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Cat Emergencies, From Will Draper, DVM

01/14/2011

  • Will Draper, DVM:

    OK, here's another question on the message board. How do I know if my cat is in immediate danger? What are signs of an emergency? Would anybody like to make any suggestions on that?

  • Anne Wingo:

    I would think one thing might be if it became very lethargic.

  • Will:

    Very good.

  • Anne:

    They tend to go off by themselves. They are very lethargic. There's no, you know, they don't want to eat, they don't want to drink. They just lie there and kind of go into a daze.

  • Will:

    Right. And we touched on signs of illness: the not eating, not drinking, the third eyelid's going up. But more immediate things that can be a concern. Looking at your pet's gums; they should be a nice pink color. If they are very pale, that’s an indication of some sort of shock or maybe internal bleeding. Looking for wounds on the body; a lot of times cats will come in the house and you don’t what’s wrong. And they could have been hit by a car or received some sort of blow. And it's difficult to tell because they have so much hair. So, feeling their body, feeling for wounds, feeling for sore places is something you want to do.  Any limping, any strange gait, if you will, is always a good sign. One way, kind of a layman’s way, to tell if a pet has a fever is to feel the ears and the feet. They tend to get very hot.

  • Anne:

    Can you tell if they have a temperature by feeling their nose, or is it more the ears and the feet with cats?

  • Will:

    You know, the nose can be a little warmer, too. There's that old wives’ tale that if their nose is dry or wet it means they are ill. That’s doesn’t hold true, necessarily. But, like the ears and the extremities we'll call them, the nose will be a little warmer.

  • Otto Ojevaar:

    Dr. Will, if your cat is injured, how do you get the cat to the vet without being injured yourself?

  • Will:

    Cats in distress will strike out even at the person they love the most. And you have to be very careful with that. That’s a very good question. And what you want to do, an easy thing to do is to get a large towel or blanket and fold it, and gently lay it over their head. So, if they do attempt to strike out they can’t bite you. And take the remainder of that and wrap it around the pet’s body and slowly lift them up, so that if they have any fractures or injuries it doesn’t cause them to have a lot of distress with it. And then gently, if you can, put them in a carrier or a box so that they are immobilized and get them to the vet immediately.

  • Jamie Albright:

    Dr. Draper,are there any emergency supplies that you should always have on hand as a pet owner, in case there is something that you can treat yourself with your pet?

  • Will:

    You know, the same things you keep around for your kids and for your family. It’s a good idea to keep particular ointments around, if there is some kind of superficial wound to help keep something under control until you can see your veterinarian. If there is an open wound some bandage material would be a good idea. You don't want to necessarily try to give a cat in distress something by mouth, because you can become injured. So just things to immobilize wounds and protect open wounds is a good idea, until you can get to your veterinarian.

  • Anne:

    Are there any kind of emergency procedures that we should know, that we could try, like CPR on a cat?

  • Will:

    CPR and things like that don't necessarily work great with cats. And their bodies are so small and their rib cages are so small. Even trying something as simple as cardiac massage could actually injure them, or make things worse, or cause them to grow more distressed and injure you. So, leave it to the professionals.

  • Otto:

    What if my cat eats something poisonous?

  • Will:

    You get to the vet as quickly as you can. You can call poison control and find out if there is any danger. But generally with poisons time is of the essence.

    And it's always important to know what your pet got into. And if you have any packaging or instructions you can take with you that will help the veterinarian. That is always a great idea. That helps them treat it faster and help make your pet safe.

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