Head Trauma in Cats

Overview of Feline Head Trauma

Head trauma is a blunt or penetrating injury occurring to the head. In cats it may occur due to a variety of causes, the most common of which is a motor vehicle accident. Other causes include blunt trauma such as being hit by bats or swings or being stepped on, falls, gunshot wounds or animal fights.

Below is an overview of head trauma in cats followed by detailed in-depth information on this emergency condition.

Brain dysfunction may be the result of concussion, swelling, bruising, laceration, fractures, compression or bleeding.

What to Watch For

If you suspect that your cat has suffered head trauma observe him for the following:

Diagnosis of Head Trauma in Cats

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize head trauma and determine its severity. A complete medical history and physical examination are important parts of the initial diagnosis of head trauma. Tests and procedures that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:

Radiographs (X-rays) or CT Scan. If indicated, your veterinarian may recommend radiographs in order to look for skull or spinal fractures and CT scan to look for fractures as well as brain injury.

Treatment Head Trauma in Cats

The treatment of head trauma will depend upon the cause and magnitude of the injury.

Home Care and Prevention

Head trauma is a life-threatening emergency. If you suspect that your cat has suffered head trauma, take him to your veterinarian for evaluation as soon as possible.

While you are waiting for your cat to be examined, keep him warm, hold his head elevated or level with the rest of the body and minimize pressure on his neck, head or back.

Be careful when handling your cat to avoid being bitten. Your cat may not be aware of what he is doing and could inadvertently injure you.

Keep your cat indoors to avoid the potential for an accident that might result in head trauma. Take special care with frightened animals; they may run into the street or highway.

Kittens are particularly prone to injury by being stepped on, rolled on with a rocking chair or caught in a recliner. Do not allow young children to handle kittens unsupervised.

In-depth Information on Feline Head Trauma

Other medical problems can lead to symptoms similar to those encountered in head trauma. It is important to exclude these conditions before establishing a definite diagnosis. In cases where there is obvious external injury to the skull or bleeding from the ear canal or nostrils, a diagnosis of head trauma is more obvious. In situations where there is no obvious evidence of head trauma, an alternate diagnosis list should be considered. This includes:

In-depth Information on Diagnosis of Feline Head Trauma

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnostic tests must be performed to confirm the diagnosis of head trauma and exclude other diseases that may cause similar symptoms. The initial diagnostic approach may include:

Electrocardiogram to aid in evaluation of abnormal heart rates

In-depth Information on Treatment of Feline Head Trauma

Treatment of head trauma must be individualized based on the severity of the condition and other factors that must be analyzed by your veterinarian. Initial therapy of head trauma follows rapid assessment of head injury and neurologic status. It includes oxygen therapy, possibly steroids (controversial), hyperosmotic fluids and repeat neurological examinations. Pain, seizures and hemorrhage are usually treated according to need. Severe cases of head trauma may be referred to an emergency clinic or neurologist.

Supportive Therapy for Feline Head Trauma

Prognosis for Head Trauma in Cats

The prognosis is dependent upon the degree and area of brain injury, response to therapy as well as secondary injuries. Coma that lasts greater than 48 hours or deteriorating clinical signs carry a grave prognosis for recovery.

Home Care for Feline Head Trauma

Optimal treatment for your cat requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up for head trauma often includes the following recommendations:

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