Pyothorax In Cats: A Sudden And Serious Life-Threatening Infection

Posted on: 15 June 2015


Pyothorax is a type of infection that's fairly common, but can unfortunately cause your cat to go from perfectly healthy to struggling to breathe. For a cat to survive pyothorax, it's imperative for their owner to recognize the symptoms and get them immediate treatment. This guide will explain what pyothorax is, what symptoms you should look out for, and what to do if you suspect your cat is suffering from it.


Pyothorax is the scientific name of an infection that occurs in your cat's chest cavity. These infections fill the space between their lungs and the external walls of their body with pus. As the infection progresses, the pus will eventually push on the lungs, making it more difficult for a cat to fully expand their lungs. Unfortunately, this pus can also effectively coat the lungs, causing scarring and other permanent damage to the lungs.

The causes of pyothorax range widely, but some of the more common causes include:

  • Trauma - Injuries to the chest or abdomen may cause infections that can lead to pyothorax.
  • Foreign Body Ingestion - Cats may accidentally swallow seeds, foxtails, or other foreign bodies that make their way through the esophagus and stick to the walls of the cat's body, causing an infection.
  • Lung Infection - A simple lung or other upper respiratory infection can spread, resulting in pyothorax.


Recognizing the symptoms of pyothorax early on is critical to getting a cat medical help with this scary illness. If you notice your cat having any of these symptoms, get them to a vet immediately:

  • Difficulty Breathing - A cat who is visibly struggling to breathe, has a bluish-tinted tongue or lips, or doesn't seem to be able to move without stopping to catch their breath may have pyothorax.
  • Immune Response - Since pyothorax is an infection, cats may exhibit high fevers, elevated heart rates, vomit, or lose interest in food and water.
  • Abnormal Behavior - Your cat may hide, avoid social interaction, or sleep and lie around more than usual.


Immediate medical care is necessary to treat this illness. If you think your cat has pyothorax, go to your local vet clinic (such as Pet Medical Center – Full Service Veterinary Care) immediately.

Treatment will differ depending on how far along the pyothorax is. Generally, veterinarians will begin treating your cat with antibiotics and fluids, and may insert a chest tube to help drain the infection and make it easier for your cat to breathe. If the infection is severe, performing surgery to clean the lungs and remove any diseased tissue may be necessary. Extended hospitalization may be necessary while your cat recovers from the infection, and to monitor them to make sure the fluid doesn't begin to build up again.

This infection is serious, and when left untreated, it can be life-threatening. Thankfully, with a vet's help, your cat will have a good chance of surviving and recovering from this terrible illness.