Aspiration Pneumonia in Cats

Aspiration pneumonia in cats is a lung infection that can occur if your cat inhales a foreign object or substance. Cats who suffer from decreased function of the esophagus are more likely to succumb to aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia in cats has a number of causes. Read on to learn more.

Causes of Feline Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia happens when your cat inhales a foreign substance. The presence of foreign debris inside the lungs makes your cat more vulnerable to lung infection. Some types of debris, such as stomach acids, can even damage your cat's lungs.

Any disorder that affects your cat's esophageal function can lead to aspiration pneumonia, since these disorders make it hard for your cat to swallow food. Cleft palate and other conditions that affect the mouth and throat can raise your cat's risk of aspiration pneumonia. Nervous disorders, such as polyneuropathy, or muscular disorders, like polymyopathy, can lead to aspiration pneumonia.

Chronic vomiting increases your cat's risk of aspiration pneumonia, since vomited material can easily enter the windpipe. Tube feeding, force feeding and the administration of oral drugs can carry a risk of aspiration pneumonia, since caregivers could accidentally force food or medication into the windpipe rather than the esophagus.

Symptoms of Aspiration Pneumonia in Cats

If your cat develops aspiration pneumonia, he will exhibit respiratory symptoms. These can include rapid breathing, coughing and excessive weakness. Your cat may not be able to exert himself at all. His heart rate might go up, and his gums, lips, tongue and mucous membranes might take on a bluish hue, a sign that he's not getting enough oxygen into his body.

In addition to respiratory symptoms, your cat may experience lowered appetite, lethargy and depression. If infection occurs, he may run a fever.

Diagnosing and Treating Aspiration Pneumonia in Cats

Your vet will need to run a series of tests in order to diagnose aspiration pneumonia. Blood tests, urinalysis, chest X-rays and endoscopy can all help your vet confirm the diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia and narrow down its cause.

Treatment for your cat's pneumonia will depend on the severity and causes of his condition. If your cat's pneumonia is the result of an underlying condition, he'll need treatment to manage that condition. If your cat's pneumonia is severe, he may need to be hospitalized until his condition can be brought under control. IV fluids, antibiotics, supplemental oxygen and other forms of supportive therapy can help your cat recover.

If your cat is still eating and has not suffering dehydration, then he may be able to recover under home care. If your cat has a foreign object in his lung, or has suffered lung damage, he may need surgery to remove it. Antibiotics or bronchodilator therapy be necessary. 

You will need to restrict your cat's activity while he recovers from aspiration pneumonia. Excessive activity can cause shortness of breath and fainting. You may need to perform coupage (thumping on the side of the chest) periodically to help loosen the mucous inside your cat's lungs.