Treatment: Emergency Care
When a veterinarian is confronted by a cat which
is desperately sick,
coughing, wheezing, or gasping for air, her first effort is to help the cat get full, productive
breaths - oxygen in, and poisonous waste gases out. To accomplish
this, the vet will:
- Reduce inflammation with a corticosteroid, usually injected. This will
immediately ease the swollen, inflamed, twitchy tissues
deep in the lungs. It will reduce swelling and the
production of mucus. More lung tissue will then be available
to the open air for gas exchange.
- Open the airways wider with a bronchodilator. This allows
more air to get deeper into the lungs, which makes breathing
easier and helps untrap pockets of air.
It also provides more lung surface to get oxygen in and
waste gases (carbon dioxide) out.
- Relieve oxygen deprivation with oxygen gas. Since ordinary
air is only 20% oxygen, using high-concentration oxygen gas allows the
available lung surface to get more oxygen molecules into
the cat's bloodstream.
A cat admitted in acute respiratory distress will
often require hospitalization. Minimal handing and quiet is needed and the
need to be stabilized first before performing chest x-rays (radiographs). If there
is no oxygen cage, a quiet cool area with good ventilation helps.
Epinephrine (adrenaline) may be given if airway obstruction is
life-threatening or there has been poor response to steroids and
bronchodilators. If there is evidence of respiratory infection,
then antibiotics may be given. Long-acting injected corticosteroids
also carry greater risk of side effect, which should be taken into
consideration. For cats who are unresponsive to the maximum doses
of steroids and bronchodilators, cyproheptadine (an antihistamine)
has assisted some cats.
To find an emergency veterinary
specially trained to treat crisis
situations, you may wish to
visit the American College of Veterinary
Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC)
website which has a listing
of vets. They can also be called
upon for consultation services
if your usual veterinarian needs
some assistance. Doing this
now and having the numbers close
at hand in your animal health
files will help you be prepared
should you need it.
Ask your vet or veterinary
assistant to write down what
medications where given. During
a stressful emergency time,
these notes will help you to
understand what was done or
used and why when you return