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What is Fungal Pneumonia?

Fungal pneumonia has a gradual onset, and the longer it is present the harder it is to eradicate. Bacterial infection may occur from the immune system being weakened from fighting the fungal pneumonia. In some advanced cases, systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) may develop. This can be deadly, as it spreads the infection to other organs and stops them from functioning. 

Pneumonia occurs when an infection causes the lungs to become inflamed. The alveoli (tiny sacs of air in the lungs) fill with pus and fluid. This makes breathing very difficult, and if left untreated can become life threatening. The alveoli are responsible for transporting oxygen from breathing into the bloodstream. If they are not functioning properly, the entire body of the cat becomes depleted of oxygen.

In the case of fungal pneumonia, fungal spores infiltrate the lungs and airways. This is also referred to as “mycotic pneumonia”. Cases of fungal pneumonia are rare in cats, but they do occur. An infection of the Cryptococcus fungus is the most commonly seen fungal infection in cats. There are a few other fungi that may cause pneumonia in cats. Cats with immune disorders are more prone to developing fungal pneumonia, as are younger cats and cats that are male (by 2 to 4 times). The infection affects the nasal cavity, irritating the lining of the nose and sinus. 

Fungal Pneumonia Average Cost

From 412 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$1,200

Symptoms of Fungal Pneumonia in Cats

The first stages of fungal pneumonia carry almost no symptoms. The further progressed the infection is, the more symptoms that will manifest. Symptoms are as follows:

  • Thick green/yellow nasal discharge
  • Eye discharge
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Labored breathing
  • Loud breathing
  • Short wet cough
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Increased heart rate
  • Bumps of lesions on the skin
  • Lameness
  • Dull fur coat
  • Blepharospasm (squinting)
  • Sudden blindness (in advanced cases)
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Causes of Fungal Pneumonia in Cats

While the cat’s own immune system is partly responsible for whether it will be susceptible to fungal pneumonia or not, geographic location is a heavy determinant of exposure to fungal spores. Different fungi live in different parts of the earth. All known causes are listed below.

  • Spore inhalation from soil
  • Interaction with bird droppings
  • Genetic defects of the immune system
  • Living near damp or wet habitats
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Prednisone use
  • Chemotherapy
  • Certain cancers that affect the immune system
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Diagnosis of Fungal Pneumonia in Cats

To make a proper diagnosis, your veterinarian will need the cat’s full medical history. A physical examination will be completed, including listening to the lungs with a stethoscope. The vet will check to see if the cat’s symptoms match those of fungal pneumonia. Often a correct diagnosis is made after a course of antibiotics proves to be ineffective, ruling out bacterial pneumonia. 

X-rays can show increased lung density, which will confirm the presence of pneumonia. Full blood work will be needed, including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile. An increase in white blood cells can indicate the presence of both cancer and/or fungal pneumonia. A lung aspiration may be done by sticking a needle into the lungs and collecting lung cells for microscopic evaluation. This can identify any fungi present. Testing for FIV should also occur. 

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Treatment of Fungal Pneumonia in Cats

Appropriate treatment will depend on how severe fungal pneumonia has become. An earlier diagnosis has much more success than does a late one. 

Antifungal Medication 

In all cases of fungal pneumonia, an extensive prescription of antifungal medication will be needed. Medications of choice are generally itraconazole or fluconazole. Both are expensive, and the duration of treatment will last months after symptoms have disappeared. The cat is often kept in the clinic or hospital for the first 2-5 days to determine whether it is responding to medications or not. 

Supportive Care 

While the cat is hospitalized, it will need ongoing supportive care to promote healing and maintain comfort. This generally includes intravenous fluids to return the cat to proper hydration and nebulization to keep the airways moist. Oxygen supplementation may also be needed. If the cat does not respond to medication, supportive care will be maintained into palliative circumstances.

Surgery 

Surgery may be needed if the pneumonia has progressed to SIRS. If skin nodules or granulomas have developed, they may need to be surgically removed. If increased eye pressure has caused blindness, the entire eye may need removal. All surgeries require general anesthesia and carry extra risks, especially in a cat who is already weak. 

Antibiotics 

If a secondary bacterial infection is present, or if the cat has undergone surgery, antibiotics will be prescribed to rid the body of harmful bacteria. Prescriptions may last from 2 weeks to a month or longer. 

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Recovery of Fungal Pneumonia in Cats

The cat will need to take antifungal medication for months on end to rid the body of infection. It should be noted that less than 70% of cats respond favorably to this medication. Some cats may clear the infection on their own, however, this is rare. Two weeks after hospital discharge, you will need to make a vet appointment for follow-up chest X-rays to confirm the pneumonia is resolving. At that time the cat will be reevaluated.

Clean any outdoor areas that may be collecting fecal material. Limit your cat’s outdoor access. Restrict all play and activity during the healing process. Give your cat a high-quality cat food with protein and lots of calories. You may also want to supplement your cat with liver enzymes. If blindness has occurred, it will be permanent. Relapse can happen up to one year after treatment has taken place. 

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Fungal Pneumonia Average Cost

From 412 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$1,200

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Fungal Pneumonia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Abby

dog-breed-icon

Siamese

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

Hi, my 10 year old female Siamese cat stopped eating(but better now) had 104 temp, and had visible weight loss a few weeks ago. She has had, what I thought was a hairball for months as she was often coughing/gagging. Vet put her on B12 shot, antibiotic shot, gave her an acid reflux type pill(says common in cats). Cough has not subsided so took her back yesterday. XRay shows what she says can be either a fungal infection or lung cancer(no smokers in house).She is leaning towards cancer as my 2 other cats do not have symptoms. Looking at images of lung cancer in cats online her Xray looks nothing like them. Xray of her looks like little stars. Any ideas?

July 20, 2018

Abby's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Fungal lung infections and lung cancer can look similar and are commonly misdiagnosed; one option is try to treat for a fungal infection to be on the safe side (less invasive than testing with bronchial wash or biopsy) and monitor for improvement, if there is no improvement you may start to think about cancer. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 20, 2018

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Vera

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Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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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

Weight Loss
Labored Breathing
Dehydrated
Won'T Eat
Gasps For Air
Look Of Fear In Eyes

My cat is having a hard time breathing, I took her to the vet and they said that it's a fungal infection in the lungs but haven't ruled out cancer. They gave her an x-ray and blood work but the meds seem to make her difficulty in breathing more often.They said it was Hematoplasmosis not sure if spelling is correct. I don't want her to die what should she be taking fir treatment. As well as anything else that will help her.

May 4, 2018

Vera's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

Typically treatment for Histoplasmosis (I think you ment) would consist of itraconazole or ketoconazole, but your Veterinarian may choose to use a different antifungal medication depending on their evaluation and discretion. Find an article below on treatment of Histoplasmosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/canine-and-feline-histoplasmosis-review-widespread-fungus?id=&sk;=&date;=&pageID;=8

May 5, 2018

Thank you, and they did put her on itraconazole but it seems to make her breath more difficult right after giving it to her. And she barely eats or drinks anything. Any suggestions on what to do about her appetite and weight loss? She starts breathing out of her mouth after walking across my bed, any activity causes difficulty in breathing and she looks so miserable when it happens. I just pet and love on her when it does, and it eventually goes away or she catches her breath and starts purring.

May 5, 2018

Vera's Owner

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Little Kitty

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

7 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

Not Eating
Letharrgic
Breathing Labored

Can people and other cats catch fungal pneumonia from a another cat? I have a cat that has fungal pneumonia. She sleeps with me and one of my other cats. My vet is advising euthanasia. WE have not done any other tests to see what kind of fungus. Only an x ray

Feb. 22, 2018

Little Kitty's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Fungal pneumonia is typically due to airborne fungal particles, most often found in soil. I am not aware of contagious causes of fungal pneumonia. I'm sorry that this is happening to Little Kitty.

Feb. 22, 2018

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Little kitty

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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

No Fever
Lethagic
Sometimes Labored Breathing
Not Eating But Drinking

My cat has been diagnosed with fungal pneumonia through an x ray. She does not have all the symptoms. She is not eating well and has labored breathing sometimes. My vet said he can do a lung wash and send to lab. Is that the only way to diagnose which type of fungus it is? Can she be placed on antifungal meds? I wasn't given much hope for her. She was given a B12 shot. I don't want to put her through a lot if there is no chance of recovery. She is eating a little. I don't know what to do. Can she fight the fungus off on her own? I don't want to have her euthanized but I don't want her to suffer.

Feb. 22, 2018

Little kitty's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

The decision to place Little Kitty on antifungal medication is down to her Veterinarian, however it is always wise in severe cases to do a wash to identify the specific pathogen and to test certain medications (antibiotics/antifungals depending on what’s isolated) to direct treatment more effectively; but whilst waiting for result we generally treat with a broad spectrum medication to cover us the few days before results come back. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Feb. 22, 2018

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Tiny

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tabby

dog-age-icon

9 Years

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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

Very Sick.

Can my cat get this from being around chickens? We live next door a neighbor who has a family of Chickens, I also feed the wild birds in my front yard, I catch rain water to water my garden which the wild birds drink. My cat has not had shots since a small kitten. He was neuter then. We have a eight month old cat is she in danger? What can I do to protect my younger cat? Am I the bad guy here. Do I need to stop what I am doing? Can my cat get this from being around chickens?

Jan. 22, 2018

Tiny's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. There are fungi that exist in the environment that can affect cats, yes. Chickens can pass Salmonella bacteria which can also affect cats. If Tiny is not feeling well, he should be seen by your veterinarian, as I cannot diagnose anything over an email. Your veterinarian will be able to examine him, determine what might be going on, and suggest any treatments necessary. If Your eight month old cat has not had vaccines and preventive care, that would be a good idea to have taken care of as well. I hope that they are both okay.

Jan. 22, 2018

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Larry

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Short ha

dog-age-icon

5 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

Weight Loss
Labored Breathing
Necrosis
Cough

My cat, Larry started isolating himself in our bedroom closet all day, not even getting up to use his litterbox, which I didn't notice for 2-3 days. He'd lay in bed with me after I'd shut off the light. The second night, I felt something wet on my arm and upon turning on my lamp, noticed about 2 inches of his tail tip was hairless, black and bloody. We took him to the only emergent vet we have open in town, where we usually get anyway. They're first approach was to do a dental as he had previous dental issues. They also ran blood tests and found he was very anemic. Indoor cat, up to date on shots, and rechecked for feline leukemia. He had lost 3-4 pounds at this point, depressed, coughing, and minor labored breathing. He seemed ok-ish after the dental, but within days we returned to get where they gave us a prescription for some respiratory illness. A night or two later, we were told it was probably cancer, and we need to put him down. We called a different, smaller town vet, the next morning,and she saw him immediately. She found the end of his tail to be completely dead and was conscerned about his open mouth breathing. He had his tail amputated two days later, and after the surgery, with his breathing still labored, she took a chest X-ray, which had not been done up to this point! Ugh! She suspected fungal pneumonia given symptoms, X-ray and blood results, AND upon us discussing some severe water damage to our home several months prior! We had actually had to have mold remediation done, and while my husband, toddler and newborn and I retreated to a borrowed motor home in our driveway, we did not bring the cat on board. :( I'm horrified that I let this happen to him. He is the sweetest cat, only 5 years old. He has been on an anti fungal med (fluconozole?) for like a month, and we go tomorrow morning for recheck. At first, I thought he was responding well, but the last week, his breathing is not so great, although he's more like himself in other ways. I don't know what's going to happen from here, but if someone has any advice or takeaway from this, I'd appreciate that! Please don't make me feel more like a monster than I already do...I love him, and I'm doing all I can to nurse him back...I just had no idea...ah!

dog-name-icon

Dusty

dog-breed-icon

Tortie

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

My five year old cat Dusty has been diagnosed with Histoplasmosis. We can’t understand how she got it because she is an indoor only cat. I am treating her with Intrafungol. I have been giving her the medicine for a week along with spoon feeding her three or more times a day. I am feeding her regular food with water or chicken broth mixed in to keep her hydrated. She is a little bit perkier and has started to wash her face and paws again, but she is still constantly hiding under a chair. I’m very worried about her. What other things would indicate that the medicine might be working? I have a heating pad under the chair with her. Is there anything else I can do to help make her more comfortable?

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Cosmo

dog-breed-icon

Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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

Labored Breathing
Clear Runny Nose
Lacks Appetite

Took our cat to the vet because he was little very little and acting lethargic for about a week. During the visit, he weighed in about the same as his last visit, blood work looked great, and was given antibiotics an for an intestinal parasite. Flash forward to a week later, he's now having trouble breathing, still eating and drinking some, but has no energy. Back to the vet we go, and this time a chest xray shows fluid in the lungs, possible pneumonia or fungal infection. We were given ketoconazole and cavamox to start treating for a fungal pneumonia. While he looks better than yesterday (start of the medication), his breathing is still labored and he can only walk a few steps before either laying down or rolling on his side, while breathing out of his mouth. Is there anything I can do at home that may ease his breathing? Like taking him into the bathroom while I shower for humidity? He returns to the vet for another xray in two days, but the loss of breath is keeping him from eating.

Fungal Pneumonia Average Cost

From 412 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$1,200

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