How to Recognize Fluid in a Cat’s Lungs

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Asthma in cats, also known as “feline allergic asthma” or “feline allergic bronchitis”, is a lung condition associated with airway obstruction caused by sudden narrowing of the bronchial tubes. These symptoms are caused by the spasmodic constriction of the bronchial tubes and increased production of secretions from the bronchial tree. Common symptoms in cats include coughing, difficulty breathing, increased respiratory effort or wheezing breathing. Some cat owners confuse the wheezing with fluid in the cat’s lungs.

How to Recognize the Problem

You can recognize fluid in cat’s lungs by evaluating your cats breathing. Trouble breathing is considered an emergency and it is best if you see your veterinarian immediately.

Signs of fluid in a cats lungs may include:

  • Increased respiratory rate (>40 breaths per minute)
  • Increased respiratory effort (working harder to take breaths)
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Abnormal posture (cats that have difficulty breathing may sit with head and neck extended with the elbows back
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Reluctance to play
  • Hiding
  • Withdrawing from family activities
  • Coughing

If you see the above signs in cats, please see your veterinarian. They may be able to determine if there is a fluid accumulation based on your cat’s clinical signs and auscultation of the lungs in conjunction with radiographs of the chest (chest x-rays).  Other tests that your vet may want to do is a blood pressure measurement, an electrocardiogram (EKG), an ultrasound examination of the heart (echocardiogram), and/or laboratory (blood) tests.

Treatment of fluid in Cats Lungs

Treatment of fluid in cats lungs will vary and depend on the underlying cause of the fluid and location of the fluid. Common treatments may include:

  • Oxygen supplementation
  • An emphasis in care to minimizing stress
  • Thoracocentesis – a procedure to drain fluid that has accumulated around the lungs (pleural effusion)
  • Drug therapy with diuretics – Commonly known as a “water-pill”, diuretics can be given orally or by injection. The most common diuretic used is furosemide (Lasix®)

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