Flat-Chested Kitten Syndrome or Pectus Excavatum?

Guest Post by Jemima. If you’ve just brought home a young kitten, or if your feline friend has recently had a litter, there are two respiratory conditions about which you should be aware—Flat-Chested Kitten Syndrome and Pectus Excavatum. Both conditions can be present in young kittens, and both have the potential to be fatal. While the prognosis for both conditions is favorable if caught and treated early, those cats who are severely affected may require surgery and may have breathing difficulties for the duration of their lives. This, in turn, makes cats more susceptible to serious complications from simple respiratory infections as well.

Flat-Chested Kitten Syndrome (known more popularly as FCKS) is thought to be a genetic condition, although it can occur among kittens with no family history of the disorder. Usually noticeable within the first few days after birth, FCKS occurs when the lungs of a young kitten do not inflate normally. If the disorder occurs when the kitten is older than ten days old, FCKS manifests itself when the lungs collapse. When either of these things happen, the kitten’s thorax will compress, which can result in the underside of the chest being flattened or, if it’s a more extreme case, the entire thorax will flatten. When a kitten is struck by FCKS, it will appear as though the animal were run over or stepped on for a two or three hour period of time. The kitten will be short of breath and will otherwise be lethargic. Kittens with FKCS will also have difficulty eating; as such, they will not experience the normal developmental weight gain of healthy kittens.

Since FCKS and Pectus Excavatum appear symptomatically similar, they are often mistaken for each other. And some kittens with FCKS may also be afflicted with Pectus Excavatum. Pectus Excavatum, however, is a chest bone (or sternum) deformity that has the potential of being much more dangerous than FCKS if not detected and treated early. Literally, Pectus excavatum is Latin for “hollowed chest,” and kittens born with the defect will have either a flat chest or one that is slightly concave in more serious cases. Just like FCKS, Pectus Excavatum is usually present at birth but may not be noticeable until several weeks later. It causes shortness of breath, impairment of mobility, vomiting, and weight loss. The most serious outcome of Pectus Excavatum is the misplacement of the heart, which can cause serious and fatal cardiac complications.

If both are detected early enough, the prognosis for kittens afflicted with FCKS and Pectus Excavatum are moderately good. In severe cases of Pectus Excavatum, surgery is required to fix the bone deformity to allow proper pulmonary and cardiac development. This is usually done by installing a fiberglass splint that correctly forms the thorcacic cavity into its normal convex shape. Treatment for FCKS is fairly variable. Some veterinarians will prescribe steroids to encourage breathing and appetite, while also prescribing antibiotics, which will help manage possible infections resulting from FCKS. Some vets will recommend splints and additional physical therapy to encourage proper formation of the chest and rib cage. Other kittens simply grow out of FCKS and are fine within a few weeks.

While both conditions have a substantial risk of being life-threatening, this risk decreases dramatically if detected as early as possible. As such, it is absolutely instrumental to be on the lookout for breathing problems in your kitten. Contact your vet immediately after noticing early warning signs.

About the author:

Jemima Lopez is a freelance blogger and writer who writes for Zen College Life, the directory of higher education, distance learning, and online degrees. She welcomes your comments at her email: lopezjemima562 @ gmail.com.

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