Pleural effusion is an accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity around the lungs and heart. It occurs as a result of an impairment in circulation, in cats with left heart failure, and in cats and dogs with biventricular heart failure. Pleural effusion can cause significant difficulty breathing, and cause your pet to act very distressed or lethargic. It is diagnosed by radiology or echocardiography.
Aspirating the fluid from the chest with a needle and syringe (thoracocentesis) is a therapeutic measure which often improves the pet’s condition dramatically. The fluid may also be submitted for cellular analysis (cytology) to determine the type of fluid and the cause of the effusion (heart failure, infection, neoplasia).
Definitive treatment of pleural effusion due to heart failure requires medical management of the cardiac disease.