Pneumothorax in Cats – Everything You Need to Know

In pulmonary collapse, pneumothorax, air has found its way into the chest cavity so that its natural negative pressure has been lost.

The consequence is that all or part of the lungs collapse, collapse, and the cat has difficulty breathing.

Pneumothorax means air in the chest (pneumo = air and thorax = chest). There is normally a negative pressure in the chest cavity, which allows the lungs to dilate and air to be sucked in when inhaled. In pneumothorax, the lungs are surrounded by air and can therefore not expand normally.

This means that the breathing volume is smaller and the cat has difficulty getting oxygenated.

Pneumothorax can occur spontaneously or as a result of trauma, and be open or closed. In open pneumothorax, there is a connection between the thoracic cavity and the outside of the body, for example after a bite injury, gunshot wound or stabbing. In closed pneumothorax, the air enters the thoracic cavity through an opening in the lower airways or lung tissue.

Such an opening may be the result of trauma, such as a traffic accident or perforation of a broken rib. It can also occur spontaneously as a result of other changes in the lung tissue, such as a complication of asthma or a tumor.


The lung collapse causes the cat to have difficulty breathing and oxygenate itself. The cat can:

  • Breathe quickly and shallowly
  • Breathe with a tummy tuck
  • Breathe with your mouth open
  • Have bluish or pale mucous membranes
  • Have a fast pulse

Depending on what caused the lung collapse, the cat may also have other symptoms.


At the clinical examination, the veterinarian can evaluate the cat’s general condition and breathing difficulties as well as listen to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope. In pneumothorax, the heart sounds are usually muffled and the breathing sounds are only audible on the upper part of the chest.

The diagnosis is confirmed by X-ray examination.

Blood sampling and other examinations based on the cat’s medical history are also usually performed.


Traumatic pneumothorax usually heals itself and the treatment aims to help the cat breathe easier during the healing period, often by sucking air out in a so-called thoracocentesis. The cat can also receive oxygen.

In spontaneous pneumothorax, surgery may be necessary to remove the “leaky” part of the lung or airways. Cats with pneumothorax are usually admitted to an animal hospital for care, and can then also be given a drip, painkillers etc.


Uncomplicated traumatic pneumothorax can heal on its own in a few days and the prognosis is usually good provided that the cat has no other serious injuries from the trauma. In spontaneous pneumothorax, the prognosis varies depending on the underlying disease.

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