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Manx-mix cat died suddenly

By: Dr. Jon Rappaport

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Our question this week was:

Hi! One of my manx-mix cats died about 6 months ago after exhibiting the following symptoms:

  • tongue sticking straight out with her mouth closed
  • difficulty breathing
  • slow walk (probably because of the breathing issue)
  • strange sound (though I can't exactly remember what it sounded like now)

    We immediately called our vet, but (unfortunately) it was early morning and we got a recording. She died about 15 minutes later, just before getting to the vet hospital.

    This past weekend, I was at my parents' house having dinner with a bunch of friends and family when we heard a very loud, strange sound. We heard it one more time before we realized that it was the cat. This cat was a very anti-social cat, so it was surprising that she was anywhere around that many people.

    I was the first to spot her because she was under my wife's chair next to me. The first thing that I saw that made me immediately jump out of my seat was that she was lying on her side with her tongue sticking straight out and her mouth closed (almost identical to what I saw with my own cat).

    I told everyone that her tongue was sticking out and they thought it was a hairball. I tried to pick her up and found that she was completely limp, which (as you might expect) threw everyone into a panic. We could see that she was still breathing, but it looked to be very hard for her.

    My dad came to her side and I ran into the kitchen with my mom, trying to find the vet's number. We had absolutely no chance of saving her, we all knew that, but we had to try. She stopped breathing about five minutes after we last heard her.

    I'm sorry for the long explanation, but I wanted you to understand my situation. We all felt useless, for my cat and for my parents' cat. I know that there is nothing that would have saved my parents' cat; it just happened too fast and was too severe (the vet told us it sounds like a stroke). There probably was not much that would have helped my cat have a better chance, but it was not nearly as fast. From the first time we saw her acting strange (we had to go looking for her because she was hiding) to when she died, there was about half an hour.

    Anyway, we still have a manx-mix cat from the same litter as the cat I have been writing about. I am concerned about what I should do if this happens again. I know that I will act quicker and try to get her to the hospital sooner, but is there anything else that I can do to increase the chances of survival in a similar situation?

    Jesse Hohn


    Answer

    Gosh, I am very sorry to hear about your cats. I don't know why the cats died. It sounds like they were having trouble breathing. This is often the case in pets that are dying even if they don't have an underlying lung or respiratory problem.

    They can have primary lung or heart diseases that can lead to death.
    An article that might be helpful to you is on our Petplace.com is "Dyspnea in Cats". This article discusses common reasons cats have trouble breathing.

    Another possibility for the signs you mentioned are...many cats that are dying will have what we refer to as "agonal" sounds. It refers to the sounds a person or animal makes as they die. In cats, many will gasp and have some trouble breathing, many will have difficulty walking as they are weak and not getting enough oxygen to their tissues, many will make a high pitched noise just before they "collapse".

    As far as what you can do at home, I'm not sure. Cats are fickle. I always tell my clients that they should have them examined at the first sign of illness. Watch them carefully for not eating, vomiting, lethargy or signs of weakness. Often when cats show you signs of problems, it has already been going on a while.

    I could tell you about how to do CPR but in my experience and to be honest, this almost never works for owners at home. If you are interested, go to "CPR in Cats" for more information.


    Dr. Jon




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