DROWNING AND SUFFOCATION
Conditions that prevent oxygen from getting into the lungs and blood cause asphyxiation.
These are carbon monoxide poisoning; inhalation of toxic fumes (smoke,
gasoline, propane, refrigerants, solvents); drowning; and smothering (which
can happen when a cat is left too long in an airtight space). Other causes
are foreign bodies in the airways and injuries to the chest that interfere
A cat's collar can get snagged on a fence, and the cat can strangle while struggling
to get free. Be sure to provide an elastic collar that can stretch and slip
over your cat's head in an emergency.
Cats are natural swimmers and can negotiate short distances well. However,
they can't climb out of water over a ledge. They might drown in a swimming
pool if a ramp exit is not provided.
The symptoms of oxygen lack are straining to breathe; gasping for breath (often
with the head extended); extreme anxiety; and weakness progressing to loss
of consciousness as the cat begins to succumb. The pupils begin to dilate.
The tongue and mucous membranes turn blue, which is a reflection of insufficient
oxygen in the blood. One exception to the blue color is carbon monoxide poisoning,
in which the membranes are a bright red.
Treatment: The most important consideration is to provide your cat with
fresh air to breathe. (Better yet, give oxygen if available.) If respiration
is shallow or absent, immediately give mouth-to-nose respiration.
If the cat has a pneumothoray, an open wound into the chest (which you can
determine if you hear air sucking in and out as the cat breathes), seal off
the chest by pinching the skin together over the wound.
For drowning, remove as much water as possible from the lungs. Hold the cat
upside down by placing your hands around the lower abdomen, and swing the cat
back and forth for 30 seconds. Then position the cat on its right side with
the head lower than the chest, and begin mouth to nose breathing. With heart
stoppage, heart massage should be attempted. Continue efforts to resuscitate
until the cat breathes without assistance or until no heartbeat is felt for
30 minutes (see CPR in this chapter).
Once the immediate crisis is over, veterinary aid should be sought. Pneumonia
from inhalation is a frequent complication.
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