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Bacterial bronchopneumonia results from a bacterial infection, as opposed to other causes of pneumonia in cats such as aspiration or fungal infections. In cats that are suffering from bacterial bronchopneumonia, the passageways become inflamed, causing an immune response that produces excess fluid. The presence of the fluid means there is less room for air and normal lung function, which limits the cat’s respiration and can eventually cause death. Bacterial bronchopneumonia is a serious condition and you should seek immediate veterinary assistance if you believe your cat is affected.
Bacterial bronchopneumonia in cats is a type of pneumonia that begins in the bronchioles, which are passageways that allow air to pass from the nose to individual air sacs, or alveoli, within the lungs. The bronchioles are responsible for helping stabilize breathing in the respiratory system.
Symptoms of bacterial bronchopneumonia will begin gradually and then rapidly progress as the infection spreads and your cat’s respiratory system fills with fluid. Signs to watch for include:
Bacterial Bronchopneumonia is caused by your cat becoming infected with one or more of a variety of bacteria. In cats, the most common types of bacteria that cause this condition are:
Additionally, some cats may be more predisposed to contracting bacterial bronchopneumonia than others. These include cats suffering from the following conditions:
Diagnosis of bacterial bronchopneumonia in your cat will begin with a complete physical exam in your veterinarian’s office. During this initial visit, it will be important to provide a complete physical and medical history of your cat to your vet care provider. Your vet should be alerted to any pre-existing conditions. In addition, you should provide a detailed timeline for progression of symptoms in your cat such as when they first began coughing or wheezing and how quickly these symptoms have progressed. This will allow your vet to determine how aggressive the infection is and to tailor the type of treatment.
During the exam, your vet will listen to your cat’s breath sounds for classic indications of pneumonia. While normal breathing in your cat will sound like faint whooshes, in a cat affected with pneumonia the lungs produce crackling or wheezing sounds, which is a result of air passing around and through mucus-filled areas. This is accomplished with the use of a stethoscope in a procedure called auscultation. The procedure is quick and painless and does not require any sedation and only moderate immobilization of your cat.
Since different types of bacteria are sensitive to different antibiotics, your vet may wish to acquire a sample of the fluid from your cat’s respiratory system. This may be done using a procedure called a tracheal wash, in which a small amount of fluid is flushed and then emptied out of your cat’s throat. The sample is then sent to a laboratory where it is cultured over a period of several days so that the particular strain of bacteria may be identified. X-rays of your cat’s chest may also identify the presence of fluid buildup indicative of pneumonia.
Finally, your veterinarian may also order a full blood panel which will provide additional confirmation of infection and ensure there are no underlying conditions which may complicate treatment.
Treatment of bacterial bronchopneumonia in your cat will occur over several stages. First, if your cat is in distress or if the condition is life threatening, your veterinarian will focus on stabilizing your cat. This may include providing oxygen through a special mask and aspirating, or removing, some of the fluid from your cat’s lungs with the use of a special needle inserted into the chest cavity. If your cat’s condition is severe, it may need to be admitted to the veterinarian’s hospital for 24-hour monitoring including administration of IV fluids, antibiotics, and medications to reduce fever, until stabilized enough to return home.
The next stage of treatment will involve administering the appropriate antibiotic for your cat’s particular strain of bacteria. Since it may take several days for laboratory tests to return with the exact bacteria type, many vets will initially administer broad spectrum antibiotics. In some cases, these antibiotics will fight off the infection well and in others, their efficacy may not be ideal. As soon as the results regarding your cat’s specific bacteria are known, your vet may modify the antibiotic to one to which the bacteria is more sensitive.
If caught early, prognosis for full recovery from bacterial bronchopneumonia in your cat is good. It will be important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding prescription dosage and timing in order to fully eliminate the infection. Your cat should also be kept somewhere quiet and away from other household pets, allowing them a chance to rest and recover. With proper support and treatment, your cat should recover from bacterial bronchopneumonia and go on to live a long and healthy life.
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