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What are Fluid in the Lungs?

Fluid in the lungs in cats is also referred to as pulmonary edema, which means there is an excess of fluid inside the lungs. If not treated promptly, this can lead to the damage of your cat’s healthy lung tissue.

Your cat’s health depends on his entire body functioning correctly. While most cats do not develop significant medical issues, some develop problems that affect their overall health and wellness. If your cat has developed a condition that has led to an accumulation of fluid in his lungs, it can cause a myriad of symptoms and potentially damage his lungs.

Symptoms of Fluid in the Lungs in Cats

There are certain symptoms you may notice if your cat experiences a buildup of fluid in his lungs. The following are some of the most common symptoms veterinarians see in cats with this condition:

  • Breathing with an open mouth
  • Dry cough
  • Lethargy
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Wheezing or crackling noises when breathing
  • Bluish tint to gums and mucous membranes
  • Chest pains

Causes of Fluid in the Lungs in Cats

A variety of disorders and diseases can cause your cat to develop fluid in his lungs. Here are some of the most common causes seen in domestic cats:

  • Pneumonia
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis
  • Parasitic infections
  • Viral infections
  • Heart Conditions
  • Tumors
  • Mediastinal lymphoma
  • Feline Leukemia
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Obstruction of the upper airway
  • Heartworms (rare in cats)
  • Bronchitis
  • Feline Asthma

Diagnosis of Fluid in the Lungs in Cats

Your veterinarian will need some information from you before making a diagnosis. He will ask you questions regarding your cat’s overall health including any unusual occurrences during his birth and if he has been diagnosed with any other health conditions by another doctor. You will also need to let your doctor know when you first noticed symptoms in your cat. Your veterinarian will take vital signs including weight, temperature, heart rate, and respiration rate. In addition, he will draw blood for laboratory tests that may help him make a diagnosis. In veterinary medicine, a CBC or complete blood count and a chemical profile are routinely run. A urine sample will also be taken from your cat and examined. Diagnostic X-rays or an ultrasound may also be performed to help your doctor make a diagnosis. 

In addition to testing, your doctor will examine your cat thoroughly. He will listen to his heart and lungs and evaluate his neurological functions. Your doctor will also evaluate your cat’s overall behavior and mannerisms.

Treatment of Fluid in the Lungs in Cats

The treatment for fluid in the lungs in cats depends largely upon the cause of the condition. Here is an overview of treatments for some conditions that can cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs:


If your cat is diagnosed with asthma, your veterinarian will most likely prescribe an inhaler and corticosteroids. Since asthma is worse if your cat is overweight, your doctor may place him on a diet or on prescription cat food. 


Unlike dogs, heartworm infections are rare in cats but they can happen. If your cat has heartworms that are causing a buildup of fluid, your doctor may treat his symptoms with medications. There are currently no safe heartworm treatments for cats.


There is no cure for feline cardiomyopathy, but your doctor can help manage your cat’s symptoms. He may prescribe diuretics to help your cat eliminate excess fluids and ACE inhibitors to keep his blood pressure in check. Anti-clotting medications may be administered to prevent blood clots from forming. 

Your doctor may also help stabilize your cat with IV fluids and place him in a chamber with oxygen to help him breathe. In most cases, veterinarians recommend restricting your cat’s activities so he can breathe better. If your cat is struggling to breathe or not stable, your doctor may admit him to the veterinary hospital for medications, treatment and supervision. 

Recovery of Fluid in the Lungs in Cats

Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to care for your cat during and after treatment. It is important to give your cat his medication exactly as prescribed and follow any instructions regarding diet and overall care. Your veterinarian may want to see your cat every few weeks until he is sure your cat is stable and recovering in the proper manner. Be sure to use these visits to keep your doctor informed about any changes in your cat’s behavior, diet and symptoms. If your cat appears to be recovering and suffers a relapse in symptoms, it is best to report that to your doctor at once so appropriate action can be taken.

If your cat has been diagnosed with cancer or is suffering, your doctor may recommend euthanasia as the best course of treatment. While this is never an easy decision, it may be the most humane thing to do. You may also opt to take your cat home and manage his symptoms with holistic or alternative treatments. Your cat will benefit if you work together with your doctor to discover the cause of fluid in his lungs and treat it accordingly. 

Fluid in the Lungs Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

6 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

hi, i really need your help today! on Friday my cat got her x ray done and the vet said, my cat have fluid on her lung not a lot, she also has heart murmur and she was born with it, her symptoms are coughing and when she breathing specially sleeping she makes funny sound, but not too too loud. the vet gave her amlodipine .0625 mg and it said for life! that really scares me, this amlodipine .0625 mg is mainly for hypertension and high blood pressure kitties, can you tell me why the vet gave her this med. thank you. connie

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1955 Recommendations
Amlodipine is a calcium channel blocker used to treat hypotension in cats, it is possible that your Veterinarian diagnosed Zoe with hypotension based on other symptoms found during the physical examination. Generally with fluid on the lungs, there are many different causes and treatment may involve diuretics or heart medications. If you have concerns, call your Veterinarian to discuss the rationale for this medication being prescribed and if you have further doubts visit another Veterinarian in your area to see if they come to the same diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/hypertension

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