In cats, inflammation of the lungs, a condition known as pneumonia, can be caused by an infectious agent or by inhaled foreign matter. Pneumonia can make it difficult for a cat to breathe and may lead to a drop in oxygen levels in the bloodstream. Kittens and older cats are particularly susceptible to pneumonia, as are malnourished cats, those who have weak immune systems, those who suffer from chronic respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, and those with deformities that affect swallowing, such as a cleft palate.
Feline pneumonia is a life-threatening condition that warrants immediate veterinary attention. Generally, the earlier a cat receives treatment for pneumonia, the better the prognosis.
More treatable when addressed in its early stages, infectious pneumonia in cats can be caused by a broad range of infectious agents, including:
- Fungi (usually inhaled as spores from soil)
A second type of pneumonia occurs as a result of a cat breathing in foreign matter. Known as aspiration pneumonia, this form of the condition is generally considered more serious than infectious pneumonia and carries a poorer prognosis.
Cats can develop aspiration pneumonia if they inhale foreign particles, such as debris or plant matter, or if they aspirate stomach contents when vomiting. Aspiration can also occur during assisted feeding or as a result of improperly administered oral medication.
Symptoms of Feline Pneumonia
The symptoms of pneumonia are the same regardless of the cause. They may include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Labored breathing
- Discolored nasal discharge
- Poor appetite
Treatment of Feline Pneumonia
Antibiotics are used to treat both infectious and aspiration pneumonia. The veterinarian may use a nebulizer to deliver the antibiotics directly to the lungs. Further treatment, such as anti-fungal drugs, depends on the specific cause. A cat with pneumonia may also need supportive care in the form of intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy.
Feline pneumonia may call for hospitalization. A cat who has suffered from pneumonia may also require regular chest X-rays to determine whether the condition has improved or worsened.