Smoke Inhalation in Cats

Overview of Smoke Inhalation in Cats

Smoke inhalation injury is direct damage to the airways and lung tissue caused by exposure to heat, particulate matter in smoke and the gaseous by-products of fire.

Smoke inhalation injury can be caused by:

Smoke inhalation injury can lead to bronchospasm and bronchoconstriction (spasm and constriction of the airways), carbon monoxide poisoning, pulmonary edema (accumulation of fluid in the lungs), acute respiratory distress (inability to breathe) and pneumonia. Smoke inhalation can be fatal.

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Smoke Inhalation in Cats

In addition to a thorough medical history and physical examination your veterinarian may recommend the following diagnostic procedures and/or diagnostic tests:

Treatment of Smoke Inhalation in Cats

Treatments may include:

Home Care

Remove pets from burning buildings and transport to a veterinary hospital as quickly as possible. Do not place your own life at risk by attempting to rescue a pet from a burning building.

If possible, have firefighters or medical personnel at the site of the fire administer oxygen to pets suffering from smoke inhalation injury for 10 to 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 risk of dying prior to reaching the hospital.

In-depth Information on Smoke Inhalation in Cats

Smoke inhalation causes direct damage to the upper airways, which include: the nose, sinuses, oropharynx (back of the mouth), trachea (the windpipe), bronchi, and bronchioles (lower airways) and the lung tissue. Additional damage caused by smoke inhalation include the following:

Smoke inhalation injury is usually not confused with other diseases because of the circumstances under which it occurs, for example, the pet is removed from a burning building. Other findings can support a diagnosis of smoke inhalation such as the smell of smoke on the pet’s fur and singed or burned hair and whiskers. However, if it is not clear that smoke inhalation is the cause of the pet’s respiratory difficulty, the following should be considered:

Diagnosis In-depth

Treatment In-depth

Because many of these patients are experiencing breathing difficulties, the majority of smoke inhalation patients will be placed in an oxygen cage immediately upon presentation to the hospital and prior to a complete physical examination. While your pet is allowed to rest in oxygen, your veterinarian will gather the medical history and then complete the physical examination.

If your pet is in a state of unconsciousness, it may be necessary to place an endotracheal tube (through the mouth into the trachea) and assist the pet to breathe to prevent respiratory or cardiac arrest. If your pet remains unconscious and unable to breathe on his own, mechanical ventilation may be offered, in which a ventilator breathes for the patient. In most instances, however, treatment proceeds at a less frantic pace as follows:

Home Care of Cats with Smoke Inhalation

Optimal treatment for your pet requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical, especially if your pet does not improve rapidly.

Administer all prescribed medication as directed. Alert your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems treating your pet. Some antibiotics can cause nausea, decreased appetite and diarrhea. If your pet experiences these symptoms while receiving antibiotics, notify your veterinarian. An alternate antibiotic may be available.

Exercise restriction is appropriate for a pet recovering from pneumonia because lung capacity is diminished and pets will tire easily if they attempt to exercise. If your pet has pneumonia, your veterinarian will likely set up a date for repeating chest X-rays after antibiotic administration is complete to ensure the pneumonia has resolved completely.