Can a Cat Survive With Pleural Effusion? How to Handle Pleural Effusion in Cats

Can a Cat Survive With Pleural Effusion? Photo by Brit:

A common ailment in cats is pleural effusion, sometimes referred to as fluid in the chest. Learn more about it here.

Pleural effusion, also known as fluid in the chest, is a common condition seen in cats. When an excessive quantity of fluid builds up in the pleural cavity or the area between the lungs and the chest wall, it leads to this condition.

The origins, signs, and potential treatments for feline pleural effusion are covered in this article.


Causes of Pleural Effusion in Cats

Pleural effusion in cats can have many different causes. Some of the most common include:

  • Cancer: Pleural effusion can be brought on by cancer that has migrated from other sections of the body to the chest as well as lung or chest tumors.

  • Heart disease: The accumulation of fluid in the lungs and chest can be a symptom of conditions like feline heart failure.

  • Infections: Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections can all cause pleural effusion in cats.

  • Inflammation: Inflammation in the lungs, chest, or pleural cavity can cause fluid to accumulate.

  • Kidney disease: Chronic renal illness can result in an accumulation of fluid in the chest.

  • Trauma: Fluid accumulation in the pleural cavity can result from injuries to the chest or lungs.

You must know that some cats may develop pleural effusion without an obvious underlying cause. This is known as idiopathic pleural effusion.

The diagnosis will be based on the cat's history, clinical signs, and diagnostic tests such as radiographs, ultrasound, blood work, and a sample of the fluid, if possible, to identify the underlying cause.

Clinical Symptoms

Depending on the underlying reason and the amount of fluid in the chest, the symptoms of pleural effusion in cats can change. Typical indications include:

  • Labored breathing: Cats with pleural effusion may have difficulty breathing or may breathe faster or harder than normal.

  • Coughing: Some cats with pleural effusion may cough, especially when the fluid is thick or contains debris.

  • Reduced activity levels: Cats with pleural effusion may be less active than usual due to the discomfort caused by the fluid in the chest.

  • Loss of appetite: Some cats may lose their appetite, which can be related to discomfort or difficulty breathing.

  • Open-mouth breathing: Cats with pleural effusion may start breathing with their mouth open. This is because the accumulation of fluid in the chest can make it difficult to breathe through the nose.

  • Abdominal distension: in some cases, the fluid can accumulate in the abdominal cavity as well, which can cause abdominal distension.

However, some cats may show no obvious symptoms, and pleural effusion may be discovered incidentally during a routine examination or diagnostic test.

It's critical to seek veterinarian treatment as soon as you believe your cat may develop pleural effusion. To confirm the diagnosis and ascertain the underlying cause of the disease, your veterinarian will do a physical examination and could suggest diagnostic testing.


The diagnosis of pleural effusion in cats typically involves the following steps:

  • Physical examination: A veterinarian will perform a physical examination, including listening to the cat's chest with a stethoscope to assess the presence of fluid and evaluate lung sounds.

  • Blood tests: A complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile will be taken to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

  • Radiography (X-rays): X-rays will be taken to confirm the presence of pleural effusion and evaluate its extent.

  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound may be used to evaluate the pleural cavity and its content, to identify any abnormalities or masses.

  • Pleural fluid analysis: If the cause of the pleural effusion is not obvious or the fluid is thick, a sample of the fluid will be taken for analysis.

  • Additional tests: Depending on the findings of the above tests, additional diagnostic tests may be recommended, such as a CT scan, MRI, or bronchoscopy.

The diagnosis of pleural effusion in cats is a process that requires collaboration between the veterinarian and the owner, and a thorough history and physical examination are crucial for a successful outcome.

Treatment Options

The underlying cause of the problem will determine the best course of treatment for feline pleural effusion. Typical forms of treatment include:

  • Drainage of the fluid: If a significant amount of fluid is present in the pleural cavity, the veterinarian may remove it through a procedure called pleural tap. This can be done through a needle or a chest tube. This procedure can relieve the pressure on the lungs and make breathing easier for the cat.

  • Medications: Medications such as diuretics, antibiotics like metronidazole, and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to help reduce the amount of fluid in the chest or to treat any underlying infections or inflammation. Also, if the root cause of the disease is an infection, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, or antiviral medications can be used.

  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove tumors or other masses that are causing the pleural effusion.

  • Supportive care: In cases where the underlying cause of the pleural effusion cannot be treated, the veterinarian may recommend supportive care to help the cat feel more comfortable. This may include oxygen therapy, pain management, and palliative care to improve the cat's quality of life.

  • Follow-up care: Once the cat is stabilized, follow-up care is crucial to monitor the cat's condition and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

In summary, pleural effusion can be a serious condition, and prompt treatment is essential to ensure the best outcome for the cat. It's also important to follow your veterinarian's instructions and keep all follow-up appointments to ensure your cat receives the best possible care.

Was this article helpful?