What is Lung Bruising?
Lung bruising is referred to as pulmonary contusions, defined as a consequence of blunt trauma resulting in decompression to the thoracic wall. Pulmonary contusions are characterized by damage to the mechanisms of the lungs, specifically the alveoli, interstitial and pulmonary vasculature. The plasma and blood of the feline leaks into the inner lung (hemoptysis), followed by massive infiltration as well as inflammation. Depending on the damage sustained, the feline may display mild dyspnea (difficulty breathing) or, in severe cases, the lungs will fail, resulting in apnea (absence of breath). Clinical signs may not be evident for up to twelve hours post trauma and can progress for up to 48 hours.
Lung bruising in cats is an accumulation of blood or fluid inside the lungs caused by trauma. The feline lungs can easily be bruised by being kicked, hit-by-car incidences, or falling. The lungs fill with air to supply oxygen to the whole body. If the lungs are damaged or contain fluids, the organ will experience a decreased ability to complete normal functions. Therefore, a cat that has sustained lung damage will have a difficult time breathing regularly. Lung bruising in cats should be treated promptly, as in some traumatic events, damaged lungs can be fatal if not addressed by a veterinary professional.
Symptoms of Lung Bruising in Cats
The symptoms of lung bruising in cats can be mild, moderate or severe. A feline with a mild case of pulmonary contusion will experience an increased respiratory rate, which could soon turn into a moderate case of contusion with evidence of orthopnea (shortness of breath). A feline who has undergone a severe lung bruising will open her mouth to breathe, will be in respiratory distress, and her mucous membranes may become blue in coloration.
- Hemoptysis (blood in the lungs)
- Dyspnea (difficult breathing)
- Hypopnea (shallow breathing)
- Hyperpnoea (deep breathing)
- Apnea (absence of breath)
- Thorax pain
- Weak pulse
- Cold extremities
Causes of Lung Bruising in Cats
Lung bruising in cats is commonly caused by blunt force trauma to the thoracic cavity. Approximately 40 percent of all pulmonary contusions cases are due to chest injury sustained by motor vehicle accidents, however, lung bruising in cats can also be caused by:
- Stepped on
- Physical abuse – kicks, beating
- Animal fights
Diagnosis of Lung Bruising in Cats
The diagnosis of lung bruising in cats is primarily based on the finding on physical examination and recent history of trauma sustained. Upon physical examination, the veterinarian will check the color of the feline’s gums for blue coloration, indicating low oxygen levels in the blood. Using a stethoscope to hear lung sounds, the vet may detect a wheezing or crackling sound that would indicate a complication inside the lung organ. The doctor will then proceed to palpate the feline, noting evidence of abdominal pain and the presence of broken ribs. To further the diagnosis, the veterinarian will likely x-ray the cat to determine the full extent of injury and severity of the condition. However, since a pulmonary contusion can appear between six and twelve hours after the injury was sustained, the veterinarian may ask to have additional radiographs taken a few hours after the initial x-ray was taken.
Treatment of Lung Bruising in Cats
The goal of pulmonary contusion treatment is to restore adequate oxygen levels to the tissues, stabilize the feline, and repair evident injuries to the thoracic cavity. Treatment begins with oxygen therapy either with a nasal oxygen device or face mask, as felines are often presented with dyspnea. Pain medication may be administered to the feline to reduce cough and promote a positive healing time. In severe pulmonary contusion cases in which the feline has presented clinical signs of shock, fluid therapy may be necessary to restore cardiac output. Expect your feline to be hospitalized and placed on cage rest for several days until the veterinarian feels she is well enough to go home. In general, felines begin to show improvement within 48 hours after received treatment, but your feline will be under careful monitoring, and may stay in the hospital for greater than a week.
Recovery of Lung Bruising in Cats
At-home care includes greatly limiting your feline’s physical activities and following veterinary protocol. Expect reevaluation of your feline’s condition soon after hospital release, as the veterinarian will want to ensure the cat is breathing properly and the condition is not progressively becoming worse. Despite aggressive treatment, lung bruising in some cases may be so severe that the cat will not survive. Taking your feline to seek medical attention right away greatens her chances of survival.