Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) in Cats

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Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) involves severe inflammation of the lungs which ultimately leads to acute respiratory failure and death in affected cats. This is a life-threatening problem, causing death in a majority of patients despite life saving efforts and treatment. An almost 100 percent death rate is reported in affected cats due to ARDS. Genetic factors have been found to play a role in the development of acute respiratory failure in people, but these factors have not yet been investigated in cats.

Symptoms and Types

Acute respiratory distress syndrome can present with a number of conditions and symptoms, which vary depending upon the underlying cause. Following are general symptoms seen in ARDS:

  • Extreme efforts to breath
  • Cough
  • Discharge from nostrils in some patients
  • Fever
  • Cyanosis (blue discoloration of skin)
  • Other signs related to the specific underlying disease


Following are some of the major causes of ARDS in cats:

  • Pneumonia
  • Smoke and noxious gases inhalation
  • Near drowning
  • Thermal burns
  • Aspiration of gastric contents
  • Serious infections
  • Lung injury due to trauma
  • Other serious illness


Acute respiratory distress syndrome is a life threatening emergency that requires immediate treatment for any chance of recovery. Along with emergency treatment, your veterinarian will try to find the underlying cause of the disorder. Various laboratory test panels will be ordered, including blood tests, serum biochemical tests, urine tests and blood gases. Blood gas analysis is one of the most important diagnostic methods used in veterinary practice for ARDS. Your veterinarian will also order chest X-rays and an echocardiography to evaluate the lungs and heart.

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Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.

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