Emergency 2 :: Signs & Symptoms

Oftentimes, it can be difficult to discern what is and what is not an emergency. The following is a guide to help you observe and gauge your kitty's symptoms, thereby helping you determine if you are indeed faced with a true emergency situation. This is only a guide, and is by no means a complete list of possible symptoms. Remember, whenever in doubt, always call your vet or an emergency vet ASAP!

Common Problem Areas

  • Mouth
  • Eyes
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Abdomen
  • Back
  • Urinary Tract
  • Legs / Limbs
  • Skin
  • Nervous System


Mouth, Eyes, Ears, Nose and Throat (A CheckList):

  • Is the airway open?
  • Can you visualize an obstruction?
  • Is kitty coughing?
  • Is kitty's breathing distressed? (shallow, labored, gasping?)
  • Is there blood in or around the mouth?
  • Is kitty salivating or drooling?
  • Are the eyes dilated? Cloudy? Red?
  • Is there discharge from the eyes?
  • Is kitty scratching or rubbing at her eyes?
  • Are both eyes affected?
  • Is one eye bigger than the other? (orbit, pupil)
  • Are the eyes darting back and forth when kitty is at rest?
  • Is the head tilted?
  • Is there any discharge from the ears?
  • Are the ears swollen, or is the inner ear swollen and inflamed?
  • Are the ears jaundiced? (yellowing of the skin)
  • Is kitty dehydrated?
  • Is there discharge from the nose?
  • Are both nostrils affected with discharge?
  • Is the discharge bloody or mucousy or cloudy?
  • Are there diseased teeth in kitty's mouth?
  • Is kitty's tongue blackened, sloughed or swollen?

POTENTIAL EMERGENCY CONCERNS:  The above signs and symptoms can indicate serious illnesses such as upper respiratory infection or disease, serious upper or lower airway obstruction, oral disease, toxic substance ingestion, chemical and electrical burns, poisoning, infectious disease, internal disease such as liver disease, etc. Any of these symptoms present could require emergency veterinary attention and treatment ASAP.


Heart And Lungs (A CheckList):

  • Is kitty coughing?
  • Is kitty producing mucous or blood from the cough?
  • Is kitty having difficulty breathing? (shallow, rapid, labored?)
  • Does kitty's abdomen appear to "heave"?
  • Is the abdomen enlarged?
  • Does the abdomen feel "doughy" or "fluid-like"?
  • Has kitty fainted or collapsed?
  • Is kitty wheezing? If so, for how long?
  • Is kitty gasping for breath and breathing open-mouthed? If so, for how long?
  • How often have the symptoms been present and for how long?
  • Does kitty feel painful when picked up or when you feel her abdomen?
  • Are kitty's rear legs cold to the touch?
  • Is kitty in a "crouched" position? Is kitty in a lateral position? (on her side)
  • Does kitty seem restless and seriously uncomfortable?
  • Is kitty weak and lethargic?
  • Is kitty vocalizing loudly and frequently?

POTENTIAL EMERGENCY CONCERNS:  Any of the above signs and symptoms could indicate Congestive Heart Failure, saddle thrombus (blood clot), asthma, trauma induced internal injuries, lung infection, upper or lower respiratory disease, collapsed lung, pneumonia, fluid accumulation and buildup in the chest and abdomen regions, tumor, infectious disease, etc. Any of these symptoms should be considered an emergency and you should contact an emergency vet ASAP.


Digestive and Gastrointestinal Tract (A CheckList):

  • Has kitty been vomiting? Frequently? Excessively?
  • If vomiting, does it appear that food has not been digested?
  • If vomiting, is there blood or mucous present?
  • If vomiting, is there yellow, greenish or dark brown or black substance?
  • Is kitty eating sufficiently?
  • Has the appetite considerably increased or decreased?
  • How long since kitty's last meal?
  • Is there an appearance of jaundice (yellowing) or pallor (white or pale) to kitty's skin?
  • Are the bowel movements normal? Soft? Watery? Dry or hard?
  • Do the stools contain blood or mucous?
  • Are the stools black or clay-colored?
  • Is kitty constipated?
  • Is kitty straining or vocalizing in the litterbox?
  • Has kitty gone longer than two days without a normal bowel movement?
  • Are there presence of tapeworms or roundworms in the stool or vomitus?
  • Is kitty dehydrated?
  • Is kitty drinking sufficient amounts of water?
  • Is kitty weak or lethargic?
  • Is kitty's abdomen distended? (round, hard to the touch)
  • Has kitty gone longer than two days without eating or drinking?
  • Does kitty vomit water as well as food or other substance?
  • Does kitty seem extremely uncomfortable?

POTENTIAL EMERGENCY CONCERNS:  The above symptoms could indicate dietary intolerance, food allergies, gastrointestinal upset, liver disease, kidney disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, pancreatitis, intestinal obstruction, peritonitis, intestinal parasites, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, infectious disease, etc, and should warrant a visit with your vet or an emergency vet ASAP.


Urinary Tract / Reproductive Tract (A CheckList):

  • Is kitty urinating more frequently or less frequently?
  • Is kitty straining in her litterbox?
  • Is kitty vocalizing loudly or frequently during trips to the litterbox?
  • Does kitty's abdomen feel painful when touched?
  • Does kitty try to urinate in odd or unusual places?
  • Is there blood present or a darkening of the urine?
  • Is kitty only producing small drops of urine?
  • Is kitty continuously grooming or licking at her genital areas?
  • Is there any discharge from the genital area? (penis, vulva)
  • If there is discharge, is it bloody, mucousy, greenish or pus-like?
  • Is kitty drinking more water than usual?
  • Is kitty dehydrated?
  • Is kitty's appetite considerably increased or decreased?
  • Is kitty vomiting?
  • Does kitty seem to be in pain or discomfort?
  • Is kitty weak or lethargic?

POTENTIAL EMERGENCY CONCERNS:  The above symptoms could indicate urinary tract infection, urinary tract obstruction (particularly in males), pyometra (in females), crystal formation in the urine or bladder, diabetes, inflammatory conditions in the urethra or bladder, bladder infection, kidney infection, blunt trauma to the bladder or urethra, etc, all of which warrant immediate emergency veterinary attention. In male cats, urinary tract obstructions can be fatal in a matter of minutes to hours, please do not take chances, get your kitty to an emergency vet ASAP!


Skin / Extremeties (A CheckList):

  • Are there any areas of noticeable hair loss on kitty's body?
  • Does kitty seem irritated concerning these areas?
  • Is kitty scratching frequently or excessively?
  • Are any lumps felt or are they visible? If so, when did you notice they formed?
  • Do you notice the lumps changing in appearance, size, shape?
  • Was this change a sudden onset?
  • Are there any punctures, lacerations, open wounds or abcesses?
  • Is there evidence of parasites, such as fleas? Mites?
  • Does kitty have a rash anywhere on her body?
  • Is the rash or sore open, raw, bleeding or oozing?
  • Is there evidence of burn wounds? Electrical burns? Chemical burns?
  • Did you recently apply flea or tick products? Or pet shampoos?
  • Has there been a considerable increase or decrease in kitty's appetite?
  • Is there an appearance of jaundice (yellowing) or pallor (white or pale) to kitty's skin?
  • Is kitty's coat condition dry, or is there evidence of excessive dander?
  • Is kitty's coat condition oily, dull, or "wiry"?
  • Is there a noticeable swelling or "reaction" anywhere on kitty's body?
  • Is there any noticeable bite wounds, such as insect, spider, snake, scorpion?
  • Is kitty restless, uncomfortable, or seem to be in pain?
  • Is kitty weak or lethargic?
  • Is kitty's breathing distressed or compromised by swelling? (particularly under the neck and jaw)

POTENTIAL EMERGENCY CONCERNS:  The above symptoms could indicate allergic reactions to food, pollen, environmental agents, parasitic infection (fleas, mites), fungal disease, severe allergic reactions to vacciines, severe reaction to insect or snake bites or from other venomous species, electrical or chemical burns, pemphagus follicus, sarcomas or skin tumor, and can be tell-tale signs of underlying disease (i.e. hyperthyroidism, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, etc). If your kitty has been suffering any of these symptoms, please consult your vet immediately. In the case of serious burns, chemical agents, venomous bites, sarcomas, etc, please seek emergency veterinary medical attention ASAP!


Muscle / Bone / Nervous System (A CheckList):

  • Is kitty unable to use her motor functions? (Walk? Stand?)
  • Is kitty limping or favoring a particular leg or paw?
  • Does kitty seem extremely painful in the rear leg areas, or the pelvic area?
  • Is there noticeable swelling to a particular limb or paw?
  • Is there noticeable warmth or heat to the particular limb?
  • Is there an open wound where muscle or bone is exposed or protruding outward?
  • Is kitty dragging her tail?
  • Is kitty dragging her rear legs?
  • Is kitty "knuckling" in the front limbs/paws? (giving the appearance of front forepaws folded under)
  • Are there any noticeable open wounds, lacerations, or puncture wounds?
  • Is kitty bleeding from anywhere on her extremeties?
  • Does kitty have loss of control of one or more limbs?
  • Does kitty have loss of control of her bladder and/or bowel functions?
  • Is kitty stumbling or seem disoriented?
  • Does kitty have muscle, facial, or limb twitching?
  • Does kitty walk in circles? Does she seem uncoordinated?
  • Is paralysis present in one or more, or all of kitty's limbs?
  • Is kitty seizuring? (drooling? "paddling" her legs? outstretched limbs?)
  • Did kitty ingest a toxic substance or suffer a blunt trauma ?

POTENTIAL EMERGENCY CONCERNS:  All of the above symptoms determine an emergency veterinary visit immediately. These symptoms can indicate bone fractures and breaks, muscle and ligament tears, misalignment and fracture of pelvic regions, as well as, toxicity, seizure activity, neurological disorders, tumor, neuromuscular disorders, saddle thrombus, paralysis and blunt forced trauma related injuries. If your kitty is suffering even one of the above symptoms, please have her seen by an emergency vet ASAP!


CatHelp-Online wishes to remind you that whenever you are in doubt of your kitty's signs or symptoms, please, contact your vet or an emergency vet immediately. Remember, time is of the essence with the majority of the signs and symptoms listed here, the sooner you can reach an emergency vet, the sooner treatment and/or lifesaving techniques can be applied in an emergency situation.

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