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Published: May 31, 2012

Pleural effusion in cats is a life-threatening medical condition that pet owners must address right away. Those who suspect their cat has pleural effusion should be sure to visit a veterinary hospital immediately.

The term refers to an accumulation of fluid around the outside of the cat's lungs. There is typically a small amount of fluid in this area, known as the pleural sac, in order to prevent the cat's lungs from sticking to its chest cavity. However, conditions such as heart disease in cats, blood clots, cancers, bacterial infections, feline leukemia, hernias and pancreatitis can cause a build-up of fluid in this area which is very dangerous for cats. Pleural effusion should be considered high on the list of cat emergencies and immediate intervention is necessary.

Clinical signs of pleural effusion include difficulty or fast breathing, loss of appetite, lethargy, a bluish discoloration of the skin and general issues with the feline's respiratory system. If your cat is showing any of these signs, bring the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

If caught in time, the veterinarian can perform a procedure that will remove the fluid from around the lungs. Cats will generally need to undergo a complete work-up to determine the underlying cause of the pleural effusion.  Many times a long-term treatment plan is required to effectively treat these cats.  The prognosis is dependent on the speed with which the cat receives medical attention and the severity of the underlying cause of the effusion.