Fungal Pneumonia in Cats
When your cat's lungs become inflammed due to a deep fungal infection, known as mycotic infection, it may have fungal pneumonia. The inflammation in this form of pneumonia may occur in the interstitial tissues (the spaces between the tissue cells); in the lymphatic vessels (the vessels within the body that transport white-blood-cell-rich lymph liquid); or in the peribronchial tissues of the lung (the tissues surrounding the bronchi — the airways going from the windpipe to the lungs).
Both dogs and cats may develop fungal pneumonia, although this type of pneumonia occurs less commonly in cats.
Symptoms & Types of Fungal Pneumonia
Symptoms of fungal pneumonia may include a history of anorexia and corresponding weight loss, fever, discharge from the nose or eyes, coughing, difficulty breathing, lameness, and eye problems, possibly as severe as sudden blindness. A physical exam may also reveal depression, emaciation, and a crackling sound in the cat's lungs while breathing.
Causes of Fungal Pneumonia
There are a number of fungi that can cause mycotic (deep fungal) infections; some of these include Blastomyces, Histoplasma, and Aspergillus. Fungal pneumonia is geographically varying, as the different fungi responsible for mycotic infection are found in various areas of the United States. Blastomycosis, from the Blastomyces organism, for example, is found in the Southeast and Midwest, while Aspergillosis, from the Aspergillus organism, is widespread throughout the United States.
Contact with one of the fungi capable of causing mycotic infection may lead to fungal pneumonia. The exact method of contraction varies depending on the specific type of fungus. Blastomyces dermatitidis, for example, primarily enters the body by inhalation into the cat's lungs, while the Cryptococcus neoformans fungal organism generally enters the body through the nasal cavity and then migrates into the eyes and/or central nervous system from this point of entry. Environmental exposure to any of the fungi responsible for causing fungal pneumonia may lead to the development of this disease. Thus, exposure to soils rich in organic matter, bird droppings, or fecal matter may increase the odds of contracting it.
Diagnosis of Fungal Pneumonia
The only way to definitively diagnose fungal pneumonia is to identify the potential organism through the analysis of a skin nodule sample, or biopsy of a lymph node. Further diagnostic procedures may include urine analysis, thoracic X-rays of the chest and lungs, and abdominal ultrasounds. If fungal pneumonia is not the cause of the cat’s symptoms, other forms of pneumonia, such as parasitic or bacterial-induced pneumonia, may be to blame. Other alternate diagnoses include chronic bronchial disease or pulmonary edema.
Treatment for Fungal Pneumonia
If your cat is still eating, your veterinarian will prescribe medication to be given at home. If it has developed severe symptoms, such as drastic weight loss due to anorexia and dehydration, hospitalization may be necessary to stabilize your cat so that further treatment can be given. Administration of fluids, potassium, oxygen, and antibiotics should be given as necessary.
Note that less than 70 percent of dogs, and an even smaller percentage of cats are likely to respond to treatment for fungal pneumonia. Treatment is expensive and generally required for a minimum of two months — the exact treatment and length of treatment, however, is dependent on the particular type of fungus that is responsible for the illness.
To avoid dehydration, the cat should be given plenty of fluids and its activities should be restricted. A high-protein diet of calorically dense food is recommended, and all medications will need to be given on a regular basis for the entire amount of time prescribed by your veterinarian. Checkups should be performed regularly, specifically, thoracic X-ray imaging, before the treatment program is completed.
Prevention of Fungal Pneumonia
To avoid fungal pneumonia, it is advised you clean your cat’s living environment of feces or other toxic organic matter.