into the development of pneumonia. The inhalation of spores from the soil is believed to be the source of most fungal infections in cats.
- Parasites such as lungworms and flukes can invade the cat's air passages and result in pneumonia.
What are the symptoms of cat pneumonia?
Pneumonia isn't always straightforward to diagnose in cats since many of the symptoms are also associated with other illnesses including other respiratory infections such as cat colds. That said, if your kitty is suffering from pneumonia they may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Coughing up mucus or blood
- Gurgling or rattling respiratory sounds
- Nasal discharge
- Lack of appetite
- Bluish mouth
- Shallow or labored breathing
- Unusually fast breathing rate
- Persistent coughing
- Weight loss
- Untidy appearance
Aspiration pneumonia in cats can cause other symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, increased heart rate and vomiting. Whereas fungal pneumonia in cats can lead to eye or skin problems such as runny eyes and skin lesions, as well as lameness.
Is pneumonia in cats contagious between pets?
Viral and bacterial pneumonia can pass to other cats, dogs, and small animals that come in close contact with your sick cat.
It's a good idea to keep your sick cat indoors and separated from other pets in your home in order to help prevent the spread of these conditions. Be sure to provide your cat with a comfy place to rest, a fresh clean litter box, and plenty of food and water.
Your cat's food and water bowls should be cleaned frequently, as well as their litter box, and toys that may be contaminated. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling your sick kitty.
Do cats recover from pneumonia?
If your kitty has been diagnosed with pneumonia your vet will provide treatment to help stabilize your cat's condition then work to fight the infection.
Depending upon the severity of your cat's symptoms and the type of pneumonia your cat has developed, treatment for pneumonia could include hospitalization for monitoring, 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.
The prognosis for cats suffering from pneumonia is generally good if they receive treatment early, however, aspiration pneumonia can be very difficult to treat and often leads to further health complications.
The underlying cause of your cat's pneumonia, as well as your pet's overall health, and age will all play a role in how well your cat recovers from pneumonia. Unfortunately, very old cats, young kittens, and immunocompromised cats may not be strong enough to battle a severe case of pneumonia.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.