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What is Fluid In The Chest?

Fluid in the chest is also known as pleural effusion. This occurs when fluid is present outside the lungs, in the space between the lungs and the chest wall. Normally, this area only has a small amount of fluid simply to keep the lungs from adhering to the chest wall. When excessive amounts of fluid accumulate, serious complications can arise because the cat’s lungs cannot expand properly. This is a potentially life-threatening situation for your cat and emergency treatment is necessary.

While most cats are generally healthy, some can develop conditions that can compromise their health and well-being. Cats can develop fluid in the chest as a result of various conditions. Regardless of the cause, fluid in the chest in cats can be very serious.

Fluid In The Chest Average Cost

From 565 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,000

Symptoms of Fluid In The Chest in Cats

If your cat has fluid in his chest, he will exhibit certain symptoms. Here are some of the most common symptoms seen in cats with this condition:

  • Lethargy
  • Breathing with his mouth open
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish tint around mucous membranes
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • High respiratory rate
  • Coughing
  • Problems breathing when in an upright position

Types

There are certain types of conditions that can cause fluid to accumulate in your cat’s lungs. Here are some that your veterinarian may look for when making a diagnosis:

Chylothorax

Chylothorax is a rare condition that occurs when lymphatic fluid known as chyle builds up in the chest cavity. When this fluid reaches a certain level, the cat cannot breathe well because his lungs cannot expand fully.

Hemothorax

Cats that have blood in the pleural space in the chest are diagnosed with hemothorax. Blood in the chest hinders lung expansion, similar to chylothorax and causes breathing problems. 

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Causes of Fluid In The Chest in Cats

Certain conditions can cause pleural effusion in cats. Below are some of the most common causes of fluid build-up in cat’s lungs:

  • Bacterial infection of the lungs
  • Low levels of protein in the blood
  • Twisting of the lung
  • Cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Abnormal functioning of the lymphatic system
  • Viral infection of the lungs
  • Diaphragmatic hernia 
  • Fungal infection of the lungs
  • Blood clot in the lungs
  • Leaky blood vessels
  • Tumors in the chest
  • Heartworms (although rare in cats)
  • Traumatic injury
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disorders
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Being over hydrated
  • Higher than normal hydrostatic pressure
  • Blockage of the major vein to the heart, the vena cava
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Diagnosis of Fluid In The Chest in Cats

Your doctor will need some important information from you to assist him in obtaining a diagnosis. He will begin by taking a detailed history from you regarding your cat’s health. Include any information about your cat’s birth history, previous medical conditions, medications and the date symptoms began. Your doctor will take your cat’s vital signs including temperature, weight, heart rate and respiration. He will also examine your cat and listen to his chest. A blood sample will be taken to search for signs of infection. A urinalysis will also be performed after your doctor obtains a sample of urine. If fluid is suspected, your doctor may take an X-ray or an ultrasound of his chest. Taking a fluid sample will also be key in determining the cause of pleural effusion.

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Treatment of Fluid In The Chest in Cats

Fluid in the chest is an emergency and life-threatening for your cat. This condition should be treated as soon as you notice symptoms. Many cats that develop fluid in the chest have trouble breathing and deteriorate rapidly. The most important thing in treating this condition is removing the fluid quickly to restore free breathing. This is done by draining the fluid from the cat’s chest with a needle. Certain conditions such as chylothorax can cause as much as a quart of fluid to build-up in the chest. Once the fluid is gone, the lungs can expand normally and breathing returns to normal. If fluid continues to build-up after it is initially removed, veterinarians may perform surgery to install a shunt. This device removes the fluid from the chest automatically.

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Recovery of Fluid In The Chest in Cats

The overall prognosis for cats that have fluid in the chest ranges from poor to fair. Recovery depends largely upon the cause of the condition. Many cats do not live long enough for the fluid to be removed from the pleural space. If your cat withstands the diagnostic process and fluid is successfully removed, his outlook is guarded but fair. Your cat also has a better chance of recovery and long-term management if your doctor is able to diagnose the cause of the condition. Cats with chylothorax have a favorable outlook if fluid production is resolved and is controlled. Many conditions will not return once the fluid is removed. 

Your doctor will provide you with detailed instructions regarding your cat’s care. Be sure to follow all his instructions exactly. Always report any changes in your cat’s condition or behavior as soon as it arises, especially if your cat begins to breathe with an open mouth. This is a sign he is having trouble breathing and he must be evaluated by a doctor quickly. Depending on the treatment provided, your doctor may want to re-evaluate your cat every few weeks until he is stable. If your cat has any underlying diseases or conditions that may cause fluid to build-up again, your doctor will treat him accordingly.

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Fluid In The Chest Average Cost

From 565 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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Fluid In The Chest Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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We don't know

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Five Years

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing, Fluid Coming Out Of The Mouth, Fast Breathing, Can'T Walk

He seems in a lot of pain I'm wondering how we can help him or what to do because we can't afford to go to the vet

July 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Hello I'm sorry to see that your cat is not feeling well. Unfortunately, from what you have described and looking at his picture, there is definitely something serious going on that you cannot fix at home. I recommend following up with a local veterinarian for an exam. He could have gotten into something or have an infection or other type of disease. Good luck

July 23, 2020

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Persian kitten

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4 months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid With Blood In Lungs Hard Breathing

Labored breathing until fluid was removed. Was on oxygen but not now. Fluid is not yellow 4% protein. gingiva normal Color he was fine until fluid caused breathing problems. Was eating, drinking, using the litter box, everything normal until labored breathing. No temperature,

July 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It sounds like your veterinarians are keeping up on top of what is going on with your kitten. I hope that everything goes well.

July 23, 2020

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Kisses

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Cat

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13 Years

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Critical severity

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11 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Breathing Difficulty

I had a siamese that i had for 10 years. She was probably 12. On monday she was diagnosed with crf and put on 300ml iv drip 3 days in a row. Once her levels went down i gave 100ml subq fluid at home for 2 days. The last day she didnt eat or drink and o didnt see her use the litter box. Very lethargic. She then started breathing really fast 70-120x a min. The vet recomended euthanasia and she was put to rest on 9/22/18. Do you think that i could have over hydrated her causing her heart issue the vet suspected? Do you think euthensia was a good option. She really didnt look good and the vet didnt think she would make it through any testing to confim diagnosis or treatment. I feel so horrible and guilty. I cant stand to think i did something to contribute to it? Her body temp was 97.1 and she crashed so fast.

Sept. 24, 2018

Kisses' Owner

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Rosie

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Mixed breed cat

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16 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss, Respiratory, Lethargic

16 yr old kitty has been losing weight. Loss of appetite, swallowing difficulty and rapid breathing at times. Is taking meds for hyperthyroidism (1 year now). Took her to vet 1 month ago. Blood test done, results normal. 4 days later we returned to vet who put her on antibiotics for a week. No X-rays done. Today I returned with kitty today. Requested more in depth study. X-ray was done and she has a “very enlarged heart’. Gave me diuretic pills and heart med and sent me home. Didn’t mention a follow up appt. Does this sound like a normal care plan for a cat with an enlarged heart?

July 15, 2018

Rosie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

If Kitty's lungs were clear, that may be all the treatment that she needed. Some cats with enlarged hearts need oxygen therapy, but if she seems stable she may be fine with home care. It will be important to follow up with your veterinarian for a recheck to re-evaluate her breathing and appetite and make sure that things are progressing as expected. If she is otherwise doing well, 1-2 weeks would be appropriate. If her appetite doesn't improve in the next few days, a recheck at that time would be a good idea.

July 15, 2018

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Keeb

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Black cat

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15 Years

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Serious severity

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5 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shallow Rapid Breathing

Hello! I brought my cat into the emergency vet, 15 years old. She has fluid in her lung cavity and many small tumors in her lungs. Vet said she might only have 24 hours. What if we pumped the fluid out? How much longer would she have? Is it worth going back in to get this done?

July 5, 2018

Keeb's Owner

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5 Recommendations

A thoracocentesis may be carried out to remove fluid from the pleural cavity, however if the underlying cause of the pleural effusion isn’t treated or effectively managed it may return with a matter of hours and becomes an unrewarding process. Also, there may be other factors involved which may make your Veterinarian hesitant to perform the procedure. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 6, 2018

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Snowbee

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Siamese

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11 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

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Breathing Difficulty
Flared Nostrils

The page has given me so much comfort. My little guy, Snowbee, had become kind of lethargic in the past month or so. One day my toddler startled him and he jumped up and ran away. When we caught back up to him, Snowbee was “panting” and it freaked me out. I immediately called the vet and they had me bring him in. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with him without an x-ray. The vet said his lungs sounded clear and most likely it was a hair ball and we could consider putting him on some heartburn medication. We took him home and then last week I noticed that not only had his breathing seemed still labored, it had gotten worse. I couldn’t hold him with his head raised up because he would pant. He was mostly laying with his head hanging off the side of the bed. I called to get him in and the soonest they could see him was within the next week. The next day, I noticed it was still bad, so I called again and had him seen as an emergency. The x-ray showed fluid in his lungs. The doctor recommended a tap to identify the fluid and after the tap she drained 120mL of Chyle. At this point we were at a junction, he was still breathing super hard (it hadn’t really improved his condition at all), and the next steps included further testing to determine the source or to put him down. I never wanted to spend $5000 on him, so I went the avenue of putting him down. The vet said, “It’s what I’d do if it was my cat too”. When we went in to say goodbye (thanks a lot social distancing), he was breathing harder than ever. I think a lot had to do with stress too, but his stomach/abdomen was distending, he could only breathe with his mouth open, and his nostrils were flaring. We said goodbye that afternoon, with basically no prep. I have now become an armchair expert on Chylothrox in cats, and have spent quite a bit of time hoping I made the right decision. I read certain places that Rustin can help, but our doctor had noted that she never saw great improvement with the use of the drug and had worked in a cat hospital before. Ultimately, I never wanted my cat to suffer and I never wanted to wake up and find him dead in our closet. He was too good to us to be selfish and keep him around. Reading these experiences on this forum help me feel like I probably made the humane choice for Snowbee, no matter how much it breaks my heart.

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Picardy

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Abyssinian

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14 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite
Fluid In Chest
Blood In Stool

Thanks for sharing everyone. This helps us to process what's going on with our 14 year old Picardy (beautiful sweet Abyssinian). Our $500 tests came back with an Xray showing fluid in the chest but not much else. Blood panel looked ok but kidney out slightly. We spoke with two vets who both wanted to tap the fluid to send it off. This would have been another $700. Neither could tell us if there was a chance of a positive outcome, so we had his chest tapped ($300) to give him some relief but not sent off. Vet said fluid may have indicated cancer but was not sure. Sent us home with sub-q fluids as he was not eating or drinking. He ended up drinking and peeing fairly normally until tonight when he showed no results from multiple trips to the litter box. He eventually got out some blood and that was pretty thick with nothing else. He's resting comfortably now, but we intend to take him in to put him down today. I have to remind myself that he's not comfortable and has had the ideal life. This pain I feel doesn't seem rational because I know he's just a cat, but it does reflect the happiness we've had with him.

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Kira

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Ragdoll

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5 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Difficulty Breathing

Had 5 year old cat's fluid around lungs drained four days ago due to her having severe trouble breathing. Cat was terrified of vet and this alone almost killed her. Not kidding. Terror will take them over the edge. Vet stabilized my cat with oxygen and then sedated to do drainage. Three hours later, cat had mucous coming out of nose and mouth and became almost unresponsive. She climbed up into the undercarriage of my heavy bed. I can't move bed. Had to try to live with cat dead or dying under my bed as I tried to sleep. Dreamed cat joined me on bed (or maybe she did). Yet food not touched or litter box used. Two days later brother finally came over to move bed and collect dead cat. Cat zoomed out in fear. Was breathing normally. Unfortunately, this only lasted a few hours. Two days later I am writing this. Cat has been very affectionate. Breathing not good, but drainage with ultrasound by excellent vet has helped and she has fighting chance. Great appetite all along. Now believe she definitely got up on bed while she thought I was sleeping. Vet had suggested euthanasia rather than operating, but I knew my cat loves life. I think not eating for more than 24 hours helped her fluid accumulation issue. I believe when her stomach full she is in more breathing distress. Six weeks ago she was heaving non stop. At that time I took a human Zithromax pill and smashed it in a plastic bag with a hammer. I then gave her 1/6 of the powdered pill in Fancy Feast Classic Broth (many cats addicted to some additive in this food so will tolerate bitter medicine with it). I gave her 1/6th of pill as she's almost 1/5th of my weight (she's a ragdoll breed and about 30 lbs.). The Zithromax stopped the heaving (like having hairball but nothing came out). Every two days she started heaving again and I again gave her a Zithromax dose. Each time heaving stopped in minutes (she gulped medicine between violent heaves, never lost appetite). Still trying to solve mystery of what is going on. Cat sleeping peacefully next to me at moment. I've ordered Rutin for her.

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Coco

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Thai cat

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid In Abdomen

I'm going through it right now. Please contact me if you read this. Can't write much now. Stairing at my cat to see when he starts opening his mouth to breath and the "final struggle" begins. I was told it shouldn't go for longer than 10min... everything you guys described, experiencing it right now. Since 3week aprox. Every 2-3 days going to the vet to take out the fluid. Diagnosed with fiv. They tested every thing....... still can't say why or what to do. I'm in thailand. After spending over 3000$ and him only getting worse i brought him home. He hates me for leaving hom with them. He wants to be near me but its as if he's so heartbroken and wants to kill himself but doesn't know how. FB : Prisana Manton Whats app: +66614141423

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Muse

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Ocicat

dog-age-icon

10 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid In Chest
Fluid In Chest, Heavy Breathing

My sweet little girl is a 10 month old Ocicat named Muse. We found out after purchasing her she has a level 3-4 heart murmur--we took a gamble and decided to keep her. Queue yesterday. I took her into the vet because I noticed she was breathing fast and heaving. Fears confirmed. An ultrasound showed fluid in her chest and that her heart is distended. She had a chest tap last night (was crazy hyper as soon as we got home and still was when I left for work this morning). The vet said they didn't get all of the fluid, like they had hoped, but they got 80ml. She was put on Lasix. Half pill morning and night 12 hours apart. I find out more in two weeks when I take her back. At 10 months old with a 3-4 level heart murmur, enlarged heart, and already getting fluid in her chest cavity... I think it would be an injustice to myself emotionally if I held out hope. Just going to love and snuggle my spunky baby and hope she makes it past Christmas. :(

Fluid In The Chest Average Cost

From 565 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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