Collection of Fluid in the Lungs Average Cost

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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.

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


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.

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

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.

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.

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. 

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

15 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulty
Loss of Appetite
Weight Loss

Medication Used

Clavamox antibiotic- oral

My cat is 15 years old and is having problems breathing, panting, gasping, dry heaving, lots and lots of sneezing, lethargic, not eating, lost a lot of weight, dry crusty nose, occasional eye gunk. I took him to the vet and she told me it was either an infection or cancer. Oh, he also has this thing where he walks like he's drunk in the hind end and he tips over a lot when being pet, the vet didn't really address this and I'm not sure if it's at all related to his other problems. They did an xray and blood tests, he showed slight fluid in his lungs and inflammation. His blood work was normal for his liver, kidneys, thyroid, all that. His white count (wbc), neutrophils (neu), and red blood cells (mchc), were all high and his platelets (plt and mpv) were low. Her options to me were to take him to a specialist to run more tests or try to treat for an infection. She gave me an antibiotic (clavamox) and a steriod (prednisolone). I gave him both meds over a course of roughly 2 weeks. He seemed to be doing much better, his breathing wasn't as labored, but still heavy, his eyes and nose cleared up and looked so much better, no more sneezing or coughing or hacking, he was eating more and I even caught him playing and stretching. He finished his meds and still had the heavy breathing, but all his other symptoms went away. Its been about 2 week since his medicine and recently he has some symptoms back, dry crusty nose, eye gunk, loss of appetite, lethargic, hacking, no coughing or sneezing yet. At this point I'm not sure what I should do, take him back to the vet for another round of those meds? They really did help him, just not completely, but it was definitely better. Or go the cancer route and take him to the specialist?

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1700 Recommendations
It may be worth checking Leopold’s nasal discharge for culture and sensitivity to determine if the current antibiotic (Clavamox - amoxicillin) is suitable in case of infection as it isn’t wise to repeatedly treat with the same antibiotic. Further testing would be useful to see if there is anything else occurring, but given his age I feel it may be best to try this route first. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Turkish Angora
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

18+ yr old cat with kidney failure and stage 4 murmur had been given 3wks to 6 mos has now been with us a year. Has become extremely thin and frail but still desires to eat and drink and stumbles around. More recently his rib cage has become extremely distended. Do you think that this is from kidney failure? He has always had a dry cough, especially after drinking, since we got him 2 1/2 yrs ago but vet wasn't concerned at all. Cough is just higher pitched not more frequent. Thoughts appreciated. Thanks

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1700 Recommendations
Is the abdomen distended? This could be caused by ascites which could be attributable to kidney failure, heart failure, liver failure among other conditions; if there is fluid accumulation in the abdomen then there may also be pulmonary edema which may cause breathing difficulties. Given Bobby’s age and this current physical condition, you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination and another set of blood tests to evaluate the cause for the changes in cough. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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British Shorthair
2 years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

My cat has a leaky heart valve, he had fluid build up around the heart and lungs. It was removed few months ago. His other and overall test results were fine. Now he has fluid inside the lungs. It cannot be removed, he got water pills this time. He can hardly breath. It happened so suddenly, I am really sad, he is not even 3 years old. Is this the end stage for him? How long can he live with this failure?

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1700 Recommendations
The problem with fluid accumulating in the lungs is that it reduces the lung’s capacity for gaseous exchange by reducing the amount of functioning alveoli. Diuretics can be used to help draw fluid from the lungs, chest, abdomen etc… but at some point may become ineffective. You should speak with your Veterinarian about your options and their thoughts about Boris. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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1/2 manx
13 1/2 yr
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

indoor outdoor elderly cat difficulty breathing lethargic loss of appetite x-ray showed fluid around lungs should we get the fluid have the fluid drained off the lungs and have it tested

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1700 Recommendations
A sample of fluid would be useful as would a blood test to determine overall internal health. There are a few possible causes for fluid build up around the lungs including cancer, liver disease, heart failure, infections, trauma among other causes. The links below may be useful for you. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Medium breed
14 years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Fast Breathing

What's the chances of a 14yr old cat (in human years) surviving the surgery of draining out their lungs with fluid in then when a Dr describes the x ray as the cat being in "poor condition"?
Also how long does it usually take for fluid to fill a cats lungs on average? Like if a whole lung is filled with fluid how long has the problem been possibly going on for?

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1700 Recommendations
Draining the fluid is only a temporary fix and the time until the fluid returns can vary widely from case to case, there is no real average time as there are too many factors which contribute plus the cause may be idiopathic so this is hard to determine. There are many causes for fluid accumulation in the lungs, chest, abdomen etc… and the underlying cause needs to be determined so that the primary cause can be treated which will hopefully resolve the fluid. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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domestic short hair
6 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Loss of Appetite

My cat had 200Mils of fluid taken out of his lungs today. He has been very healthy until today. He is FlV positive since birth and is about 6 1/2 years old. She said he could have lymphoma. We had the fluid sent off for testing and are awaitong results. About how long before the fluid can accumulate again? From her demeanor it didn't seem like he has much longer to live

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1700 Recommendations
The accumulation of fluid would be dependent on the underlying cause, timeframes vary from case to case but can be a few days or even less than a day. Fluid analysis along with regular blood tests will help give a diagnosis of the primary condition; medical management may be attempted with diuretics but still maybe unrewarding. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Stuffy nasal cavity

Medication Used


Elderly cat sleeping rough most of his adult life. A lot of teeth missing due to gum diesease has had hayfever type symptoms for about 2 weeks is treated for fleas. No other vaccination is eating little but often

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1700 Recommendations
Most likely the cat is suffering from rhinitis which may be caused by infections (bacterial, viral, fungal), parasites, allergies, foreign bodies, polyps, dental problems among other disorders. Without examining the cat, I cannot say what the underlying cause is; a physical examination by a Veterinarian would be best, try to search for a charity clinic in your area. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

We all know fluid in the lungs is a bad thing. My cat of 11 years whos my heart has this also. After $500 at my vet. they say it is best for the cat NOT to suffer and be humanely put to sleep. It really tears me up hes my buddy for sure. I can't let him suffer for me. It's NEVER a good sign when they can't breathe. I love my cat and will miss him.

My healthy cat if 15 years had a strange reaction after receiving his vaccinations. We have not given him vaccinations for many years but wanted to get his teeth cleaned and so took him for routine check up and all was good.. Heart lungs etc prior to vaccinations and cytocentisis. After he came back a good trickling of blood from cytocetesis area was coming out. They cleaned him up and bleeding stopped then he started really struggling with breathing. Dr did exam again and heard fluid in chest cavity They gave him steroids and oxygen took chest xray. They found fluid in his lungs which Dr couldn't hear prior to vaccines. They recommended I bring him to er. Er Dr says cat has galloping heart rate and cardiac issues and she doesn't want to take out fluid or give diuretics. She wants to titrate him for lysene and have him maybe 7 months to live. I think this is strange after what I'm reading. She can't determine cause without fluid if I'm understanding the posts and the car has never had issues with heart and any exam. He also had normal heart and lungs prior to treatment at regular vets. Although rare there are cases of allergic reaction to vaccines. Why are they telling me to titrate for myocardial infarction or put him down. Ie. The cat came home from all the stress and jumped on table and ate a whole can of wet food and drank a good amount of water. He did the same today. Eating and drinking normally. Should I take him somewhere else at this point and have them try diuretic or check fluid in lungs

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