Pneumonia in Cats

When a pet develops pneumonia, it can cause their airways to become inflamed affecting their ability to breathe. Our vets in Doraville discuss the different types of pneumonia that can affect cats and how they occur as well as the symptoms and prognosis.

What are the causes of pneumonia in cats?

If particular bacteria, viruses, or fungal organisms invade the nostrils and airways of your cat, they can develop into an infection or inflammation which can lead to pneumonia. Cats with pneumonia have a decreased amount of oxygen in their blood which can lead to weakness, trouble breathing, and a lower functioning immune system.

Although cats of any age can develop pneumonia, our veterinary internal medicine vets in Doraville most often see pneumonia in very young kittens, senior cats, or cats with other underlying health conditions. Pneumonia can be contracted by cats in a number of different ways:

Infectious Pneumonia   
  • Infectious pneumonia is the form of pneumonia that is most commonly diagnosed in cats. It results from a viral or bacterial infection in the lungs and airways.
Aspiration Pneumonia
  • Aspiration pneumonia is caused by the cat inhaling a foreign material, which leads to irritation of the sensitive lining of the lungs. A common cause of aspiration pneumonia in cats is the improper administration of liquid medications, or the inhalation of vomit if the cat is sick.
Fungal Pneumonia (also called mycotic pneumonia)
  • Fungal pneumonia begins as a fungal infection which progresses into the development of pneumonia. The inhalation of spores from the soil is believed to be the source of most fungal infections in cats.
  • In some cases, parasites including lungworms and flukes can invade the cat's air passages and result in pneumonia.

What are the signs of pneumonia?

Because pneumonia causes symptoms similar to other respiratory conditions, pneumonia can be quite difficult to diagnose. Nonetheless, if your cat is suffering from pneumonia they may display one or more of these 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

If your cat has aspiration pneumonia they could experience other symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, increased heart rate, and vomiting. Whereas fungal pneumonia in cats can also cause eye or skin problems such as runny eyes and skin lesions, as well as lameness. 

Is pneumonia in cats contagious?

When a cat has developed pneumonia, they will become extremely contagious to other pets that they come into contact with.

To help prevent the spread of pneumonia, it's a good idea to keep your sick cat separated from other pets in your home, by keeping them contained in a comfortable but separate room. Provide your sick cat with a comfy place to rest, a fresh clean litter box, and plenty of food and water.

Clean your cat's food and water bowls frequently, as well as their litter box, and toys that may be contaminated. Always be sure to thoroughly wash your hands every time you touch or pick up your cat while they have pneumonia.

What is the outlook if my cat has pneumonia?

Treating the symptoms of your cat's pneumonia will be the first step once they've been diagnosed. Treating these symptoms can help to prevent serious complications from occurring. Based on the severity of your cat's symptoms, treatment may include hospitalization for monitoring, oxygen therapy, or a nebulizer treatment to help ease respiratory symptoms, as well as intravenous fluids to treat dehydration, and broad-spectrum antibiotics or anti-fungal medications to help fight infection.

A full recovery from pneumonia is possible, especially if your cat was diagnosed quickly and treatment began early. That said, aspiration pneumonia is particularly difficult to treat and can lead to further complications later. The underlying cause of the illness, as well as your cat's overall health, and age, will all play a role in how well your feline friend recovers from pneumonia. Sadly, cats that are very young, very old, or immunocompromised may not be strong enough to battle 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.

Is your cat showing any of the signs of pneumonia listed above? Contact our Doraville internal medicine vets to schedule an examination.