Your Guide to Cat Emergencies
Dr. Debra Primovic
Abrasion. An abrasion is an injury to the superficial layers of skin and is often called a scrape. If the scrape appears to be small and close to the skin surface, clip the hair and clean the injury with warm water, hydrogen peroxide or Betadine®.
Abscess. An abscess is a sac or lump that contains pus. Sometimes, the abscess will rupture and pus will begin to drain. If this happens and the rupture site is small, clean the area with peroxide or Betadine®. Often the wound is left open to drain during the healing process. During healing, make sure your pet does not lick at the abscess. If necessary, use an Elizabethan collar.
If the abscess is not open your veterinarian may recommend application of warm compresses for about 5-10 minutes 3- 4 times per day to help increase the flow of blood to the area. The best thing to do for an abscess is to take your pet to your local veterinarian where the hair can be clipped and the area examined. Your veterinarian will probably lance the abscess and drain and flush the pus. Your pet may need to be sedated to allow thorough cleaning and drainage of the area. Antibiotics are often prescribed. If your pet is acting lethargic, acts painful or is not eating – please see your veterinarian.
Allergic Reactions. Allergic reactions can vary from mild to severe and you may not realize your cat is developing an allergic reaction until it is far beyond home care. Allergic reactions can occur while your pet is on medication, after vaccination or even from a bee or wasp sting. Most often, allergic reactions result in facial swelling and hives, but some pets may develop more severe symptoms. Check for signs of shock such as pale gums, weakness or difficulty breathing. If your pet is having difficulty breathing – do the ABC's of CPR. Remove any stinger if the reaction is from an insect bite. If your pet is swollen and itching, call your veterinarian for advice regarding administering diphenhydramine (Benadryl®).
Animal Attack or Bite Wounds. Gentle clipping of the hair and cleaning of the wound with hydrogen peroxide, povidone iodine or chlorhexidine can help reduce infection. Extreme care must be used since bite wounds are painful and the pet may bite the person caring for him/her out of fear or pain. You may have to muzzle your pet. Despite initial home care, all bite wounds should be examined and treated by a veterinarian. Extensive damage and/or illness can occur even if it appears as though there is only a small, minor puncture wound on the skin.
Bleeding. Pressure, pressure, pressure. If you notice that your pet is bleeding, depending on the location of the injury, gentle pressure with a clean towel is generally helpful to stop the flow of blood. Elevating the area can also help decrease blood flow. Wrap the area with a towel and tape and seek veterinary care immediately. If you notice even small amounts of bleeding when there has been no trauma or injury to provoke it, or bruising in the absence of injury, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Blood in the Stool. Blood in the stool is a common symptom in pets. Usually, small amounts of bleeding are not a true emergency if the pet is otherwise acting normal. Do a physical exam of your pet. Check your pet's gums for color (they should be pink) and assess for other abnormalities. Has your pet been eating? Vomiting? Are there other signs of bleeding? Obtain a sample of the bloody bowel movement and proceed to your veterinarian.
Blood in the Urine. If you observe blood in the urine, take your pet to your veterinarian for evaluation. Observe closely for any associated clinical signs such as pain or straining when urinating. If possible, obtain a voided (free-catch) urine sample from your pet and take it with you when you visit your veterinarian. Evaluate your pet's environment for possible exposure to toxins (specifically, anti-coagulant rat poison).
Blood Sugar Problems. Observe your cat's general activity level, appetite and attitude. Low blood glucose can result in disorientation, weakness or seizures (convulsions). If you notice any of these symptoms in an otherwise responsive pet, offer food immediately. If you have reason to suspect hypoglycemia, you should rub Karo® syrup on your pet's gums and call your veterinarian immediately. See your veterinarian to identify, treat and monitor the underlying cause. Pets being treated for diabetes can develop hypoglycemia, especially when on insulin.
Bruises. Minor bruises caused by trauma can be treated by applying a cool compress to the area for 5 to 10 minutes every 6 to 8 hours. If there are bruises and you are not sure how they arrived, protect your pet from injury or falls and see your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Burns from Chemicals. If you witness a chemical ingestion, immediately flush the mouth with large amounts of water. This can help reduce the amount of chemical in the mouth and may reduce the damage. Do not induce vomiting. Call your veterinarian to determine if further treatment is necessary. You may also read the bottle/package for toxicity information. Often there is a toll free number that will give advise in cases of ingestion. Mild cases can often be treated topically with Glyoxide® three times daily to clean the mouth. This is a human medication most often used to treat canker sores, and it may be sufficient for healing. Make sure your pet continues to eat and drink normally. In more severe cases, there is no home care – please see your veterinarian immediately. Always take the toxin container or package to the veterinarian with you.
Burns from Heat. For very small, superficial, partial thickness burns, carefully apply cool water to stop additional burning. Topical antibiotic creams can help healing. For all other burns, immediate gentle cooling with cool water followed by examination and treatment by a veterinarian is recommended. Do not use ice or ice packs. Do not apply butter or any product to the burn. Do not place clothing or covering of any kind on the burn other than cool water.