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What are Collection of Fluid in the Lungs?

Fluid that fills the lungs or the surrounding pleural sac restricts the lungs from expanding fully and prevents the normal intake of oxygen. Asymptomatic swelling may not require treatment. However, clinical evidence of symptoms in the presence of swelling, especially if the blood vessels are leaking and causing the fluid build-up, requires immediate medical attention. In such cases, excessive fluid is accumulating in or around the lungs while too little of normal outflow is occurring.

The collection of fluid in or around the lungs of cats can refer to either pulmonary effusion or pulmonary edema. Healthy lungs normally have some fluid that move from the lungs to the internal space of the body and also help to prevent the lungs from adhering to the chest wall. However, if this process is disrupted due to added pressure or an underlying condition, fluid can back up into or around the lungs, causing impaired breathing. Both conditions are medical emergencies and should be treated immediately and aggressively since cats are not able to handle diminished lung function well. Cats of all ages, genders, and breeds can experience these conditions, which can affect both the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. If left untreated, permanent damage can occur, but if addressed properly many cats experience positive results. The conditions have a variety of causes including congestive heart failure, cancer, infection, or from a traumatic injury such as electrocution or a blow to the head.

Collection of Fluid in the Lungs Average Cost

From 412 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,000

Symptoms of Collection of Fluid in the Lungs in Cats

Symptoms of excessive fluid accumulation include:

  • Labored or difficulty breathing with deep, rapid breaths, especially when inhaling
  • Open-mouth breathing with crackling noises
  • Wheezing
  • Dry cough
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to exercise, weakness, sluggishness
  • Abdominal swelling or distention
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Fever

Types

There are two main types of fluid collection in the lungs of cats.

Pulmonary Edema

This condition refers to fluid accumulating inside the lungs and is often, but not solely, associated with pneumonia (inflammation). The edema occurs when the blood vessels and tissues involved with the lungs become affected by disease or blunt trauma, which causes fluid to backup into the alveoli. The alveoli are normally used for the uptake of oxygen into the lungs and carbon dioxide elimination, but the air is being replaced with fluid that is leaking into the lungs and is impairing lung function.

Pleural Effusion

This condition occurs when fluid accumulates within the space between the outer surface of the lungs and the inner surface of the chest cavity. Both are lined by a thin wall of tissue called the pleura and fluid becomes trapped. Sometimes the condition involves chylothorax, which is an accumulation of a fatty fluid in the chest and is very serious. Often times, pleural effusion is a symptom of congestive heart failure, but could be an indicator of other diseases.

There are three different kinds of fluid development in and around the lungs. Treatment will depend on which kind of condition your pet is experiencing.

  • Hemothorax: the accumulation of blood in the pleural cavity, often caused by blunt trauma to the chest, tumors, or a clotting disorder
  • Hydrothorax: the accumulation of clear fluid in the pleural cavity, often attributed to an interference in blood flow or lymph drainage
  • Chylothorax: a rare condition concerning the accumulation of a fatty, lymphatic fluid in the pleural cavity. Its cause is unknown.
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Causes of Collection of Fluid in the Lungs in Cats

There are many possible causes for pleural edema and pleural effusion. Some of the more common are:

  • Anemia
  • Viral infection
  • Chylothorax (accumulation of chyle, a lymphatic, fatty fluid originating in the intestines, into the pleural cavity)
  • Pneumonia
  • Congestive heart failure (Cardiomyopathy)
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Traumatic injury
  • Too little protein in the blood 
  • Toxin exposure (e.g., smoke and snake venom)
  • An obstruction of the airway
  • A near drowning (where a high amount of fluid enters the lungs)
  • Pulmonary emboli
  • Hernia
  • Leaky blood vessels
  • Lung lobe torsion (twisting of a lung lobe)
  • Blood clots
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Diagnosis of Collection of Fluid in the Lungs in Cats

A diagnosis of pulmonary edema or pleural effusion is based on clinical evidence, medical history, and a physical examination such as the use of a stethoscope to detect heart murmurs or changes in heart rate, and to listen for normal movement of air in and out of the lungs. 

  • Tests that are typically conducted to determine a diagnosis as well as identify any underlying conditions are:
  • Chest x-ray to detect possible signs of pleural fluid or pneumonia inside the lungs
  • Chest ultrasound to detect possible signs of fluid accumulating outside of the lungs and in the chest cavity
  • Blood and urine tests to look for hidden infections or systemic diseases
  • Thoracentesis, also called pleural fluid analysis or chest tap, to find the cause of the fluid accumulation
  • CT angiography scan, which is not common but can be helpful in making a diagnosis

Underlying conditions that the veterinarian will be checking for are bronchitis, heartworm disease, heart disease (cardiomyopathy), and any upper airway obstructions. 

If you observe your cat having any difficulty breathing at any time, an examination by your veterinarian is extremely urgent and necessary. The earlier the intervention the more positive the outcome. Waiting too long could lead to either permanent damage or death.

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Treatment of Collection of Fluid in the Lungs in Cats

After the veterinarian does a physical examination, he or she will first want to stabilize your pet. Oxygen therapy may be necessary to help your pet breathe if there is inadequate ventilation and perfusion (oxygen coming in and carbon dioxide going out) in the lungs. At this time, the veterinarian may want to hospitalize your pet.

Once pulmonary edema or pulmonary effusion is confirmed during diagnostic testing, the veterinarian will first want to remove the fluid accumulation and relieve the pressure being put on the lungs and heart in order to allow the lungs normal expansion and to improve heart function. This is done through a thoracentesis, which is used for both diagnostic purposes and for treatment. 

A thoracentesis is routinely done to not only remove fluid, but also to determine the cause of the fluid, especially when the origin is not apparent. However, if tests show that pleural effusion is present on both lungs and not just one and there is no chest pain or fever, then a thoracentesis may be avoided and a different course of treatment may be made unless the effusion continues for more than three days while in the veterinarian’s care. It may also not be necessary if the effusion is chronic, has a known cause, and no symptoms are evident.

Periodic x-rays will continue to be taken to monitor treatment progress and medications may be administered to assist with fluid removal and to address any suspected underlying conditions. These medications may include:

  • Diuretics
  • Antibiotics
  • Vasodilators to expand the blood vessels to allow more blood to flow
  • Heartworm treatments
  • Anticoagulants to prevent the formation of blood clots
  • Positive inotropes to help increase the force that the heart can perform so more blood is pumped to the lungs 
  • Arrhythmia suppression medication may also be administered. 

Depending on the cause of the fluid accumulation, additional procedures may be necessary over the long term. These include additional thoracentesis, surgery, and x-rays.

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Recovery of Collection of Fluid in the Lungs in Cats

A guarded prognosis is always given whenever a cat is experiencing a collection of fluid in the lungs. The long-term outlook will largely depend on the cause for the edema or effusion. If it has occurred due to a chronic condition, fluid accumulation could happen again. If it is due to some kind of trauma, then the prognosis is favorable as long as your cat responds well to treatment and recovers fully from the initial injury.

Once your cat is home, a limited sodium diet and special supplements may be recommended, along with any medications your veterinarian prescribes. Exercise should be restricted until recovery is complete. 

You will need to monitor for returning signs of weakness and tiredness, coughing, decreased appetite, or resistance to exercise. If you observe your cat with these symptoms, call your veterinarian right away.

Pay attention to your cat’s breathing rate if you able. Keeping track, perhaps even keeping a daily log, will allow you to better monitor how your cat is healing. If there are increases in the breathing rate and you notice other previously mentioned symptoms, call your veterinarian. 

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Collection of Fluid in the Lungs Average Cost

From 412 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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Collection of Fluid in the Lungs Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Oreo DSH black and white cat

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Labored Breathing, Occassional Hacking Cough With Some Clear Emesis Or Undigested Food

Oreo, has been wheezing, hacking intermittently x 6 mo. Took him to the vet 7/31/20, x-ray & bloodwork showed a plural effusion. Thorencentisis was performed. They stabilized him & discharged him home pending cytology. Dr. Taylor might have seen some abn cells under the microscope & have seen a mass in his lungs but unsure. Pathology came back neg infection or abn cells, was inconclusive. She referred us to WSU or Blue Pearl and now is out of town. We spent $1,374 already & unsure we can afford more tests but if he has CHF we could afford meds but could be CA. What do you recommend?

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It seems that Dr. Taylor has done a great job managing his situation, and I would recommend following through with her advice if you can. If you financially cannot have the testing done that she recommends, you can be honest with her and tell her that, and see what might be options otherwise. I hope that Oreo feels better soon.

Aug. 5, 2020

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House cat

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Labored Breathing, Lack Of Appetite

Took her to the vet, they found fluid in her lungs with blood. Any ideas?

July 30, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. There are many reasons that your dog could have fluid in his lungs. Some of the most common reasons are heart failure or cancer. Your vet should be able to tell you a little more about why they think that there is fluid in the lungs and should be able to start your dog on medication to help the body get rid of this fluid. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 30, 2020

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Tabby

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Fifteen Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness

My cat was supposed to not live a month. He has live 9 months past then. He has an enlarged heart with fluid all around it. Breathing is labored. Sleeps a lot. Wants to eat a lot but can't. We want him to die naturally. Is there anything we can give him when if he becomes very uncomfortable and is suffering? He's very close but not there yet. Thank Ruth D

July 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. For some diseases, euthanasia is much more kind than natural death. The thought of wanting to give him something to make him more comfortable and pass more easily is kind of the whole point of euthanasia. It would be a good idea to discuss this with your veterinarian, as they know your cat and your situation. They may be able to offer different alternatives for you to make it so that he is not suffering. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 25, 2020

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Cat

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One year

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Nosy

My cat got a cup of water accidentally poured on his face

July 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your cat. If the water was very hot, it may cause some burns to the face. The water could get a little bit in his nose causing him to sneeze but usually, these cats are just fine. Monitor your cat for any issues and take him to the vet if they occur.

July 12, 2020

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Sebastian

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Domestic long hair

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Difficulty Breathing

Took him to a vet to get x-ray. Results showed he had fluid in his lungs. Recommended he can try a procedure to remove fluid but 95 percent chance it will build up again. Another option was to put him to sleep. Wonder if i should get second opinion

Sept. 20, 2018

Sebastian's Owner

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Rr

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shirazi

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15 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation
Breathing Difficulties

My cat is 15 years old and suddenly I noticed she has a hard breathing issue Took her to veterinary and they made x-ray and heart echo here are images They made thoracentesis 2 times and she gets relived for 2 days and then experiences again hard breathing symptoms also she took, she took Injection so why the fluid accumulated again & the most proper procedure to be taken to minimize and resolve these symptoms also I have noticed that she has constipation https://drive.google.com/file/d/169F6cl5Ye8qC7zcZsi3sObjs1swKygwX https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hGPkfrYTLNGNAVrZaQBKkOZCphwaW0tl/view?usp=drivesdk

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Fluffy

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Seberain

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10 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Our cat Fluffy passed within 30 minutes yesterday. She was a Senior and appeared healthy, other than slowing down in the last few weeks, like not jumping up on the bed. She had just thrown up a fur ball and I thought may be she was throwing up another one when her breathing became laboured. Her tongue was blue and her mouth was hanging open. She became distressed and began heading downstairs to be with her favourite person. She vomited on the steps, but only a spray of fluid came out. She quickly developed clear thick fluid that was dripping from her mouth. We rushed her to the vet, but sadly she passed on the way. She had a pulmonary edema. I explained what happened to the Assistant and she said she probably had a heart attack. It's heartbreaking to tell this story, but I hope it can help some other cat Owner if this happens.

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Midnight

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short hair

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12 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Labored Breathing And Lethargy

Exactly 2 years ago my cat has his eye removed for glaucoma and the pathology came back as lymphosarcoma. Last week had was in respiratory distress. We rushed him to an emergency vet, who diagnosed him with pleural effusion. She wanted to put him down, but we weren't ready. She drained the fluid and put him in oxygen overnight.The vets could not give me any definitive diagnosis for example the pathologist couldn't tell if the cells were cancer. After coming home, he got progressively worse. We took him to his regular vet who said she couldn't hear lung sounds on the one side and mentioned pneumothorax. He continues to decline. I'm wondering if the thoracentesis caused a pneumothorax. Should I get his old records and move on? Or is it really just his time. He's only 12 years old.

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Akira

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Unknown

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19 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Not Eating
No Energy
Whistling Noise
Breathing With Mouth Short & Fast
Coughs When Pressure Applied Chest

Hello, a couple weeks ago my cat who is about 19 started coughing and breathing with her mouth open. She hasn’t been eating very much and is very lethargic. When I push on her chest she starts coughing. I don’t know what to do I can’t really afford thousands in X-Rays and tests. I love my cat like a child we have been threw so much together. Also I live in Northern Canada I’m not sure if I can even get treatment here and she hates to travel. I don’t want to stress her out driving for 8 hours to the city only to pay a fortune and find out they can’t do anything for her. What should I do.

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Victoria

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Feline

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8 Weeks

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Dehydrated
Deep Breathing

MRapid deep breathing and dehydrationMy 8 yr sweet girl out of the blue went missing. We located within a few hours in a closet. She was dehydrated and breathing very deep and rapidly. She was able to stand and was purring. she refused water and food. We tried to warm it to help but she still didnt want any. We rushedhere to the ER Vet Clinic. They took her and stated she had fluid around her lungs. That only 3 things cause this. 1. Cancer 2. Heart Failure 3. Infection. The vet stated he felt it was not infection suggested we leave her overn oght or put her down. So, we let them keep her where they are going to remove the fluid and hydrate her. We have to go in morning to get her. then take her 40 mins away to their 24hr critial vet hosptial.As he stated she is critical and outcome does not look good. Vet at time just did basic exam and ultrasound. So we are not sure as putting down is not a option. He also stated that we could not take her to our vets. Due to they dont have oxygen. Not sure what to take from this as i am researching and it all seems like this is fixable and not as critical as he made it. When we left she was very lethargic(im sure since she is extremely dehydrated) but she definitely wanted to be loved she was purringandn giving us love as mich as she was able. Prayers she makes it and our reg vet can continue the treatment.

Collection of Fluid in the Lungs Average Cost

From 412 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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