Chylothorax in Cats

Chylothorax in cats is a rare condition which causes breathing difficulties for a cat. The cause of this disease is unknown.

Chylothorax in Cats Explained

Chylothorax is when chyle, a type of lymph fluid that contains a lot of fat, builds up in a cat's chest cavity. The chyle in a cat's lungs does not contract enough to allow the proper amount of oxygen into the body.

The frustrating part of chylothorax is that the cause of the condition is unknown (idiopathic) and cannot be prevented. However, it has been observed that trauma to a cat's chest cavity from falls, auto accidents or other incidents can lead to this condition. Cats that have tumors, heart or blood clotting irregularities, or high blood pressure also tend to be more likely to acquire the build-up of chyle in seen in chylothorax. This condition can happen to any breed of cat, but tend to appear more in pure-bred Himalayan and Siamese cats that are middle-aged.

Symptoms of Feline Chylothorax

A cat that has chylothorax will have difficulty breathing, a decrease in appetite, a cough and a lack of energy. Some cat owners have noticed that a cat with this condition may look like it is holding his breath.

Diagnosing Feline Chylothorax

A veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination when chylothorax symptoms are present. Once it is diagnosed, the vet may remove fluid from the chest cavity to help alleviate pressure. He may also run additional tests to see if there were any underlying conditions that could have caused the chylothorax.

It is common for a cat to have a chest x-ray to see the extent of the fluid build-up in the chest cavity. This will also show the condition of vital organs in the area and will help identify abnormalities present.

A chest tap is a procedure done to help remove fluid from a cat's chest cavity. Some of the fluid removed will be studied for its color and fat content. This fluid can also show the presence of cancer or an infection.

Other diagnostic tests may be run to evaluate the condition of the heart, search for the presence of parasites, or give the vet a better look in the chest cavity.

Treating Feline Chylothorax

Treatment depends on the underlying condition of the chylothorax and how far the disease has advanced. If the owner chooses to treat the underling condition, the veterinarian will monitor the cat for an additional build-up of fluid so it can be drained.

Weather an underlying condition is found or not, a vet will try to make a cat as comfortable as possible by providing medications to help him breathe easier, prescribing a low-fat diet and performing chest taps when necessary. If the condition has not resolved itself within a couple of months, surgery may be the next step in a cat's treatment plan. Since chylothorax is a disease that is actively being studied, a cat may qualify for studies of new medications or other therapies.

With aggressive treatment and attention to detail, the prognosis for a cat with chylothorax can be positive.