Cats are notorious for getting into trouble. Despite what the old saying would have you believe, cats do not, in fact, have nine lives. If your cat becomes injured, there is a high probability that he will go into shock. Shock is the involuntary physical reaction to internal or external trauma. Below you will find all the signs and symptoms of a cat in shock so you can be ready to act should you be faced with a dire situation.
Causes of Shock in Cats
The causes of shock are broad in variety but are typically related to trauma. Trauma can be categorized by any physical injury, which causes the internal organs to alter their normal function. Examples of trauma could be a blunt force impact, an acute puncture wound, or a large laceration.
Trauma affects the respiratory, circulatory, and neurologic systems. These vital internal systems regulate the majority of feline bodily functions, and when they are interrupted or altered due to severe injury, the body reacts by going into shock.
There are non-trauma related cases of shock, the most common of which is septic shock. Septic shock is caused by a severe internal infection that attacks the organs and causes the body to shut down from within. Often sepsis is attributed to kidney or liver failure in cats, but could also be due to fecal matter leaking through the intestinal walls. Septic shock can be treated, but it is an expensive process, and the results are rarely successful.
Cat in Shock Symptoms
The shock will be apparent in the actions, or lack thereof, of your cat. For the most part, a debilitating injury should be the first sign you look for. If a cat has suffered blunt impact trauma or an intense wound resulting in blood loss, take him to the vet immediately for emergency care. There is no point in checking for shock in a cat if you know he has suffered a catastrophic injury. When dealing with trauma of any kind, rapid emergency medical care is the top priority and the window of opportunity to save a cat’s life is limited.
For a cat where it is unclear if he has suffered a traumatic event, there still could be signs of shock. Potential symptoms may include:
- Pale gums
- Trouble breathing, rapid panting
- Low heart rate
- Hypothermia, cold to the touch
If your cat exhibits a symptom of shock, it is time to perform a more thorough check. If you determine that your cat is in fact in shock, then time is of the utmost importance, and you need to contact your emergency vet immediately.
How To Check Your Cat For Shock?
Shock is not limited to external trauma. Internal bleeding can cause a cat to go into shock, making it difficult for you to tell if your cat has entered a state of shock or not. To thoroughly check your cat for this condition, follow these steps:
- Carefully lay the cat on a towel or blanket
- Wrap your cat in the towel to conserve body heat
- Elevate the lower body using another towel or a small pillow
- Look inside the mouth to check the gums; if they are pale or white, the cat is in shock
- If your cat is bleeding, attempt to stop the bleeding with a compress
- Seek emergency veterinary care
Do your best to keep your cat’s head below his heart to ensure that blood continues to flow to the brain. Brain damage is a possible side effect from shock, but it is preventable by keeping the lower body elevated. Try to keep your cat as calm as possible and keep him wrapped in something warm. Limited blood flow as a result of shock will cause extremities to become cold.
Treatment and Diagnosis of Shock in Cats
Treatment for cats who are in a state of shock depends on the severity of the cause. For example, a cat who has been hit by a car, but has no signs of external damage, will need to undergo x-rays, blood tests, and urinalysis. Often vets will introduce sedatives and intravenous fluids to try and maintain a steady heart rate and blood pressure.
For cats who have experienced a large wound resulting in immense blood loss, they will have to be rushed into emergency surgery. During an emergency, surgery attempts will be made to save the cat by closing the wound, sterilizing the affected area. If needed, blood transfusions can be administered due to heavy blood loss.
Occasionally surgery is needed if x-rays reveal that the trauma was internal. Once your vet has identified and eliminated, the source of the injury, the state of shock will begin to fade. Sometimes a state of shock can linger, in which case, a corticosteroid can be administered to speed up recovery.
If you fear that your cat has entered a state of shock, check him for the symptoms listed above and administer primary care. Treating the underlying cause of shock in time is vital to your cat’s survival. Never attempt to perform any medical procedure on your own at home as it could make your cat’s condition worse. Your cat is a fighter by nature, and your ability to think clearly and act fast will give him his best chance to fight another day.
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Rubin, Sheldon. “How to Treat a Cat in Shock.” HowStuffWorks, 25 Sept. 2011, https://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/how-to-treat-a-cat-in-shock.htm.
“Shock in Cats.” PetMD, 17 Mar. 2016, https://www.petmd.com/cat/emergency/accidents-injuries/e_ct_shock#.