Pneumonia is a lung and airway inflammation that can occur in cats for a variety of reasons. Today, our veterinarians at Animal Health Services discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of pneumonia in cats.

What causes pneumonia in cats?

Bacteria, viruses, and fungal organisms can infiltrate your cat's airways and cause an infection or inflammation that can lead to pneumonia. If your cat gets pneumonia, they will have trouble breathing and will have a lack of oxygen in their blood, which will weaken their immune system.

Pneumonia can affect cats of any age, but it is most commonly diagnosed in very young kittens, senior cats, or cats with other underlying health issues. Pneumonia can be contracted by cats in a variety of ways, including:

  • 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 a foreign material being inhaled by the cat, irritating the sensitive lining of the lungs. Incorrect administration of liquid medications, or inhalation of vomit if the cat is sick, is a common cause of aspiration pneumonia in cats.
  • Fungal pneumonia in cats (also known as mycotic pneumonia) begins 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 lungworms and flukes can invade the cat's air passages and result in pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of cat pneumonia?

Pneumonia is not always an easy condition to diagnose in cats because many of the symptoms are also associated with other illnesses, such as cat colds. However, if your cat has pneumonia, he or she may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

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

Other symptoms of aspiration pneumonia in cats include difficulty swallowing, increased heart rate, and vomiting. Fungal pneumonia in cats, on the other hand, can cause 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.

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 and 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.

Do you think that your cat may have pneumonia? Book an appointment for your feline friend today at Animal Health Services.