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Cats often become reclusive and hide when they are not feeling well which makes knowing when they need to be seen by your veterinarian a challenge. They have unique signs and symptoms of emergency conditions that often go unrecognized by their owners. Some injuries are obvious, such as a cat with an open wound, while others have more subtle signs that can be equally deadly if left untreated. Knowing what signs to look for is crucial in determining when to seek emergency care for your cat. Below is a list of some of the most common cat emergencies and their signs.
This is a condition in which a cat, usually male, is unable to urinate due to a blockage in the urethra (the tube leading from the urinary bladder to the outside environment).
Cats will show a sudden onset of restless behavior which includes frequent trips in and out of the litter box. They will often attempt to urinate in unusual places such as in a bath tub or on a plastic bag. You may notice a very small stream of urine that contains blood. More often than not, despite a cat’s straining, there may be no urine or even just a drop produced. In later stages of the obstruction, cats may cry loudly, vomit, and become lethargic.
You should consider these signs a serious emergency and seek veterinary care immediately. There are reports of cats developing kidney failure and dying within 12 hours after the onset of signs. Expect your cat to be hospitalized at least 36 hours for treatment of this condition which may include a urinary catheter, intravenous fluids, and pain management. Female cats are less likely to become obstructed due to their wider urinary tract.
The combination of their curious nature and unique metabolism (the way their body breaks down chemicals) makes cats very vulnerable to toxins. Owners are often not aware that their home contains multiple products that are poisonous to their feline companions. The most common cat toxins include antifreeze, Tylenol, and rat or mouse poison.
The signs your cat displays depends on what type of poison they have encountered. Antifreeze will often cause wobbliness or a drunken appearance first, then progresses to vomiting/weakness as the kidneys fail. Tylenol may cause an unusual swelling of the head and changes the cats blood color from red to chocolate brown. Rat or mouse poison interferes with blood clotting so you may see weakness from internal blood loss or visible blood in urine or stool.
Many times cats hide the signs of breathing problems by simply decreasing their activity. By the time an owner notices changes in the cat’s breathing, it may be very late in the progression of the cat’s lung disease. There are several causes of breathing changes but the most common are feline asthma, heart or lung disease.
Foreign Object Ingestion
As you know cats love to play with strings or string-like objects (such as dental floss, holiday tinsel, or ribbon), however, you may not know the serious danger that strings can pose to your cat. When a string is ingested, one end may become lodged or “fixed” in place, often under the cat’s tongue, while the remaining string passes farther into the intestine. With each intestinal contraction, the string see-saws back and forth actually cutting into the intestine and damaging the blood supply.
Signs that your cat has eaten a foreign object may include vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea, and weakness. Occasionally owners will actually see part of a string coming from the mouth or anal area. You should never pull on any part of the string that is visible from your pet.
Most times emergency surgery is necessary to remove the foreign object and any damaged sections of intestine.
Cats are notorious for both inflicting and suffering bite wounds during encounters with other cats. Because the tips of their canine, or “fang”, teeth are so small and pointed, bites are often not noticed until infection sets in several days after the injury.
Cats may develop a fever and become lethargic 48 to 72 hours after experiencing a penetrating bite wound. They may be tender or painful at the site. If the wound becomes infected or abscessed, swelling and foul-smelling drainage may develop.
You should seek emergency care for bite wounds so that your veterinarian may thoroughly clean the area and prescribe appropriate antibiotics for your pet. Occasionally the wounds will develop large pockets called abscesses under the skin that require surgical placement of a drain to help with healing.
Hit by car
Cats that spend time outdoors are at a much greater risk for ending up in the emergency room. Being hit by a car is one of the most common reasons for your pet to suffer traumatic injuries such as broken bones, lung injuries and head trauma. You should always seek emergency care if your cat has been hit by a vehicle even if he or she appears normal as many injuries can develop or worsen over the next few hours.
Increased Thirst and Urination
Sudden changes in your cat’s thirst and urine volume are important clues to underlying disease. The two most common causes of these signs are kidney disease and diabetes mellitus.
Your veterinarian will need to check blood and urine samples to determine the cause of your cat’s signs. Having your pet seen on an emergency basis for these signs is important as the sooner your pet receives treatment, the better their chances for recovery. Many times exposure to certain toxins, such as antifreeze or lilies, will show similar signs and delaying veterinary care can be fatal.
Sudden inability to use the hind legs
Cats with some forms of heart disease are at risk for developing blood clots. Many times these clots can lodge in a large blood vessel called the aorta where they can prevent normal blood flow to the hind legs. If your cat experiences such a blood clotting episode (often called a saddle thrombus or thromboembolic episode), you will likely see a sudden loss of the use of their hind legs, painful crying, and breathing changes.
On arrival at the emergency room, your pet will receive pain management and oxygen support. Tests will be done to evaluate the cat’s heart and determine if there is any heart failure (fluid accumulation in the lungs). Sadly, such an episode is often the first clue for an owner that their cat has severe heart disease. In most cases, with time and support, the blood clot can resolve, but the cat’s heart disease will require life-long treatment.
Upper Respiratory Infections
Cats and kittens can experience a variety of upper respiratory diseases caused by a combination of bacteria or viruses. Upper respiratory infections, or URIs, often cause sneezing, runny noses, runny eyes, lack of appetite, and fever. In severe cases, they can cause ulcers in the mouth, tongue, and eyes. More often than not, severe cases are seen in cats that have recently been in multiple-cat environments such as shelters. Small or poor-doing kittens are also easily infected and may develop more severe complications such as low blood sugar.
A sudden loss of vision is most likely to occur in an older cat. The most common causes are increased blood pressure (hypertension) that may be due to changes in thyroid function (hyperthyroidism) or kidney disease. There are some cats that appear to have hypertension with no other underlying disease.
Sudden blindness should be treated as an emergency and your veterinarian will measure your cat’s blood pressure, check blood tests, and start medications to try to lower the pressure and restore vision.
Anytime you notice a change in your cat’s eyes, whether they lose vision or not, you should consider this an emergency have your pet seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Science is proving what pet owners have long believed: Dogs understand what we’re feeling. Specifically, dogs can recognize the difference between a happy and an angry human face, a study published Thursday in Current Biology suggests.
It’s the first research to show definitively that dogs are sensitive to our facial expressions, says coauthor Ludwig Huber, head of comparative cognition at Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.
In the Austrian study, 20 pet dogs of various breeds and sizes were taught to play a computer game through a series of exercises. In the first, the dogs were shown two touch screens, one with a circle and one with a square. Through trial and error, they learned that a treat would appear if they chose the right geometrical figure.
Eleven of the 20 dogs were able to catch on to rules of the game and make it to the next phase, where they were shown photos of faces. Half the dogs were rewarded for picking a happy expression and half for choosing an angry expression. The interesting catch: the dogs were shown only the upper half or the lower half of a face.
It was easier to teach the dogs to choose a happy expression than an angry one, suggesting the dogs do indeed understand the meaning behind the expression, Huber says.
As a test, the dogs were then were presented with:
the same half of the faces they saw during the training, but from different people
the other half of the faces used in training
the other half of new faces
the left half of the faces used in training
In the vast majority of cases the dogs chose the right answer 70 to 100 percent of the time.
Dogs who had been trained to recognize an expression of anger or happiness on the upper part of a face could identify the same expression when shown only the lower part, and vice versa, Huber says, adding “the only possible explanation is that they recall from memory of everyday life how a whole human face looks when happy or angry.”
Dog owners know their pets not only recognize emotions but also feel empathy.
Delilah, a 3-year-old Chihuahua, always seems to know when her owner Eva Shure is having a bad day.
Delilah knows when her owner is having a bad day.
Making eye contact and cocking her head to the right, the little dog will stare at Shure’s face as if trying to assess her feelings. “It’s weird, I can see her thinking and processing,” says Shure, a 35-year-old New York City business owner. “I’ll say, yeah, it’s not a great day and she’ll come up and sit next to me.”
Beverly Levreault, 57, says her 6-year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix is always tuned in to her moods. “If I’m not feeling well, like when I have the flu, Lacey is definitely lower key and will not leave my side, ” says Levreault, a graphic designer from Williamstown, New York. “If I take her for a walk, she’s not as rambunctious as she usually is.”
Lynette Whiteman says she’s not sure that her 5-year-old Yorkie-Maltese cross is using facial expressions to gauge how she feels. “But she definitely reads my emotions,” says the 58-year-old from Toms River, New Jersey. “I run a therapy dog program and the dogs are just amazing. They go into a room and immediately pick out the person who needs help.”
Behavioral experts say the new findings, while important, wouldn’t surprise anyone with an intimate knowledge of dogs.
Coco and Lynettte
“This new work continues to build the case for just how sensitive dogs are to our subtle behaviors,” says Dr. Brian Hare, chief scientific officer at Dognition and an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. “This is the strongest evidence yet that dogs are even reading our facial expressions.”
That sensitivity may be the result of generations of selective breeding for a true partner, says Dr. Carlo Siracusa, director of the behavior service at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “We have selected animals that are able to perceive our emotions and communicate with us at a level that no other animal can,” Siracusa says.
Dogs may not talk, but they are very good communicators, says Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a professor in the department of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and director of the animal behavior clinic at Cummings.
“Just as we are masters of the spoken word, dogs are experts at reading body language,” Dodman says.
“It’s almost impossible to hide your feelings from a dog.”
Turns out, reading facial expressions isn’t the only thing dogs have in common with us.
They can be bitten by the computer gaming bug. “They can really become freaks for it,” Huber says with a chuckle. “They don’t want to stop playing. It’s incredible. They’ll play till they are exhausted and fall asleep.”
Summer is in full swing nationwide, and we’re seeing a lot of days with soaring temperatures. In order to help your cat beat the heat, CATalyst Council, a national initiative comprised of animal health and welfare organizations working on behalf of cats, has the following suggestions for keeping your cat cool when temperatures rise:
1. Ensure your cat has access to fresh, cool water. “All animals need plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially when it is hot,” says Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of CATalyst Council “Dehydration can occur very quickly and can be dangerous, leading to other complications. You may want to put out additional water bowls for your cat so that it’s easy for them to access in various parts of the house.”
2. Proper grooming is important. Brushing your cat can help reduce matting, which traps heat near the body and keeps the cat warmer than it would be otherwise. Grooming is also calming for many cats. If you have long haired cats, you may want to consider getting them a new “summer do,” and having their coats clipped shorter to help keep them cool.
3. Think twice before leaving your cat in your car. A study from Stanford University found that 80 percent of temperature rise in cars occurs within the first 30 minutes of leaving the car, and that even in cooler temperatures cars can quickly become very hot. For instance, at a 72 degree outdoor temperature, the interior of the car could become as hot as 117 degrees. The study also found that cracking the windows did very little to slow the temperature increase within the car. So, if you need to bring your cat with you while you are out and about, think twice before you leave it unattended in your car for even a brief period of time.
4. Keep your cat indoors. While cats have been described as desert animals, they don’t require the heat of hot summer months. By staying inside, not only will your cat enjoy an extended nap on the sofa, it will also enjoy having a safe environment while still enjoying the sunbeams. Keeping cats indoors also keeps them safe from predators, cars, parasites –which tend to be worse during warmer months– and other dangers. “If you suspect that your cat is suffering from a heat-related illness, take it to your veterinarian immediately,” adds Dr. Brunt. Signs your cat may be overheated include panting, confusion, glazed eyes, agitation, vomiting or drooling, or staggering. Any of these signs should be treated as an emergency situation, and you go to your veterinarian immediately.
1. Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals.
2. Always assign a dog guardian. No matter where you’re celebrating, be sure to assign a friend or member of the family to keep an eye on your pooch-especially if you’re not in a fenced-in yard or other secure area.
3. Made in the shade. Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water, and make sure they have a shady place to escape the sun.
4. Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of paws’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing-or even kidney disease in severe cases.
5. Keep your pet on his normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can give your pet severe indigestion and diarrhea.
6. Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Ingesting any of these items can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression in your pets, and if inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia.
7. Never leave your dog alone in the car. Traveling with your dog means occasionally you’ll make stops in places where he’s not permitted. Be sure to rotate dog walking duties between family members, and never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle.
8. Make a safe splash. Don’t leave pets unsupervised around a pool-not all dogs are good swimmers.
We are so blessed to have so many wonderful clients and patients. We thought we would share some pictures from the last two weeks. THANK YOU for allowing us to serve you!!!
Did you know that May is Chip Your Pet Month? We recommend all pets be microchipped because it is the most effective way to be reunited with your pet if you’re separated.
Swimming is one of the most fun activities for a hot summer day, for people and pets! Just keep in mind that your pets need supervision just like your children. When you can’t be outside with them, keep your pool gates closed and locked to prevent unwanted swimmers from entering the area. Help keep your children and pets, and those who live in your neighborhood, safe!
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Having trouble calculating your pet’s age? We hope this Age Chart will help!
Did you know that your cat should be in to see us once a year all their life, and sometimes twice a year when they’re over seven years of age? Today is National “Take Your Cat to the Vet” Day—if your cat is due for a visit, call and schedule one today. Regular visits can help your cat live longer, because we can identify and treat problems sooner.
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