Every cat owner’s worst fear is the risk of road traffic accidents, but that is what Bob must have survived when he was found at home in considerable pain and struggling to breath. After being stabilised overnight he was still very sore, he was unable to stand without pain and was still having breathing difficulties.
Radiographs revealed a pneumothorax (air trapped in the pleural space, outside the lungs but inside the rib cage) on the left side of his chest, together with a fractured rib. The pleural space is a very thin pocket between the lungs and the inside of the rib cage which allows the lungs to inflate and deflate without rubbing against the chest wall. However, when air or fluid is trapped here it reduces the ability of the lung to inflate and therefore the animal cannot breath in as much oxygen, resulting in a shortness of breath.
Pneumothorax can occur either via an external puncture wound through the chest wall or more commonly from hard, blunt trauma (such as being hit by a moving car). This can cause a small tear in the lung tissue, resulting in air leaking out of the lung internally. Small tears will heal quickly. In Bob’s case, once we had drained the air away and given him more pain relief he was much more comfortable and able to breathe easily.
Black area on right hand side of x-ray (left side of chest) shows air trapped around Bob’s left lung
X-ray taken after his chest drain shows that Bob’s lungs are free to inflate fully again.