Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be caused by a number of different infections including a virus, bacteria, a fungus, a parasite or even something that has been inhaled. It can be serious and even life threatening, particularly if caught when other infections are present in the body.
Causes and symptoms
Pneumonia is sometimes a secondary infection from other illness, sneaking in when the respiratory system is weakened by another infection. Kittens, older cats and those with illnesses that suppress their immune system are most at risk of contracting the illness, as are those with longstanding respiratory problems such as chronic bronchitis.
Other potential causes of the condition include aspiration of foreign material when vomiting, occasionally happening when a cat is under anesthesia as well as during the administration of medications without the correct skills. Tuberculosis and systemic fungus infections are also infrequently causes of pneumonia.
The general symptoms of the condition include:
· High fever
· Breathing rapidly
· Increased pulse rate
· Rattling or bubbling in the chest
· If serious enough, a blue cast to the membranes of the mouth caused by a lack of oxygen
Pneumonia isn’t a condition to be taken lightly and if you think you cat is suffering with it, you should seek out your vet immediately. Until they can be seen, keep them somewhere warm and dry and use a humidifier if possible. Make sure they take in plenty of water and don’t give them any type of cough medication as this prevents coughing – with pneumonia, coughing is vital to clear the airways so is actually a good thing.
The treatment for the condition will depend largely on what is causing it. Therefore it may be that antibiotics are prescribed, or the use of a nebuliser. At the worst case, they may need to be hospitalised to receive fluids and oxygen therapy.
Cats who have this type of condition often don’t want to eat because they can’t smell the food to know it is safe to consume. Therefore, feeding them strong smelling foods such as tinned tuna can be a good way to persuade them to eat while gently warming some foods also brings out the aromas.
One of the most common causes of breathing problems for cats is called pleural effusion – this is fluid accumulation in the pleural space around the lungs. The fluid compresses the lungs and stops them filling with air correctly and the condition is more commonly seen in cats than other animals. Cats suffer from two conditions that can cause this – feline infectious peritonitis and feline leukemia. Other causes can include cancer, liver disease and congestive heart failure.
The condition can also be brought on by a puncture wound to the chest when fighting with other animals. This can lead to a formation of pus is in the lungs, known as empyema or pyothorax.
If you suspect a condition of this nature then urgently seek out your vet, as their attention will be needed to avoid death. Fluids will be drained from the chest and the cat may need to be hospitalised for a period with a chest drain and antibiotics until the fluid has cleared away.