Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs and airways. The condition can occur in cats for numerous reasons. Today, our the Pacific Northwest vets explain the causes, symptoms and treatment options for pneumonia in cats.
What causes pneumonia in cats?
If certain viruses, bacteria or fungal organisms invade a cat's nostrils and airways, your kitty can develop an infection or inflammation that can lead to pneumonia. This condition can lead to complications such as breathing challenges and oxygen deficiency in the blood, which weaken their immune system.
While pneumonia can become an issue for cats of any age, our vets in the Pacific Northwest most often diagnose pneumonia in very young kittens, senior cats, or cats with other underlying health conditions. Cats can contract pneumonia in a few different ways:
A viral or bacterial infection in the lungs and airways can lead to infectious pneumonia — the most common type of pneumonia seen in cats.
A cat can get aspiration pneumonia by inhaling a foreign material, which can lead to irritation of the lungs' sensitive lining. One common cause of aspiration pneumonia is the improper administration of liquid medications, or the inhalation of vomit if the cat is stick.
Fungal Pneumonia (also known as mycotic pneumonia)
This type of pneumonia starts as a fungal infection that progresses into pneumonia. Inhalation of spores from soil is believed to be the cause of most fungal infections in cats.
In some cases, parasites such as lungworms and flukes can invade a cat's air passages and lead to pneumonia.
How can I tell if my cat has pneumonia?
In cats, pneumonia isn't always straight forward to detect since many of the symptoms are also associated with other illnesses including other respiratory infections such as cat colds. Nonetheless, if your cat is suffering from pneumonia they may display one or more of these symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Coughing up mucus or blood
- Gurgling or rattling respiratory sounds
- Nasal discharge
- Persistent coughing
- Shallow or labored breathing
- Bluish mouth
- Unusually fast breathing rate
- Untidy appearance
- Weight loss
If your cat has aspiration pneumonia they could experience other symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, increased heart rate and vomiting. Whereas fungal pneumonia in cats can also cause eye or skin problems such as runny eyes and skin lesions, as well as lameness.
Is pneumonia in cats contagious to other cats?
Cats suffering from viral or bacterial pneumonia can pass the infection on to other cats, dogs, and small animals that they come in close contact with.
To help prevent the spread of pneumonia, it's a good idea to keep your sick cat separated from other pets in your home, by keeping them contained in a comfortable but separate room. Provide your sick cat with a comfy place to rest, a fresh clean litter box, and plenty of food and water.
Clean your cat's food and water bowls frequently, as well as their litter box, and toys that may be contaminated. Also, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling your unwell cat.
Will my cat recover from pneumonia?
If your cat is diagnosed with pneumonia your vet will begin treatment to help stabilize your cat's condition then work to fight the infection. Based on the severity of your cat's symptoms, treatment may 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 to help fight infection.
There is a good chance that your cat will recover from pneumonia if they receive appropriate treatment early. That said, aspiration pneumonia is particularly difficult to treat and can lead to further complications later. The underlying cause of the illness, as well as your cat's overall health, and age will all play a role in how well your feline friend recovers from pneumonia. Sadly, cats that are very young, very old, or immunocompromised may not be strong enough to battle a severe case of pneumonia.