Cats are wonderful, amazing and elusive creatures. Most cats will instinctively conceal signs of injury and illness. In the wild, a sick or injured big cat quickly turns from predator to prey, so hiding signs of weakness has become an instinctual survival technique. In our homes, our beautiful domesticated creatures may retain these instincts, making it more difficult for us to help them in times of need. Recognizing subtle changes in your kitty’s behavior and daily routine can alert you to a brewing problem and, knowing which symptoms require an emergency visit can save your feline’s life.
The following article illustrates common feline emergencies. Please keep in mind this list is not exhaustive and if you feel that your feline is showing signs of distress, you should call or visit your nearest veterinary emergency hospital.
The Litter Box: Oh the dreaded litter box…
Generally, urinating or defecating outside of the box is not an urgent situation. Though frustrating, remember that when your cat commits this behavior, he or she is trying to communicate something to you. In this case, your first stop should be your veterinarian’s office for a check-up and for some helpful recommendations.
If you notice your cat frequenting the box, meowing or crying while in the box or if you notice that your cat is unable to urinate, your cat may have a urethral obstruction and you have an emergency on your hands. Cats have tiny urethras which can fill up with mucus or debris (such as crystals) and block the flow of urine from the bladder. Because urination is a method for the body to rid itself of metabolic waste, lack of urination can lead to the buildup of these waste products. The pressure produced by the bladder overfilling with urine can back up into the kidneys and contribute to a buildup of toxins in the cat’s blood. These toxins can become fatal – quickly. If you believe that your cat is unable to urinate, is only producing small drops of urine or has not urinated in 12 hours, you have a time-sensitive, life and death emergency on your hands. Visit your emergency hospital immediately.
Unlike dogs, domesticated cats usually do not pant unless they are in distress. A cat may pant or wheeze for a number of reasons such as: respiratory disease (such as nasal disease, fluid in the lungs or asthma), cardiovascular disease (such as heartworm infestation or heart failure), blood disorders (such as carbon monoxide poisoning) and neurologic disorders (such as head trauma). If your cat is panting or wheezing, visit the emergency hospital immediately.
Hind Limb Paralysis: Painful & Serious…
Some cats are prone to a condition known as FATE: Feline Aortic Thromboembolism, which is an extremely painful and very serious condition. In cats, the largest artery in the body, the aorta, splits into smaller arteries that provide blood and nourishment to the hind legs. The area where the split occurs in termed the saddle. When a blood clot breaks off, usually from a larger clot within the heart, it can get stuck at the saddle. This blocks blood flow to one or both legs and causes very painful and very serious hind limb paralysis. Most cats will cry out in pain and some may urinate or defecate. A saddle thrombus is a very serious, life-threatening condition and should send you directly to the emergency room.
Eighty-nine percent of cats who experience a saddle thrombus have heart disease (which initially causes the clot to form in the heart). However, as Dr. Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP, Educational Director, VeterinaryPartner.com, notes in a recent article, “In 76% of cats with saddle thrombus, the FATE episode was the first sign of heart disease.”
Seizures: The Trouble With Some Flea & Tick Treatments…
Topical flea and tick treatments are a great way to protect your pet, but you should always discuss them with your veterinarian before use. These medications are dose and species specific. This means that you cannot interchange dog and cat medications. Most topical flea and tick products are neurotoxins, which means they cause damage to the nervous system. In the correct dose, they will affect the nervous system of tiny bugs and not the nervous system of your feline. In higher doses, the neurotoxin can affect the nervous system of your cat and cause seizures, tremors, shaking and more serious conditions. If you have applied flea and tick medication to your cat, and he or she begins to shake, tremble or twitch, wash the medication off with water and go directly to your nearest veterinary hospital.
We, at New England Pet Hospice and Home Care, realize that you and your cat may need additional support after experiencing an emergency such as the ones mentioned above. Our experienced staff of knowledgeable, compassionate veterinary technicians will come directly into your home to provide your companion with care and support as they enter the road to recovery.
FATE (Feline Aortic Thromboembolism, or Saddle Thrombus), By Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP, Educational Director, VeterinaryPartner.com
Panting in Cats – Is It Normal? By Dr. Bari Spielman, http://www.petplace.com
Michelle Spencer joins us from Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital, where she has 5 years of experience in Emergency & Critical Care. She has extensive experience in oncology, working for New England Veterinary Oncology Group (NEVOG) for 5 years and at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In addition, Michelle has experience in the specialty practices of dermatology, ophthalmology, internal medicine and physical therapy.
New England Pet Hospice & Home Care supports those caring for ill, elderly and special needs animals at home following the human hospice and palliative care models of interdisciplinary care. Learn more and get your FREE subscription to Wag & Purr: Your Guide to Comfort Care for Pets at www.NewEnglandPetHospice.com