Chylothorax in Cats
What makes it so extremely challenging is that it has no known cause

Chylothorax in cats can be a life threatening situation and can occur at any age and affects every breed of cat.

However, it appears to be much more common in the Siamese and Himalayan breeds.

The cause of this potentially very dangerous condition is almost always idiopathic, meaning that there is no known cause.

If your cat starts to develop any type of breathing problem at all, do not wait until your next visit to your veterinarian; get your cat into treatment as quickly as possible.

Chylothorax in cats is a condition where your pet has developed an excessive accumulation of fluid in the pleural cavity.

The pleural cavity is the small cavity that surrounds your cat’s lungs and is the inner lining between the lungs and the outer wall.

This small space always has a very small amount of a clear liquid in it, but with this condition it becomes flooded with a white cloudy liquid.

The purpose of this clear liquid, which is called Lymph fluid, is to keep the surface of the lungs lubricated and slippery so they do not stick to your cat’s chest wall.

Cats blue eyesChylothorax in cats can cause coughing which is very rare and dangerous

This fluid is drained from your pet’s tissues where it functions in carrying both protein as well as cells from these tissues into the bloodstream by very small vessels known as lymphatics.


When this fluid is drained from your cat’s intestines, it contains a substance called chyle which has a very high fat content.

Chylothorax is the accumulation of this fatty liquid that has invaded your pet’s chest cavity and is making it very difficult for them to breath.

If it becomes extreme, it is now threatening their life as they cannot expand their lungs to take in oxygen.

This development has two type of abnormalities; an abnormal amount of this invading fluid, or if very severe, this invading fluid has totally replaced the clear fluid from the lymph ducts.

The first situation is referred to as pleural effusion where an abnormal amount of fluid has entered in the cavity.

With this additional fluid, your cat can not completely expand their lungs.

What will start to happen is your cat will take very shallow breaths and start to breathe very rapidly. This can place so much stress in your cat that it can lead to respiratory failure.

The second situation is where the clear fluid in this cavity has been replaced by this milky white fluid that contains these very high levels of fat.

This situation is considered even more dangerous, as the composition of the fluid is obviously much thicker, making it even more difficult for them to breath.


Before the obvious symptoms of difficulty in breathing with Chylothorax in cats occur, the first symptom you may see in your cat is coughing.

Coughing in your cat is very uncommon and not at all natural. It should be treated very seriously, and if it persists, watch and listen to your cats breathing very closely.

The next symptom to watch for will be a condition known as Cyanosis.

This is a condition where your cat will start to show signs of a bluish discoloration of the skin as well as the mucus membranes due of a lack of oxygen.

It is an extremely serious condition that needs immediate attention as it can cause heart failure and is usually caused by respiratory distress.


Chylothorax in cats has several potential causes, but in most cases the actual cause is considered idiopathic, meaning that there is no known cause.

The first potential cause may be from mediastinal masses which grow in the space between the left and right side of the lungs.

As they grow, they block the blood vessels that the thoracic ducts empty into.

Congenital heart failure can also be the underlying cause as it decreases the pressure in the heart and the blood vessels. As a result, the lymph fluid may actually back up into the ducts.

An accumulation of fluid within the sac that surrounds the heart is called the pericardial effusion and can also be the cause of Chylothorax, as it puts pressure on the vessels that these dusts empty into.

However, perhaps the largest underlying cause of Chylothorax in cats is Heart worm infection.

Although still much more of a threat to dogs, this infection is a very rapidly growing threat to cats as well.

Heart worms can cause a slow heart failure that in turn increases the pressure in the blood vessels, affecting the thoracic ducts ability to function.


If the actual underlying cause can be identified, that will be treated first to see if the situation resolves itself and the accumulated fluid resides.

However, in most cases, the underlying condition is not found and the fluid is still there.

If the condition is very serious, the underlying cause is not that important; getting the fluid out of your cat so they can breathe is the only thing that matters.

Your veterinarian can very easily remove the fluid, and after removal, will place your cat on a low fat diet to help stabilize the fat content that has entered into the lungs.

However, there is another very effective form of treatment and possible prevention of this condition from ever affecting your cat.

Rutin is a supplement that is easily available in any vitamin store and acts to stimulate cells in your cat called macrophages.

These cells are your cat’s natural system of carrying away the fat in the chyle. If your pets system does not do it on its own, this will stimulate the system very rapidly.


Chylothorax in cats can be a life threatening situation for your cat as the fat build up can impede their ability to breathe.

But there is a very effective treatment and preventive supplement in Rutin that works very rapidly.

Pet Medications for Chylothorax in Cats

Cat Vitamin Store

Aspiration Pneumonia in Cats