Acute Collapse in Cats

Overview of Acute Collapse in Cats

Acute collapse is a sudden loss of strength causing your cat to fall and be unable to rise. In acute collapse, your cat falls to the ground either into a sitting position (hind limb collapse) or a lying position (complete collapse). Some cats that suddenly collapse will actually lose consciousness. This is called fainting or syncope. Some cats recover very quickly and look essentially normal just seconds to minutes after collapsing, whereas others stay in the collapsed state until helped.

Acute collapse is usually caused by a disorder of one of the following:

What To Watch For

If your cat suffers an acute collapse, he will sit down suddenly or lie down and won’t be able to get back up. Call or take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.

Veterinary Care for Acute Collapse in Cats

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the cause of acute collapse so that subsequent treatment recommendations are specific and most likely to be successful.

There are dozens of diseases that can cause acute collapse. In order to pinpoint which is responsible, your veterinarian may perform one or more of the following evaluations.

Diagnosis of Acute Collapse in Cats

Treatment of Acute Collapse in Cats

Treatment of acute collapse is dependent upon the underlying cause. Initially, emergency treatments may be necessary if the blood pressure is too low or if bleeding has occurred. The following are possible treatment options that your veterinarian may choose to implement.

Home Care

In-depth Information on Acute Collapse in Cats

A collapse may involve extreme weakness of the front or rear limbs, falling to the ground, or unconsciousness, in which case the cat is unresponsive to sound or touch. The severity and symptoms will often be related to the cause of collapse.

Often consciousness is maintained but the cat has an expression of confusion or of anxiety. A “glassy-eyed” appearance may be evident. The collapse may last for only a few seconds, or it may take many minutes to hours before your cat can stand again.

Numerous diseases can cause acute collapse. Often a disease is fairly advanced when such an extreme manifestation as collapse occurs. However, there may not have been prior symptoms.

Examples of illnesses that may cause collapse include:

The most serious cases of collapse are life-threatening.

Diagnosis In-Depth

If your cat is still collapsed when it is brought to the veterinarian, tests will be done immediately and hospitalization with continuous monitoring may be recommended, particularly if the situation is perceived as life threatening.

Your veterinarian will determine the underlying problem and the immediate threat it poses to your cat. Alternatively, if your cat’s condition improves spontaneously, and your cat seems well when you reach the veterinary hospital, tests will be performed. These will be aimed to determine the cause of the problem in order to assess the risk of future collapse and to see whether medication is warranted.

As mentioned in “Causes”, numerous diseases can lead to acute collapse. Therefore, your veterinarian may perform one or more of the following tests:

Additional, tests may be recommended from the results of any of the tests listed above. For example, a cat with spinal cord lymphoma (a type of cancer) may have the same type of cancer cells in the bone marrow. A bone marrow aspiration is much easier and safer to perform than a biopsy of spinal cord tissue.

Therefore, the initial tests may find the cause of collapse outright, or may direct the veterinarian to pursue other causes of collapse.

Treatment In-depth

At the time of initial collapse, it is best to go immediately to the nearest veterinarian rather than spend time on “life-saving” measures. Inappropriate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), for example, can be ineffective and cause internal organ damage if done improperly.

The most beneficial treatment for acute collapse is the elimination of its cause. Finding the cause can be complicated and time-consuming, because so many potential explanations are possible. Therefore, treatments often are general (“supportive”) at first and then become more specific as new information is obtained from test results.

The following are examples of treatments the veterinarian may provide.

Follow-up Care for Cats with Acute Collapse

Many of the diseases that cause acute collapse are progressive (they can get worse). Once a diagnosis has been reached and the cause of collapse is known, you should discuss with your veterinarian the frequency of rechecks.

Follow-up care may include: