Monday, July 20, 2009

Cat Air

Did you know?
It seems my posts have been slanted towards "dog world" of late and the cat content has been sorely lacking. I don't want to leave the kitties out, it just seems like the dogs tend to get themselves in trouble more often and end up taking more trips to the emergency room. So, from that point of view it probably is better that the felines have had fewer posts. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that we never see them in the ER.

One of the reasons we might need to see your sweet kitty "Lucky" is if she starts struggling to breath, opens her mouth, starts panting, and has pale or grey gums. These physical signs are what we call "open mouth breathing" and can be very serious.

Let me tell you why.
Open mouth breathing in cats can be a simple stress reaction to a change in environment which will subside if the stressful conditions are removed. Or it can be an indication of a serious condition such as an airway blockage, respiratory disease or heart disease. If you notice your cat struggling to breath or open mouth breathing you should bring "Lucky" to your family veterinarian or, if it's after hours, to an animal ER for care right away.

One type of heart disease that causes breathing trouble might be a thickening of the heart muscle, called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM, which decreases the amount of blood that is pumped in and out of the heart chamber and increases the workload of the heart. This type of disease, if left untreated, can lead to congestive heart failure and even death. Your family veterinarian may refer you to a Veterinary Cardiologist so your cat can receive specialized care for this condition.

Open mouth breathing might also be caused by a respiratory issue. A foreign body that is blocking the airway, pneumonia, or fluid in the chest are all conditions that the veterinarian will try to rule out as causes to get to the crux of the problem and start treatment.

To diagnose the cause of respiratory distress the veterinarian will listen to the heart and lungs, take a blood pressure, take x-rays, and potentially perform an ultrasound of the heart also known as an echocardiogram . Your cat may need to be hospitalized for a time and be on oxygen to help her breath easier. "Lucky" may also need some medications or further diagnostics to monitor progress.

The moral of the story...let the open mouth tell the story and get to the vet right away.

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