Pyothorax In Cats And Dogs: Causes And Treatment

Pyothorax is a serious infection which engages the vital prognosis of your pet. But a quick treatment by your vet can give real chances of survival to your companion.

Pyothorax is a condition that occurs when pus accumulates in the chest cavity, between the lungs and the chest wall. This can be caused by infection, injury, or cancer. Treatment typically involves antibiotics and drainage of the pus. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary.

Pyothorax is an infection of the pleural cavity (the space between the lungs and the chest wall). When the cavity is filled with liquid it is called pyothorax. When it is filled with air, it is called a pneumothorax.

Causes Of Pyothorax

Sometimes the causes of a pyothorax are not really determined. However, we have determined 4 causes are the most common:

A Foreign Body

As any pet owner knows, animals are curious creatures that often put things in their mouths (or other cavities) that they shouldn’t. While this can simply be a nuisance, in some cases it can lead to serious health problems. This is because, in some cases, the ingested object can migrate into the body.

This is most commonly seen with grass or other plant matter, which can enter through the nose or mouth and then move into the lungs. In severe cases, this can cause the lung to collapse or even puncture. While foreign body migration is relatively rare, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers and to seek medical attention if you think your pet may have ingested something dangerous.

Chest Wound Following A Bite Or Injury

Prompt treatment of bites and wounds is essential to prevent the development of pyothorax. This condition is caused by an infection that occurs in the chest cavity, and it can be fatal if left untreated.

The symptoms of pyothorax are often delayed, making it difficult to determine the cause of the infection. As a result, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after sustaining a wound or bite. With prompt treatment, pyothorax can be effectively managed and the risk of serious complications will be minimized.

Infectious Pneumonia Or Bronchitis

Although our furry friends typically enjoy good health, they are susceptible to the same respiratory infections that plague humans. Pneumonia and bronchitis are particularly common in pets, and if left untreated, can lead to a serious condition called pyothorax.

Pyothorax occurs when pus accumulates in the chest cavity and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Pets with pyothorax often have difficulty breathing and may develop a fever or cough up blood. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from pneumonia or bronchitis, it is important to take them to the vet for treatment. With prompt medical care, most pets will make a full recovery from this potentially fatal condition.

A Tumor

It’s not just humans who can get tumors. Unfortunately, our furry friends can get them too. Just like in humans, a tumor in your pet can also cause pyothorax. If your pet has pyothorax, they may have trouble breathing, and they may cough up bloody discharge.

The Symptoms Of Pyothorax

It’s always heartbreaking to see a beloved pet suffer, but it’s even worse when the symptoms seem to come out of nowhere. Unfortunately, this is often the case with both cats and dogs.

Symptoms of pyothorax usually don’t appear until the disease is quite advanced, which can take several weeks. By the time the animal is showing signs of illness, it is often a veterinary emergency.

This is why it is so important to keep a close eye on your pet’s health and to see a veterinarian at the first sign of any problems. So don’t wait until your pet is sick to make an appointment – regular check-ups can help ensure a long and healthy life for your furry friend.

Among the most common symptoms are that your pet:

  • Adopts unusual positions to try to breathe better
  • No Energy
  • May lose its appetite, lose weight
  • Presents a strong respiratory difficulty which must immediately alert you
  • Your pet will breathe with its mouth open or make unusual noises when breathing
  • Has tachycardia or shortness of breath on exertion
  • Coughs
  • Is hyperthermic or hypothermic

Consult your veterinarian immediately.

Medical exams

Pyothorax is a very serious condition that can be life-threatening for your pet. It’s important to get them checked out by a veterinarian as soon as you notice any of the symptoms. During their medical exam, your vet will likely take x-rays to confirm the diagnosis and to help determine the best course of treatment.

X-Ray And CT Scan

X-rays and CT scans are diagnostic tools that allow us to see the pleural effusion of your pet. They help us to determine the cause of the effusion, which is often a pulmonary abscess, tumor, or foreign body. With these scans, we can also get a better idea of the size and location of the effusion.

This information is important in helping us to determine the best course of treatment for your pet. In some cases, x-rays and CT scans may be used together to provide more comprehensive information about the effusion.

These scans are generally safe and well-tolerated by pets, and they provide invaluable information that helps us to provide the best possible care for your beloved companion.

Pleural Puncture (Thoracocentesis)

Thoracentesis is a life-saving procedure for animals that involves drawing fluid from between the lungs and chest with a needle or catheter. Not only can thoracentesis detect a foreign body or lung abscess, but bacteriological analysis of the fluid can also help determine the cause in some cases and set up appropriate antibiotic therapy.

Beyond the diagnosis, thoracentesis allows the animal to be relieved at first by puncturing the liquid and freeing the animal’s thoracic cage so it can breathe.

Blood Tests

A blood test is one of the most important tools a veterinarian has to determine the health of their patients. For cats, blood tests can help to rule out or confirm a suspicion of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FeLV).

FIV is a serious viral infection that can weaken a cat’s immune system and make them susceptible to other illnesses. FeLV is a similarly deadly virus that primarily affects kittens and young cats. While there is no cure for either virus, early diagnosis is critical to providing the best possible care for affected cats. Blood tests are quick and relatively painless, making them an invaluable tool in the fight against these deadly diseases.

Treatment Of Pyothorax

Pyothorax is a serious condition that can occur in dogs and it’s important to know how to treat it if your pet is affected. We’ll take a closer look at pyothorax and the steps you need to take to help your dog recover.

Pleural Puncture (Thoracocentesis)

A pleural puncture, also called a thoracentesis, is a procedure used to remove fluid from the space between the lungs and the chest wall. This space, known as the pleural cavity, normally contains a small amount of fluid that helps to lubricate the lungs and prevent them from sticking to the chest wall.

Sometimes this fluid can build up and cause difficulty breathing. A pleural puncture can be used to remove this excess fluid and relieve the symptoms of respiratory distress. In most cases, a pleural puncture can be repeated several times without causing any damage to the lungs or chest wall.

In some cases, a thoracic drain may be necessary to completely remove the fluid. Thoracic drains are usually placed under the skin and are left in place for several days to allow for continuous drainage of the fluid.

Thoracic Drainage

Chest drains are placed to remove any fluid that has built up. The placement of the chest drains is done under anesthesia in order to make the process easier on the animal. Once the chest drains have been placed, the animal will be monitored closely. This is typically done in a hospital setting where they can be properly supervised. During this time, it is important that they remain calm and still to promote healing.

Note: the effusion is often bilateral (around both lungs)


After your pet has undergone treatment for pyothorax and the effusion has subsided, your veterinarian will likely prescribe an antibiotic. The course of antibiotic treatment typically lasts 2-8 weeks.

If the cause of the pyothorax is determined, the treatment may be adapted accordingly. In most cases, however, the underlying cause cannot be identified. Regardless, it is important to finish the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your veterinarian to prevent recurrence of the pyothorax.

Additionally, your pet may need to be reevaluated after completion of treatment to ensure that the effusion has resolved and that there are no lingering effects. With proper treatment, most pets make a full recovery from pyothorax and go on to live healthy and happy lives.


Surgery is an increasingly common treatment for pets with respiratory problems. While it was once only recommended in cases of severe lung damage, recent advances have made it a viable option for a variety of issues.

Surgery is now commonly recommended for pets with lung abscesses, foreign bodies, or when the lung lobe is affected.

Additionally, surgery may be recommended when medical treatment does not allow an improvement of the animal’s condition after 48 to 72 hours. While surgery always carries some risk, the potential benefits often outweigh the risks, making it a valuable tool in the fight against respiratory problems in pets.

Surgery is a great way to help your pet if they are struggling with respiratory issues. It allows for better aspiration of fluid and lavage of the chest cavity, which can remove any necrotic parts of the lung. It also gives your pet a chance to recover and start living a healthier life.

Overall, surgery provides many benefits for your pet and their respiratory health. If your pet is having respiratory difficulties, don’t hesitate to talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of surgery. It could be just what they need to get back on track!

Chances Of Survival

When an animal is brought to the vet in a state of shock, it is crucial that it is treated immediately. The faster the animal is stabilized, and its condition is assessed, the better its chances of survival. Many animals that arrive in a state of shock are suffering from severe internal injuries and their organs may be starting to shut down.

If they are not treated quickly, their organs will continue to shut down. In some cases, animals may also require resuscitation, which can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. As a result, it is always best to bring an animal to the vet as soon as possible after it has been injured.

Even with treatment, the chance of pyothorax recurring is real. The success rate for medical or surgical treatment is 60 to 80%. However, what’s important to note is the underlying cause of the pyothorax.

If the diagnosis is idiopathic inflammatory or unknown, the chances of recurrence are 20-50%. If an infection is an underlying cause, then the chances of recurrence diminish to 10-20%. Finally, if trauma or neoplasia is the cause, then there is a 5-10% chance of recurrence.

In other words, recurrence rates are much higher when pyothorax occurs spontaneously without an obvious cause. Knowing the underlying cause helps to determine the chances of recovery.


Nikol Toteva was born into a family with a Saint Bernard and spent her childhood on a farm surrounded by animals. Animals have always been a big part of her life. Her upbringing has created a special place in her heart for animals, which she enjoys writing about. She has worked as a writer in different industries for many years. Nikol has a degree in History and loves to spend time with her cat Napoléon.

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