Chylothorax in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment How To Identify Feline Chylothorax and How To Treat It

Chylothorax in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Photo by Anton Atanasov:

Chylothorax is a disorder in which lymphatic fluid collects in the pleural cavity, the space between the cat's lungs and chest wall. We discuss how to recover from and prevent Feline Chylothorax.

Chylothorax is a condition in cats in which lymphatic fluid accumulates in the pleural cavity, the space between the cat’s lungs and chest wall. It is a serious disorder that could put your cat’s life in danger and requires rapid medical attention. Although the exact etiology of chylothorax in cats is often unknown, it has been linked to trauma, cancer, heart disease, and other underlying illnesses.

In this article, we will explore chylothorax in cats, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.


  • Trauma: Damage to the thoracic duct caused by physical trauma to the chest or abdomen can result in a buildup of lymphatic fluid in the pleural cavity.

  • Heart disease: Chylothorax can result from fluid accumulation in the lungs due to congestive heart failure.

  • Cancer: Tumors in the chest or abdomen can disrupt the thoracic duct and cause chylothorax.

  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP): An autoimmune disease that can cause fluid accumulation in the chest and abdomen.

  • Idiopathic: In some cases, the cause of feline chylothorax is unknown.

  • Other medical conditions: Kidney disease, liver disease, and inflammatory bowel disease can also contribute to the development of chylothorax in cats.

Symptoms and Signs

Chylothorax in cats may manifest with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing: Cats may show signs of labored breathing or shortness of breath.

  • Rapid breathing: An increased respiratory rate may be seen in cats with chylothorax.

  • Swollen belly: Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen can cause swelling and distension.

  • Coughing: Cats with chylothorax may cough frequently.

  • Lack of appetite: Cats may lose their appetite due to the discomfort caused by chylothorax.

  • Weakness or lethargy: Cats with chylothorax may appear tired and listless.

  • Weight loss: Rapid weight loss can occur as a result of the body's inability to properly process fluids.

Treatment and Recovery Process

Treatment for feline chylothorax may involve the following:

  • Drainage of fluid: A veterinary specialist may perform a procedure to remove the accumulated fluid in the pleural cavity.

  • Dietary changes: A low-fat diet may be recommended to reduce fluid accumulation.

  • Medications: Drugs to reduce fluid buildup in cats, suppress the cat’s immune system, and manage pain may be prescribed.

  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the thoracic duct or remove any underlying tumors causing chylothorax.

  • Supportive care: Oxygen therapy and other forms of supportive care may be necessary to help cats recover from chylothorax.

The prognosis for cats with chylothorax is determined by the underlying cause and how fast the problem is addressed. With prompt and proper treatment, many cats can recover from chylothorax and go on to live healthy, happy lives.

How to Prevent Chylothorax In Cats

Feline Chylothorax can be difficult to prevent since the underlying causes are sometimes unknown or unavoidable. You can take the following actions to lessen the danger to your cat:

  • Regular check-ups: Regular visits to the vet can help identify and manage underlying medical conditions that may contribute to chylothorax.

  • Minimize trauma: Protect your cat from physical trauma by providing a safe and secure living environment.

  • Good nutrition: Feed your cat a well-balanced, nutritionally complete diet to support overall health.

  • Reduce stress: Minimize stress in your cat's environment by providing plenty of hiding places, playtime, and affection. You can invest in toys to ease the stress from your feline companion - it goes a long way.

  • Control pests: Fleas, ticks, and other pests can cause physical trauma and increase the risk of infections, so keep your cat protected from these pests.

Be aware that controlling feline chylothorax requires early discovery and immediate treatment. Seek immediate veterinary attention if you think your cat could have chylothorax or if you observe any changes in your cat's breathing or behavior.

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