Pleural Effusion In Cats: What Should You Know About It?


Fluid in chest or pleural effusion is the unusual buildup of fluid in the chest cavity of a cat that is lined by the pleural lining. Further, this happens in cats either due to too little fluid being engrossed in the pleural cavity or due to too much fluid being yielded in the said cavity. Further, the alterations in the pressure and blood pressure content in the cat’s blood or the permeability of the blood vessels, as well as the lymphatic function, might contribute to the fluid buildup. Read on to this article to learn more about this feline condition.

Pleural Effusion in Cats: What is this feline condition?

Fluid in the chest or pleural effusion in cats occurs when the fluid is present outside of the lungs. This happens in the space between the chest wall and the lungs. Usually, this area merely has a small extent of fluid basically in keeping the lungs from abiding to the chest wall. In case the excessive amounts of fluid buildup, stern complications may arise as the lungs of the cat cannot properly expand. This potentially is a life-threatening situation for the cat. In this case, emergency treatment is needed.

Though most of the cats are commonly healthy, some cats may still develop illnesses, which may compromise their own health and safety. Moreover, cats may also develop fluid in their chest due to various illnesses. Irrespective of the cause, pleural effusion in cats might become very serious.

What are the Different Types of Pleural Effusion?

There are specific types of illnesses, which may cause the fluid to buildup in the lungs of the cat. Here are some of which that vet might look for in making diagnosis:


Cats, which have blood in their pleural space in the cat’s chest are being diagnosed with hemothorax. The blood in the chest tends to hinder the expansion of the lungs, the same with the chylothorax, and may cause some breathing problems.


The chylothorax is a rare condition, which happens when the lymphatic fluids of the chyle accumulates in the chest cavity. In the event that this fluid reaches a particular level, the cat might not breath well as its lungs may not fully expand.

What are the Causes of Pleural Effusion?

Certain conditions may cause pleural effusion in the cats. Here are some of the most common causes of the fluid accumulation in the cat’s lungs:

  • Blockage of the major vein of the heart –vena cava
  • Higher than the normal hydrostatic pressure
  • Being over hydrated
  • Congestive heart disease
  • Liver conditions
  • Kidney disease
  • Traumatic injury
  • Heartworms
  • Tumors in the chest
  • Leaky blood vessels
  • Blood clot in the lungs
  • Fungal infection of the lungs
  • Diaphragmic hernia
  • Viral infection of the lungs
  • Abnormal functioning of the lymphatic system
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer
  • Twisting of the lung
  • Low levels of the protein in the blood
  • Bacterial infection of the lungs

What are the Symptoms of Pleural Effusion?

In case the cat has a fluid on its chest, it’ll exhibit various symptoms. The most common symptoms of pleural effusion in cats include the following:

  • Problems in breathing when in an upright position
  • Coughing
  • High respiratory rate
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Bluish tint around the mucous membranes
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Breathing with its mouth open
  • Lethargy

How is Pleural Effusion Diagnosed?

The vet may need some significant information from the cat owner, in order to assist them in attaining a prognosis. He’ll start by taking a complete medical history from the cat owner. The owner should include any information regarding the cat’s previous medical conditions, birth history, medications as well as the date symptoms started. Furthermore, the doctor may take the vital signs of the cat, just like the weight, temperature, respiration and heart rate. He’ll also examine the cat, as well as listen to its chest.

Additionally, a blood sample might also be taken, in order to search for any signs of infection. A urinalysis may also be conducted after the vet gets a sample of the cat’s urine. In case fluid is present, the vet might take an ultrasound or an X-ray of its chest. Acquiring a fluid sample might also be a key in the determination of the cause of the pleural effusion in cats.

What are the Treatments for Pleural Effusion?

Fluid in the chest or pleural effusion in cats is a life-threatening and emergency for the cat. This malady must be treated the moment you notice any symptoms. A lot of cats, which develop pleural effusion have trouble in breathing, as well as deteriorate rapidly. Further, the most significant thing in treating this illness is getting rid of the fluid rapidly to restore the free breathing. This is mainly done by way of draining the fluid from the chest of the cat using a needle. Certain conditions such as chylothorax can cause as much as a quart of fluid to build-up in the chest. In case the fluid keeps on building up after it’s primarily removed, vets might perform surgical procedure in installing a shunt. This particular device automatically eliminates the fluid from the chest.


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