What is Bacterial Pneumonia?
Bacterial pneumonia causes great distress to the feline and is often a life-threatening condition to kittens or mature felines. If you notice your cat is breathing heavily, has a green nasal discharge, or has a blue color to her mouth, she is mostly likely suffering from a type of pneumonia.
Bacterial pneumonia in cats is the term used to describe an inflammation in the lungs and respiratory system, caused by a bacterial infection. When a cat contracts bacterial pneumonia, the alveoli that are connected to the bronchi fill with fluid and infection. As more and more alveoli become filled with infectious fluid, the alveoli cannot remove carbon dioxide from the blood, or replace the contaminated blood with oxygenated blood. The level of circulating oxygenated blood is decreased and the feline’s body compensates for the low oxygen level by breathing rapidly.
Symptoms of Bacterial Pneumonia in Cats
Bacterial pneumonia in cats is first noted by a moist cough and difficult breathing. As the condition worsens, your cat may also develop a fever, have a greenish discharge from the nose, refuse to eat, and begin losing weight. Additional symptoms of bacterial pneumonia in cats include:
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- An unkempt hair coat
- Weight loss
- Cyanosis, or blue tinged mucous membranes
- Rattling cough or lung sounds
- Green or yellowish discharge from the nose
Causes of Bacterial Pneumonia in Cats
Bacterial pneumonia in cats is caused by a variety of different bacteria including; Bordetella, Staphylococcus, Pasteurella multocida, Yersinia pestis, Chlamydiae or Streptococcus. Your cat can become infected with bacterial pneumonia from a contaminated food or water bowl, sharing close quarters with an infected cat, or as a secondary result to a viral infection.
Diagnosis of Bacterial Pneumonia in Cats
Diagnosis of bacterial pneumonia in cats begins with a review of your cat’s medical history, an exchange of notes between the owner and the doctor, followed by a physical examination. The vet is likely to listen to your cat’s lungs through the use of a stethoscope, which may reveal a harsh breathing tone. The doctor may then ask for a routine blood test to be done on the cat including a biochemistry profile and complete blood cell count. A high number of white blood cells is the common result in bacterial pneumonia, as the cat’s immunity produces these cells to fight the bacteria. If the results from the blood test do not show a high number of white blood cells, the exams will give the doctor a baseline for your cat’s health, proceeding to the following diagnostic tests:
- Blood-Gas Evaluation: measurement of circulating oxygenated blood.
- Chest x-ray
- Tracheal wash: an exam used to collect cells from the trachea with bacterial traces.
- Lung aspiration: a collection of cells from within the lungs using fine needle aspiration.
Treatment of Bacterial Pneumonia in Cats
Treatment of bacterial pneumonia in cats begins with stabilizing the patient. A patient may need stabilization treatment if the feline is having a difficult time breathing, rapid breathing, or cyanosis. Oxygen therapy or a nebulizer may be used to return the feline’s breath back to a normal bpm (breath per minute). If the feline is severely dehydrated, your veterinarian may also provide intravenous fluid therapy before directly treating the cause of the pneumonia.
Once the cat has become stable, your veterinarian is likely to treat bacterial pneumonia in cats with an aggressive, broad-spectrum antibiotic. The exact form of antibiotic depends on the type of bacteria your cat is infected with, so discuss the best treatment option with your veterinarian. Your cat will likely be hospitalized or be restricted to a cage at home.
Recovery of Bacterial Pneumonia in Cats
Following discharge of the feline patient, the veterinarian may ask you to complete a follow-up visit, at which chest x-rays may be taken. The follow-up exam could be anywhere between 2-3 weeks after hospitalization and should be done as instructed to ensure the pneumonia is cured. All prescribed medications should be administered and at-home care should be carried out as directed by your veterinarian.
The prognosis for a cat with bacterial pneumonia depends on the age of the feline and his/her overall health before contracting pneumonia. If the feline is of a mature age or is still an infant, the bacterial infection could cause problems for that feline later in life. Likewise, if the feline is already sick or is of old age, bacterial pneumonia can take longer to cure or could be fatal to the feline. The prognosis for bacterial pneumonia in your cat can improve if the infection is detected early and treated by a licensed veterinary professional.