A variety of factors can contribute to pneumonia in cats, a condition that causes inflammation in the lungs and airway. Here, our Long Island veterinarians explain the causes, symptoms, and treatment options if your feline friend has come down with this illness.
What causes pneumonia in cats?
If bacteria, viruses, and/or fungal organisms enter your cat's airways, they can cause infection or inflammation that may lead to pneumonia. If your cat gets pneumonia, they will have problems breathing and there will not be enough oxygen in their blood, which will weaken their immune system.
While this internal condition most commonly diagnosed in very young kittens, senior cats, or cats with other underlying health issues, pneumonia can impact cats of any age. The condition can also be contracted in a variety of other ways, including:
- Infectious pneumonia in cats results from a bacterial or viral infection in the lungs and airways. This is the most common pneumonia diagnosed in cats.
- Aspiration pneumonia in cats is caused by a cat inhaling foreign material. This irritates the sensitive lining in the lungs. Inhalation of vomit if the cat is sick, or incorrect administration of liquid medications, are common causes of aspiration pneumonia in cats.
- Fungal pneumonia in cats (also referred to as mycotic pneumonia) starts as a fungal infection and progresses to pneumonia. Most fungal infections in cats are thought to be caused by the inhalation of soil spores.
- Parasites such as flukes and lungworms can invade a cat's air passages and lead to pneumonia.
What are symptoms of cat pneumonia?
Pneumonia is not always an easy condition to diagnose in cats, since many symptoms can also be signs of other illnesses, such as cat colds. That said, if your cat has pneumonia, he or she may display one or more of these symptoms:
- Coughing up blood or mucus
- Rattling respiratory sounds or gurgling
- Nasal discharge
- Unusually fast breathing rate
- Shallow or labored breathing
- Persistent coughing
- Lack of appetite
- Untidy appearance
- Weight loss
- Bluish mouth
Other symptoms of aspiration pneumonia in cats include increased heart rate, difficulty swallowing, and vomiting. On the other hand, fungal pneumonia in cats can cause eye or skin issues such as runny eyes and skin lesions, along with 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.
To help prevent the spread of these conditions, keep your sick cat indoors and separated from other pets in your home. Make sure your cat has a comfortable place to rest, a clean litter box, and plenty of food and water.
Your cat's food and water bowls, as well as their litter box and potentially contaminated toys, should be cleaned regularly. After handling your sick kitty, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
Do cats recover from pneumonia?
If your feline friend is diagnosed with pneumonia, your vet will provide treatment to help stabilize your cat's condition, then work to fight the infection.
Treatment for pneumonia may include hospitalization for monitoring, oxygen therapy or a nebulizer treatment to help relieve respiratory symptoms, intravenous fluids to treat dehydration, and broad-spectrum antibiotics or anti-fungal medications, depending on the severity of your cat's symptoms and the type of pneumonia your cat is suffering from.
With treatment, cats suffering from pneumonia have a good prognosis. Aspiration pneumonia in cats, on the other hand, can be particularly difficult to treat and frequently leads to additional health complications.
The underlying cause of your cat's pneumonia, as well as your pet's overall health and age, will all influence how quickly your cat recovers from pneumonia. Unfortunately, very old cats, young kittens, and immunocompromised cats may not be able to fight 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.