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Pneumonia in Cats

Cats can develop a range of respiratory conditions, including several different types of pneumonia. Here, our vets in Fayetteville discuss the types, causes and symptoms of pneumonia in cats and what you can expect as your feline friend recovers.

What is pneumonia in cats?

If specific bacteria, viruses, or fungal organisms enter your cat's nostrils or trachea, they can cause inflammation and infection, leading to pneumonia. This condition can cause breathing difficulties and a lack of oxygen in the blood, weakening the immune system. Although cats of any age can develop pneumonia, it is most commonly diagnosed in very young kittens, old cats, or cats with pre-existing health conditions.

What are the different types of pneumonia?

  • Infectious pneumonia:  Resulting from a viral or bacterial infection in the lungs and airways; this is the most common form of pneumonia seen in cats.
  • Aspiration pneumonia: Aspiration pneumonia in cats is usually caused by inhaling a foreign material that irritates the sensitive lining of their lungs. One common cause of this condition is the incorrect administration of liquid medications or inhaling vomit when the cat is sick.
  • Fungal pneumonia (also called mycotic pneumonia): This type of pneumonia begins as a fungal infection and progresses into pneumonia. The inhalation of spores from the soil is believed to be the source of most fungal infections in cats.
  • Parasites: In some cases, parasites such as lungworms and flukes can invade a cat's bronchi, leading to pneumonia.

What are the signs and symptoms of pneumonia in cats?

Detecting pneumonia in cats can be difficult as its symptoms are similar to other respiratory infections or cat colds. However, if your cat is suffering from pneumonia, they may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Shallow or labored breathing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Gurgling or rattling respiratory sounds
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Lack of appetite
  • Unusually fast breathing rate
  • Coughing up mucus or blood
  • Bluish mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Untidy appearance
  • Weight loss

Fungal pneumonia may also cause eye or skin problems in cats, such as runny eyes, skin lesions, and lameness. Aspiration pneumonia could also cause your cat to experience difficulty swallowing, increased heart rate, and vomiting.

Is pneumonia in cats contagious?

If your cat has contracted viral or bacterial pneumonia, they can pass it on to other pets in close contact, such as dogs and small animals. It's best to keep your sick cat separated from other pets in your household to prevent the spread of the virus or bacteria.

You can do this by keeping them in a separate room with a comfortable resting place, a fresh litter box, and plenty of food and water. Remember to frequently clean your cat's food and water bowls, litter box, and toys to avoid contamination, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling your sick cat.

Do cats fully recover from pneumonia?

After diagnosing your cat with pneumonia, your veterinarian will begin internal medicine treatment to help stabilize your cat's condition and fight the infection. Depending on how severe your cat's symptoms are, they may need to be hospitalized for monitoring, receive oxygen therapy or a nebulizer treatment to help ease respiratory symptoms, get intravenous fluids to treat dehydration, and be prescribed broad-spectrum antibiotics or anti-fungal medications fight infection.

Fortunately, with treatment, the prognosis for cats with pneumonia is generally good. However, aspiration pneumonia is a particularly difficult form of pneumonia to treat and may result in further complications later on. The extent of your cat's recovery from pneumonia will depend on the underlying cause of the illness, as well as their overall health and age. If your cat is very young or old or has a weakened immune system, they may not be able to effectively battle a severe case of pneumonia.

What antibiotics will be used while treating my cat?

The type of antibiotic used will depend on the cause of the pneumonia and the severity of the symptoms. For example, cats infected with B. bronchiseptica (responsible for Bordetella or kennel cough infections) may be prescribed doxycycline (orally or intravenously). The use of broader-spectrum antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones and penicillins, may be considered for cats showing signs of systemic illness (e.g., fever, injected mucous membranes, respiratory distress).

Internal Medicine in Fayetteville

Our vets have the tools and experience they need to diagnose and treat difficult internal conditions such as pneumonia. At Fayette Veterinary Medical Center, we have various diagnostic tools and treatment methods. We can provide efficient treatment alternatives for pets not responding well to standard veterinary procedures.

If your pet requires expertise or a procedure that we can't provide, we'll refer you to an experienced veterinary internal medicine specialist (internist) near Fayetteville.

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.

Is your cat showing the signs of pneumonia listed above? Contact our Fayetteville vets to schedule an examination. We can diagnose and treat this and other internal conditions.

New Patients Welcome

Fayette Veterinary Medical Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Fayetteville companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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