Fungal Pneumonia in Cats

Fungal Pneumonia in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Fungal Pneumonia in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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

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Abby

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Siamese

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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4 found helpful

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4 found helpful

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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4 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

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11 Years

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1 found helpful

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1 found helpful

Has Symptoms

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

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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1 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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Fungal Pneumonia Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,200

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