Cat Emergencies That Require Immediate Veterinary Attention
Cats can be very subtle in showing signs of illness. Therefore, it is most important that you be on the lookout for subtle changes in your cat's behavior. If your cat normally greets you and wants to eat when you get home from work, and all of the sudden it neither greets you nor wants to eat, this may be a very serious sign of an immediate need for veterinary medical help.
Although many illnesses can become serious and some may even become fatal if left untreated, not every circumstance truly warrants emergency care. We have compiled a list of situations requiring emergency cat care in order to help you decide whether or not your should take your feline friend to an emergency cat clinic:
- Difficulty Breathing: This maybe the most serious of all non-trauma-induced injuries, because hypoxia (low oxygen levels) and the events that follow can lead to respiratory arrest and possibly death if not treated quickly. In addition, when this is occuring, your cat is suffering and panicked. Difficulty breathing is an immediate emergency. It may arise slowly or acutely. Regardless, when you notice any of these symptoms, your cat is in trouble and needs veterinary care. Symptoms include labored breathing (this can be subtle but it looks like your cat's chest is moving faster and more pronounced while breathing), making alarming noises, or puffing of the lips. If you see or suspect these symptoms, seek immediate emergency cat care.
- Urethral Obstruction: This is a blockage in the urinary tube that leads from the bladder to the penis. When obstructed with small sand like particles, your cat cannot urinate. This is both very painful and leads to metabolic changes which will cause death quickly if the obstruction in not relieved. This primarily affects male cats, and can lead to kidney damage, bladder rupture and cardiac arrest. Symptoms include urinating outside of a litter box, straining to produce very small amounts of urine, vocalizing pain or distress, and excessive genital grooming. Female cats can have urinary problems too but generally related to infections and not blockage.
- Hind-End Paralysis: If you find your cat unable to use its rear legs and is showing signs of stress and pain, it is an emergency. This condition is known as aortic thromboembolism, or ATE. It is a complication of heart disease that causes a blood clot to lodge in a large vessel of the hind legs. Symptoms include panting, vocalizing pain or distress, and severe physical distress resulting from an inability to move the hindquarters of the body. This requires immediate emergency cat care.
- Not Eating/Drinking: It should be a concern if your cat does not eat at its usual time or its usual amount. Cats do not go extended periods of time without eating or drinking and doing so may be a sign of serious illness including kidney failure, diabetes complications or intestinal obstructions. If you notice your cat not eating or drinking for more than one day, seek emergency care.
- Vomiting and/or Diarrhea: Almost all cats have soft stools occasionally, but if your cat vomits repeatedly or has violent diarrhea, seek urgent care.
- Ingestion of Toxins: If you witness your cat ingesting toxic substances, it is essential to seek emergency cat care. Recovery rates are exponentially better when immediate emergency care is provided.
- Seizures: Although a solitary seizure may not be life threatening, seizures often come in clusters and can become progressive. Seizures have many causes including ingestion of a toxic substance or medication. If your cat has never had a seizure and is not currently under the care of a veterinarian for a seizure disorder, we recommend seeking immediate medical attention. Seizures are generally a sign of serious illness in a cat.
- Major Trauma: If your cat experiences major traumas, such as attack by a dog, falling from a height, hit by a car, or a fight with another cat, seek cat emergency care immediately. Remember, cats do not usually show immediate symptoms of injury even when they have internal trauma. Veterinarians will be able to assess and look for the not obvious signs of serious illness.
Tips For Getting Your Cat Safely To An Emergency Clinic
It is important to understand that although you might have an incredibly special bond with your feline friend, during a time of illness or injury a cat's natural instinct can result in aggression toward anyone attempting to handle him or her. If your cat is suffering from a cat emergency and needs to be transported to an emergency hospital, you have a responsibility to make sure no subsequent injuries occur to any party. Follow these tips for safely transporting your cat to an emergency care clinic:
- First, gently place a towel over your cat's head to prevent biting, and then slowly lift him or her into an open-topped carrier or box.
- Be sure to support the cat's body weight, which should also help with relaxation.
- Take special care to support your cat's head, and avoid any twisting of the neck, especially in cases of possible spinal injury.
Once secured, immediately transport him or her to an emergency cat clinic. If possible, call ahead to alert the staff of your pending arrival so they can adequately prepare for you in the meantime.
First Aid Treatments To Consider Before Visiting An Emergency Cat Clinic
Sometimes, it is essential to implement emergency first aid to stabilize your cat before transporting them to an emergency cat clinic. Other times, cat emergency care can be performed at home in order to stave off an emergency trip to a cat hospital. Some first aid treatments you can perform include:
- For external bleeding due to trauma, try to elevate the affected area, and apply direct pressure to the wound. This could include constructing a makeshift tourniquet to isolate an affected limb. Use a towel to apply pressure to any area that is actively bleeding.
- For choking emergencies, place your fingers in your cat's mouth to see if you can remove the blockage. Be careful to not push the blockage farther back into the throat, and mind your fingers to ensure they do not end up being bitten due to fear on the part of your cat.
- If you cannot remove the object, perform a modified Heimlich maneuver by giving a sharp rap to your cat's chest. This should help dislodge the object. We recommend learning how to perform this maneuver beforehand, in order to minimize the risk of injury in the case of an actual emergency cat care situation.
How To Perform CPR On Your Cat
CPR is extremely important for any human being to know how to administer. By nature, emergency situations are never planned or convenient. Time is of the essence and a few simple techniques can mean the difference between life and death. The first thing to understand is that, like humans, a beating heart and working lungs are the two most critical body functions. So, if your cat cannot breathe, or if he or she does not have a heartbeat, then emergency CPR is in order.
If a cat emergency like this arises, take the following steps to perform CPR on your beloved feline friend:
- First check to see if he or she is breathing.
- If not, place him or her on their side and perform artificial respiration by extending the head and neck, holding the jaws closed and blowing into the nostrils once every three seconds.
- Make sure no air escapes between your mouth and the nose.
- If you don't feel a heartbeat, incorporate cardiac massage while administering artificial respiration. This is done using three quick, firm chest compressions for every respiration, until your cat resumes breathing on his or her own.
Remember that because each moment without oxygen results in an exponentially grim recovery prognosis, knowing how to perform CPR on your cat can greatly increase the chances for not only a better recovery, but also for the quality of life that will follow.
What To Do If Your Cat Eats Something Poisonous
If you see your cat ingest a toxic substance, or even if you suspect that he or she has, it is important to seek emergency cat care immediately.
Go directly to the veterinarian. Bring the bottle or know the type of medication or poison ingested. Call on your way in and tell them what the cat ingested and how long ago it was ingested and the amount.
Finding The Nearest Emergency Cat Clinic
We are equipped to handle your office hour emergencies, but when we are not in the office we count on the great teams at Animal Emergency and Critical Care of Brevard and Animal Specialty & Emergency Hospital.
Our full-service facility is located at:
Viera East Veterinary Center
5405 Village Drive
Viera, FL 32955
For After Hours Emergencies, please contact one of the following hospitals:
Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center of Brevard
2281 W. Eau Gallie Blvd
Animal Specialty & Emergency Hospital
5775 Schenck Ave