Your Guide to Cat Emergencies
Dr. Debra Primovic
Facial Swelling. Facial swelling is most often associated with allergic reactions. These reactions can occur in response to vaccination, medication or even bee or wasp stings. In cats, facial swelling is sometimes associated with acetaminophen toxicity. If you notice facial swelling, check your pet for signs of shock. If he is having difficulty breathing, do the ABC's of CPR. Remove any stinger if the reaction if from an insect bite. If your pet is swollen and itching, call your veterinarian for advice regarding administering diphenhydramine (Benadryl®). If your cat was exposed to acetaminophen, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Fan Belt Injuries. Especially in the winter time, a car engine can be a nice warm refuge for a cat. Unfortunately, you may not realize there is a cat snoozing in your engine before it is too late. If you suspect that a cat is in your engine, turn off the motor immediately. Attempt to remove the cat from the engine and keep him calm. The most common injuries associated with engines are lacerations and trauma from the fan belt. Extreme care must be when handling these cats since wounds are often painful and the pet may bite or scratch out of fear or pain. Check for signs of shock. If your pet is having difficulty breathing, do the ABC's of CPR. Cover wounds with a clean cloth and transport to your veterinarian immediately.
Fever. Normal temperatures range form 100.5-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Feeling your pet's body, forehead or nose is not an accurate way to determine if he actually has a fever. Take your pet's temperature. For fevers less than 104.5 degrees F, monitoring your pet at home may result in spontaneous recovery. Make sure he continues to eat and drink and take his temperature one to two times daily. If the temperature rises above 104.5 degrees F, this should prompt you to contact your veterinarian. Also, look for any areas of infection such as abscesses, skin lumps, blood in urine or straining to urinate, sneezing or breathing difficulty. If any of these are noted, contact your veterinarian. In addition, lack of appetite or lethargy should prompt an examination and treatment by your veterinarian.
Fires/Smoke Inhalation. House fires can be detrimental for people as well as pets. Smoke inhalation and burns, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning, can occur. If your pet is in a fire, try to remove him from the burning building. Do not risk your life trying to save your pet. If you were unable to remove your pet, inform the firefighters and let them attempt the rescue. Once your pet is removed from the burning building have firefighters or medical personnel at the site of the fire administer oxygen for 10-15 minutes prior to transport. Administering oxygen as soon as possible reduces the amount of carbon monoxide poisoning and may stabilize pets that are at a risk of dying prior to reaching the hospital. After a brief time under an oxygen mask, transport your pet to a veterinary hospital as quickly as possible.
Fish Hook Injuries. If your pet has ingested a fish hook, transport him to your veterinarian immediately. Removing fishhooks can be risky, especially if stuck in the intestinal tract. DO NOT pull the fishing line in an attempt to pull the hook out of the throat. Just as in a fish, the hook will grab onto a piece of the stomach or esophagus and becoming imbedded, making surgery the only option for treatment. If the hook is embedded in the skin outside the body (and not in the mouth), some pets may allow you to remove it at home. Try the following: Push the hook forward through the exit wound until the barb is visible, and remove the barb with a wire cutter. Then pull the hook out backwards, the same way it went in. Place a clean dressing on the wound and take your pet to your veterinarian for follow-up care.
Fleas. Fleas are rarely an emergency but severe infestations can lead to illness. Flea bite allegy, parasite and disease transfer as well as flea anemia can occur. If your pet has a serious flea infestation, consult your veterinarian for advise. Flea control is time consuming, expensive and difficult. In addition to eliminating the fleas, if the fleas have caused illness, your pet may require additional medication or even blood transfusions.
Flea Product Toxicity.Topical flea products are very popular and quite effective. If you are not careful, medication meant for your dog may inadvertently end up on your cat, resulting is serious toxicity. Canine flea products contain permethrin or high doses of pyrethrin, insecticides that are not tolerated well by your feline companion. Signs of toxicity occur quickly after exposure and include drooling and severe muscle tremors, or even seizures. If your cat exhibits signs of permethrin or pyrethrin toxicity, bathe him in a mild dishwashing detergent to remove the flea product from your pet's skin, thereby reducing the amount absorbed. Do not use flea shampoo and do not use hot water since that will dilate blood vessels in the skin and increase the absorption of the flea product. Then call your veterinarian; additional treatment is probably required. Your veterinarian will probably recommend hospitalization with continuous intravenous fluids and injectable muscle relaxants.
Foreign Bodies. A foreign body is any non-food object that is ingested. In some pets, these items can become lodged in the intestinal tracts, causing serious illness. Cats that have ingested a foreign object usually show signs of gastrointestinal upset. If you just saw your pet ingest something, call your veterinarian immediately to determine if it is safe to induce vomiting. If your cat refuses to eat, begins vomiting, drooling or has abnormal bowel movements, contact your veterinarian. In some instances, you may notice a foreign object, such as a string, protruding from the rectum. Do not try to pull the object out. Consult your veterinarian.
Fractures. Breaking bones is usually associated with some type of trauma. Automobile damage, falls and even dog bites can break even the strongest bones. If you suspect that your pet has a fractured bone, keep him calm and quiet and restrict activity. If there is an open wound involved, cover the wound with a clean cloth. Extreme care must be used since fractures 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. Try to transport him in a box or crate to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Splints are difficult to place at home and if placed improperly, can do more harm than good.
Frostbite. In cold weather, even pets are susceptible to frostbite. If you suspect your pet has frostbite, remove him from the freezing environment. Re-warm the affected tissues in warm water (about 104 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 20 minutes, but do not rub or massage the affected areas. This can cause significant damage to frostbitten tissues. Do not use hot water; instead use warm or tepid water. After initial treatment, call your veterinarian for treatment for prompt evaluation.
Gunshot Wounds. Unfortunately, pets can sometimes be the victims of gunshot injury. If you suspect that your pet has been shot, keep him calm and quiet. Observe your pet for difficulty breathing, bleeding and other injuries. Cover open wounds with a clean cloth and control bleeding by applying gentle pressure with a clean cloth. Extreme care must be used since wounds are painful and the pet may bite the person caring for him/her out of fear or pain. Immediate examination and treatment by a veterinarian is strongly recommended.