understand and treat pneumonia in your kitten...proper kitten care for your new cat

Pneumonia in Kittens

Pneumonia occurs when irritation in lungs leads to inflammation and causes fluid build up. It can have negative long term effects and can be fatal if not treated.

Cat with Pneumonia

Hi Simba, I adopted two kittens at a local shelter this week.
They 8-weeks-old and are brother and sister. Their names are Miles and Lucy. The shelter spayed & neutered them and gave them initial shots. Anyway, the first day home, Lucy had a couple of episodes with "coughing" (sounded like hairball cough). Otherwise, she ate and played with her brother. Over the following two days, the coughing got progressively worse -- breathing became labored, she lost appetite, slept a lot and got very droopy.

I took her back to the shelter where the vet took x-rays. They think she has pneumonia and are keeping her for 5 to 7 days. I am hoping you can help by answering a few questions:
  • What are Lucy's chances? The vet thought it was "pretty good" -- but what are statistics?

  • Could this be part of a chronic condition. What is likelihood that I might have a frail, sick kitty?

  • Miles has sneezed a few times, what is likelihood he will also become ill?

  • Praying that Lucy makes it -- will Miles be depressed when she is gone? Will they be back to "normal" when she returns? They seemed very attached.

  • If Lucy does not make it...I would like to bring another kitten home to keep Miles company. Will Miles accept him/her? Is a female better than another male?
Sincerely, Missing Lucy

Dear Missing Lucy,
Pneumonia occurs when irritation in lungs leads to inflammation and causes fluid to build up. Pneumonia can be caused by anything from bacteria, fungal or viral infections, heartworm, lungworm and other factors. All can be serious.

The most common symptom is difficulty breathing, particularly when it comes to inhaling. As you noted in Lucy, her breaths became rapid and shallow. These are common symptoms. What happens is that as the lungs become filled with fluid there are less functional air spaces. Other symptoms include, bluish or grayish tongue, gums and/or lips. This is otherwise known as cyanosis, and is a sign of poor oxygen content in the blood. Additional symptoms include fevers in exces of 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Lung infections are serious. However, early diagnosis and treatment, usually leads to successful outcomes for kitties and their people. Only a vet can make a correct diagnosis on Pneumonia and the underlying causes. This is very important for determining the appropriate treatment.

  • Tests include x-rays or ultrasound, in addition to fluid cultures among other tests.
  • There is a risk that the Pneumonia could damage her lung tissues and thus make this a chronic condition. The reason is that the Pneumonia and underlying causes may cause changes in the airway's structure. This means that even if the initial cause is treated, the lungs have already been damaged and cannot return to normal form.

  • When this happens, any treatment is aimed at controlling symptoms and preventing further damage. These treatments may include the removal of irritants, allergens or the giving of drugs or treating of bacterial infections, as well as the administration of corticosteroids or decongestants to reduce inflammation.
As for Miles contracting Pneumonia, the risk is dependent upon the cause of Lucy's condition. Should this be caused by fungi, viruses or bacteria, there is a risk. In that case you may want to take Miles to the vet for preventive care. Because you began treatment early, Lucy has a good shot at it. I expect that both Miles & Lucy will resume to normal upon her return. You should take some precautions in the introduction. Check out Helping New Cats Adjust for tips on re-introductions. I hope this is of help to you. Keep me posted. Simba

Heaven forbid, but should Lucy not make it check out the Choosing Kittens and Death of a Friend sections of Simba's Letters

Dear Simba,
Last year our 15-year-old Siamese female cat was not doing well. The vet told us she had pneumonia and treated her for this. She recovered. The only problem that remains is she has a hard time breathing. Her respiratory system is badly congested. And she wheezes and fights to get air. And eating is hard since she cannot breathe while she eats, she now breathes through her mouth and of course you can see while eating is hard for her. She needs some help but our vet says. "Nothing can be done, this is the results of the pneumonia and she will have to live with it." What is your opinion? Does she? - Needing Help

Dear Needing Help,
There are specialists in all fields of veterinary medicine. My instinct says that you should take your cat to another vet or a local veterinary hospital to get a second opinion. Getting a new round of ultrasounds or x-rays may help identify the particulars of this wheezing. Do not wait. Simba

Follow up:
Thank you for your advice about my 15-year-old Siamese cat, Sugar,you have given me direction and hope for getting some relief for my cat. I will made an appointment now and get her some help. Thanks for being there. My pleasure. Simba

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