sick cat
September 2, 2006 10:23 PM   Subscribe

I have a kitten diagnosed with pneumonia. Treatment?

I have a kitten who is approximately 10-12 weeks old (I've had him since he was about 1 week old, along with his surrogate lactating mother). The vet did an x-ray to make sure it was actually pneumonina (one lung is completely filled with fluid), but he cannot tell what kind, because the kitten is way too young for the anaesthesia required to get a culture. Therefore, finding the right combination of antibiotics is tricky. The kitten is now on 2 oral meds, baytril and amoxy. He's also been on clavamox before for a different URI. We bring him into the bathroom for hot steam 3 times a day, for five minutes. Is there anything else I can do to help him? Any supplements to know about? His appetite is very good still.
posted by josher71 to Pets & Animals (1 answer total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(IANADVM) We just went through this with our newly adopted, two year old, Hope, so I know exactly how heart wrenching this can be. This website was an invaluable resource that helped me understand feline pneumonia. It sounds like you're doing everything right. You might ask your vet about coupage. That's where you cup your hands and tap the patient rhythmically to dislodge what's in the lungs. Apparently cats are so small that it doesn't really matter where you tap them, since the vibrations carry to the lungs and cats aren't usually too distressed by it. I don't know about kittens, though, maybe they're too small for coupage. You would normally perform coupage after the hot steam or humidifier session.

Most vets nowadays have a nebulizer. That's more or less a humidifier that produces smaller particles that reach deeper into the lungs. I understand that medicine can be added to the mist.

Hope was also too weak to undergo the tracheal wash for diagnosis. There is, however, a blood test that can at least help rule out fungal pneumonia. Hope was at risk for this because she was originally a Katrina cat (transferred before the storm to East Texas and then after the storm to Portland, OR to make room for Katrina rescues), so the risk for fungal pneumonia varies according to your local climate. Antifungals are a totally different course of drug than antibiotics and a fungal infection requires a long recovery. Heartworms are also a possibility for pneumonia, as well as a lot of other rare causes like mycoplasmas and toxoplasmosis. Pneumonia is basically one of those catch-all diagnoses. If the antibiotics keep working, then stay the course. The most important thing is finding the med that works. We had to try some other antibiotics before we ended up with baytril.

Hope was on oxygen at the emergency vet for several days. This was pretty expensive, and e-vets vary wildly in cost so it might be worthwhile to prepare mentally and financially for this possibility. It wouldn't hurt to know where the nearest 24-hour vet is located. The vets said that the oxygen was more of a stabilizing treatment than a cure, but I think it helped give her room to heal and there is speculation that bacteria and fungal infections fail to thrive in oxygen rich environments. She also started eating a lot more regularly in oxygen. I was seriously considering home oxygen treatment (I had the Ask.Me all but written up) as a possibility before Hope got better.

A cat with distressed breathing can die very quickly, so that's something to watch out for. I wasn't there when my partner first took Hope to the e-vet, but I imagine that Hope's distressed breathing was shaking her whole body. Clearly anybody with pneumonia is going to have some small trouble breathing, though. A vet will check the color of a cat's gums to see if their body is getting enough oxygen. They also count the number of respirations per minute. I have no idea if I was doing any of that stuff right at home, but it made me feel less paranoid.

A very, very important red flag for a cat is open mouthed breathing. If a cat is breathing through their mouth, then they need to be taken to the vet ASAP.

Hope is being weaned off of terbutaline, which is a bronchial dilator that helped her breath more easily. They also make an adapter for using inhalers with cats, the AeroKat.

I also installed a AC unit in our bedroom and we use that room as Hope's recovery room. Limiting a cat to one room cuts down on their exertion because they can't run around the house. Some amount of exercise is good for recovery, though, so now that she's doing better, we let her out more and more.

It is a very, very, good sign that your kitten is eating. It's also a good sign when a cat is sociable. A cat should eat every day. Going one or two days without food is a really bad thing, even for an otherwise healthy cat.

Pneumonia usually doesn't happen without a compromised immune system. But, since you have a kitten, maybe that's the reason. We still don't have a clear idea why Hope got pneumonia. We suspect that she might have aspirated some liquid medicine that my partner and I administered poorly. She appears to have always had some kind of underlying digestion issue and has always been a picky eater. Now we use the towel treatment to administer medicine. She's still feisty, though, and I've got the scratches to prove it. =)

Remember: I am not a vet. This is all based on my memory of Internet research that I did under a lot of duress. I'll be interested to see what other advice there is.

Oh yeah, give and receive lots of kitty snuggles, but that goes without saying. Best wishes.
posted by Skwirl at 1:48 AM on September 3, 2006

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