My cat was recently in a house fire. Will he live?

Our question this week was:

My cat was recently in a house fire. Will he live?

Marilyn J. – Kansas City.

Answer

Hi – thanks for your email. You wrote asking about the effect of smoke inhalation on a cat. Cats with mild smoke inhalation do well and those with very severe smoke inhalation my not do well.

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:

  • Thermal (heat induced) injury to the upper airways
  • Inhalation of particulate matter that settles in upper airways and the lungs
  • Asphyxia –the fire reduces the oxygen content in the air that is breathed by the pet
  • Chemical injury due to chemicals such as carbon monoxide, cyanide, acrolein, hydrogen chloride, and aldehydes that are released as gases within the fire

    The problem is that the smoke inhalation injury can cause spasming and constriction of the airways, carbon monoxide poisoning, and accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Pneumonia and even death can occur.

    Treatment includes oxygen, fluids, and various medications to help open the airways.

    An article that might be helpful to you is Smoke Inhalation in Cats and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Cats.

    Best of luck!

    Dr. Debra

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