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Cat Emergency

What to do if your Cat is Having a Medical Emergency

Emergency care is available at all three SCVG locations during regular business hours. 

If your cat has suffered a sudden trauma or is experiencing any life threatening symptoms, please call your nearest SCVG hospital immediately so that we can offer instruction and prepare for your arrival. In some cases, we may refer you to an alternate 24-hour emergency care facility.  

Our experienced veterinary team can help increase the odds of recovery for your beloved feline friend, even in the face of the most severe cat emergency care situations.

However, in the case of a cat medical emergency, waiting until "regular business hours" is not an option. In addition to your SCVG hospital, we recommend that you have a list of 24-hour emergency veterinary hospitals located near you, prepared in advance for your reference.

Cat Emergencies that require Immediate Veterinary Attention

Cats can be very subtle in showing signs of illness. Therefore, it is 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 a sudden they neither greet 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 care in order to help you decide whether or not your should take your feline friend to an emergency clinic:

  • Difficulty Breathing: Difficulty breathing is an immediate emergency because 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 occurring, your cat is suffering and panicked. 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, open mouth breathing, panting, making alarming noises, or puffing of the lips.
  • Urethral Obstruction: This is a blockage in the urinary tube. 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.
  • Hind-End Paralysis: If you find your cat unable to use its rear legs and 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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, or a fight with another cat, seek emergency care immediately. Cats do not typically 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 or injury.

Of course, we cannot explore every possible emergency scenario here; however, if you are worried about the health of your cat, and especially if you are worried that they may be experiencing a life threatening situation, please call us immediately.

It is always best to take a proactive approach to protecting the lives of loved ones, and our feline companions are no exception.

Transporting your Cat safely to an Emergency Clinic

It is important to understand that although you may 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 them. 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 veterinary 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 for Cats

Sometimes, it is essential to implement emergency first aid to stabilize your cat before transporting them to an emergency clinic. 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.

How to Perform CPR on your Cat

If an emergency like this arises, take the following steps to perform CPR on your cat:

  1. First, check to see if he or she is breathing.
  2. 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.
  3. Make sure no air escapes between your mouth and the nose.
  4. 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 Ingests Poison

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, package, or any labels with you. Call on your way and explain what your cat ingested, how long ago it was ingested, and the amount.

Finding the Nearest Emergency Veterinary Clinic

California Veterinary Specialists

2310 Faraday Ave.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 642-2872

39809 Avenida Acacias, Suite E
Murrieta, CA 92563
(951) 397-0631

2409 S. Vineyard Ave Suite O
Ontario, CA 91761
(909) 344-5106

Emergency Pet Clinic of Temecula

27443 Jefferson Ave 
Temecula, CA 92590-2602
(951) 695-5044

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