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Emergencies in Cats

Emergencies in Cats

No cat owner wants to ever have to visit a veterinary emergency clinic, sometimes it is unavoidable. Here, our Riverside County vets explain some of the situations that require immediate attention by a veterinarian. 

Times Emergency Vet Visits Are Necessary

While no owner hopes to ever have to visit a veterinary emergency clinic, sometimes it is unavoidable. Our pets are no different than us in that they can experience an illness, injury, or accident at any time of the day or week. While there are situations where your cat can wait to be seen until their primary care veterinarian is available, there are also times when waiting can be deadly. If you feel that the seriousness of your cat’s condition cannot wait, get them seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you are unsure, here is a list of some general situations that require immediate emergency veterinarian attention. 

Difficulty Breathing

If your cat exhibits any sign of respiratory distress, get your cat to a veterinarian immediately. While this symptom can be caused by any number of things, a veterinarian can perform diagnostic testing to assess the cause.

Straining to Urinate or Defecate

An inability to pass urine or feces may indicate a blockage. A veterinarian needs to assess the cause of the straining and evaluate if your cat is painful. Straining to urinate is especially concerning in male cats. Some male cats will develop crystals or mucous plugs in their urine that will get stuck in their narrow urethra. With nowhere to go, the urine will continue to accumulate in the bladder, causing pain and possible bladder rupture. With an inability to urinate, the body cannot rid itself of waste produced by the kidneys. These enzymes will build up to a toxic level and eventually cause death if treatment is not addressed promptly.


If your cat has a seizure, a veterinarian should evaluate the cause. While a single seizure may not be life-threatening, multiple or cluster seizures can result in hyperthermia. Epilepsy is extremely uncommon in cats. Any cat that is having a seizure should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Injury to the Eye

When it comes to the eye, time is of the essence. While obvious injuries are veterinary emergencies, excessive squinting or pawing at the eye can also indicate a problem that requires immediate attention. While many injuries to the eye are treatable, the sooner they are addressed, the better the prognosis.

Vomiting or Diarrhea for Over 24 Hours

While we have all had a pet exhibit gastrointestinal discomfort from time to time, vomiting or diarrhea that does not resolve will lead to dehydration. Several episodes of vomiting or diarrhea need to be evaluated for the underlying cause, and a dehydrated pet may need to be hospitalized for supportive care.

Heat Stroke

Warmer temperatures increase the risk of your cat becoming overheated. Symptoms of heat stroke are excessive panting, reddened gums, excessive drooling, vomiting/diarrhea, weakness, and lethargy. Left untreated, heat stroke can be fatal.

Hit by a Car

While many injuries sustained from vehicular trauma will be obvious emergencies, some will not. Even if your pet appears to be fine after being hit by a car, internal injuries can take time to reveal themselves. If your pet is hit by a car, it is always best to have a veterinarian perform a complete physical exam to rule out any injuries.

Inability to Move Rear Legs

If your cat has difficulty walking on one or both rear legs, it is a sign of a medical emergency. Feline aortic thromboembolism (also known as a saddle thrombus) is a very serious condition in which a blood clot becomes lodged in the arteries that supply blood to the back legs. Cats suffering from saddle thrombus will also seem painful, and the affected rear limb(s) will be cold to the touch.

Suspected Exposure / Ingestion of a Toxic Substance or Foreign Object

If you suspect that your cat has come into contact or ingested a toxic substance after hours, call an emergency veterinarian. They may or may not instruct you to contact the Animal Poison Control Center before heading to the hospital. Cats are commonly seen to treat toxicities for: various ingested plants (lilies are a big one), rodenticides, and exposure to canine flea/tick prevention. If your cat consumes something out of the ordinary, don’t assume that it is safe. Many are surprised to learn of all the different foods and plants that are toxic to our pets. When in doubt, always contact the Animal Poison Control Center.

If your cat consumes a foreign object, there is a possibility that it can cause a gastric or intestinal obstruction. Cats will commonly ingest string, tinsel, and hair ties. Catching this situation early can sometimes prevent surgery. Some patients will benefit from being given a medication that will induce vomiting and remove the object from the stomach. If the object is too large or dangerous to vomit, an endoscope may be used to retrieve the object while the patient is under anesthesia.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think your cat is having a medical emergency? Contact our Riverside County vets today to find out what the best next step is for your pet.

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Banning Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients. Our experienced and compassionate vets care about the health of animals across Riverside County. Contact us today in order to book your first appointment.

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