Your cat isn’t just an animal – it’s your feline family member. Just like your human family, you make your cat’s health a top priority, especially when he or she seems off-key. But how do you tell when your cat is acting strangely enough to take them to an emergency vet?
The signs and symptoms of a pet health emergency aren’t always obvious. This guide will help you determine when to brush off your cat’s odd behavior (aren’t most cats odd, anyway?) and when to summon the help of an emergency vet.
Signs Your Cat Needs an Emergency Vet
Not all emergencies happen suddenly. Some symptoms take a while to manifest themselves before you realize that something’s wrong. If your cat experiences any of these seven situations, find an emergency vet immediately:
1. Difficulty with Breathing
It only takes three minutes without breathing to kill your cat. If you notice your feline friend is having trouble breathing, he or she is teetering on the brink of a life-or-death emergency.
Your cat may breathe with their mouth open, cough, wheeze, make weird respiratory sounds, have heaving sides, or other tell-tale signs their breathing isn’t normal.
2. Urinary Trouble
Urinary obstruction is potentially one of the most life-threatening situations for cats. Mainly experienced by male cats due to anatomical reasons, the condition can rapidly lead to kidney failure, bladder rupture, and eventually cardiac arrest.
Early detection of urinary trouble is key in giving your cat the best chance to survive. Initial symptoms include urinating outside of the litter box, straining to urinate, producing only a small amount of urine at a time, vocalization, or constant grooming of genitals.
Female felines may also experience urinary trouble. Although they aren’t as likely to die from the condition, it can create extreme discomfort and pain.
3. Paralysis of the Hind End
If your cat experiences a sudden paralysis of its hind end, it could be a warning sign of aortic thromboembolism (ATE). This painful complication of heart disease occurs when a blood clot lodges in a cat’s hind legs.
Cats experiencing ATE are usually vocal and show signs of distress, such as heavy panting. Your cat will need immediate attention from an emergency vet in order to survive.
4. Excessive Vomiting or Diarrhea
It isn’t unusual for cats to cough up hairballs or have occasional soft stools. However, if you notice your cat is continually vomiting or has constant diarrhea, you should seek an emergency vet. If blood is present, your cat needs immediate treatment.
5. Repeated Lethargy
It’s common for cats to laze about, especially when they find a warm, sunny spot. But lethargy shouldn’t go unnoticed.
If your cat does not move or respond to common triggers, such as you filling their food bowl or hearing the dog barking, there could be an underlying issue that needs immediate attention.
6. Refusal to Eat or Drink
Cats can’t survive more than three or four days without food or water, even if they’re healthy. If your cat is not eating or drinking, it could be a sign of kidney failure, intestinal blockage, complications from diabetes, or another major health problem.
7. Ingestion of Toxic Substances
Your house is teeming with toxins that can prove fatal to your feline. Things like antifreeze, onions, caffeine, chocolate, raw fish, and dough can create serious health complications that often result in death.
If you see your cat ingest a known toxin, or believe they may have helped themselves to something they shouldn’t have, your cat needs to see a vet immediately.
8. Ingestion of Foreign Objects
That piece of string you and your cat spend hours playing with can prove detrimental to their health. Ribbons, string, dental floss, and other similar items are attractive to cats and may end up inside their digestive system. Aside from internal digestive issues, these objects can also cause suffocation or choking.
If you see a string or similar foreign object hanging from your cat’s bottom, do not try to remove it. This can cause further complications to your cat’s digestive system. Instead, you should seek an emergency vet who can remove the object safely.
9. Cuts or Other Wounds
If your cat sustains injuries after fighting with another animal, it’s better to seek treatment sooner than later. Cuts can be easily treated with antibiotics and can prevent abscesses from forming, which could require extensive surgery to treat.
If your cat suffers a serious trauma, such as a fall or being hit by a car, you may not realize the extent of the trauma until days later. Even if your cat appears to be unharmed, your cat may have internal injuries that need medical attention.
A single seizure doesn’t necessarily mean your cat has a serious health issue. Your cat’s seizures could be triggered by exposure to toxins, such as mold or poor quality flea treatments.
However, seizures often come in clusters over a period of several hours and progressively worsen. You should not wait to see if your cat’s seizures will cease on their own. Instead, make sure your cat receives immediate medical intervention to help determine the cause of the seizures.
11. Obvious Pain or Distress
When your cat is upset, they’re not shy about telling you. Your cat may yowl constantly, pant, hide, or flinch when their source of pain is touched.
Pain usually requires some form of treatment to quell, but pain is also a symptom of an underlying issue. Your cat may have an obstruction, such as urinary blockage, aortic thromboembolism, or other condition that requires immediate medical attention.
If your cat isn’t in heat and you can see no visible reason why he or she is in pain, it’s best to contact an emergency vet.
Understand that the above list is not meant to cover every scenario where you may need an emergency vet. Cat owners should use good judgment to determine how to give their felines proper medical care.
Your vet is your best resource for helping you care for your furry family members. When in doubt, it’s always best to seek medical attention, or risk facing dire consequences.