Category Archives: Cat Health

Cat Health

Heatstroke in Cats-Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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What is heatstroke?   Symptoms   Should I treat it at home?   Veterinary treatment   Preventing heatstroke

Heatstroke in cats

What is heatstroke? 

Medically known as hyperthermia, heatstroke is a life-threatening medical condition in which the body’s internal organs (liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, and brain) begin to shut down as a result of elevated body temperature caused by high temperatures and humidity.

Cats protect themselves against high temperatures by panting and licking their fur, however, they can overheat very easily. More so than humans, as panting isn’t a particularly efficient way to cool down the animal.

The normal body temperature of a cat is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.2 to 39.2 Celsius. If the outside temperature is warmer than the cat’s internal temperature heatstroke is a very real possibility.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency which can lead to organ dysfunction, blood clotting disorders, coma, and death. It must be treated urgently.

Symptoms of heatstroke in cats

  • Rapid panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Dark red gums
  • Salivating (drooling)
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Lethargy
  • Capillary refill time of less than 1 second. To test this, lift your cat’s upper lip and place a finger on the gum applying a small amount of pressure. Remove your finger, and you should see the gum has turned white. Time how long it takes for the area to turn pink again.
  • Vomiting (possibly with blood)
  • Diarrhea (possibly with blood)
  • Bleeding from the nose (this is indicative of disseminated intravascular coagulopathy [DIC]), which is a condition in which the blood clotting system fails.
  • Coma

How to avoid heatstroke in cats

  • Never leave your cat in a parked car, even in the cooler months, but this is especially important in hot weather. If you are travelling with your cat in the car, provide adequate ventilation or use the air conditioning.
  • Provide shade. If your cat is allowed outside (either free to roam or in an enclosure) make sure they have access to a shaded area where they can escape from the sun and heat.
  • If your cat is indoors only, give him access to a cool area. It is especially important not to confine the cat to any room where temperatures are especially high, such as a sunroom. Rooms with large windows or east facing rooms (in the Southern Hemisphere) tend to become hotter in afternoons so make sure your cat has access to cooler parts of the house. Cool flooring such as tiles and slate can offer relief. My dogs like to lie on the kitchen floor on hot days as it’s away from the sun and has slate flooring.
  • Drinking water. Always ensure your cat has an adequate supply of fresh, cool, clean water, indoors and outdoors. On warmer days, add some ice cubes and make sure you have more than one water bowl. Locate bowls out of direct sunlight.
  • Avoid strenuous activity in high temperatures.
  • Limit exposure to the outdoors in the hotter months. 11.00am and 3.00pm are the hottest times, so keep your cat indoors during this period.
  • Keep the home cool with air conditioning or a fan. Keep your cat indoors during hot days, and if possible with the air conditioning or a fan turned on.
  • Closing blinds or curtains can help to keep the room cool.
  • Catsicles. Popsicles for cats can be a novel way to keep your cat cool when the heat hits. These can be made from lactose-free cat milk (available from your supermarket) or canned cat food. Add milk or wet food to ice cube trays and freeze overnight. Take one or two frozen catsicles out as a cool treat.
  • Cold water bottles. Fill old soft drink bottles with water (don’t fill right to the top as water expands when it is frozen). Take out and wrap a towel around the bottle. Place where your cat sleeps.
  • Glasshouses, sheds and garages can become extremely hot. Always check before closing doors to ensure your cat hasn’t snuck in.
  • Think for your cat. I have found that even on extremely hot days my cats won’t always move themselves to a cooler part of the house, sometimes you have to do it for them.

Are any cats at greater risk of developing heatstroke?

Any cat can develop heatstroke however some are at greater risk.

  • Brachycephalic breeds with short faces such as Persians, Himalayans, and Exotics.
  • Old cats.
  • Very young cats.
  • Sick cats.
  • Obese cats.
  • Cats with heart conditions.
  • Cats with medical conditions which affect breathing.
  • Pregnant and nursing queens.

Should I treat my cat at home and how?

Mild heatstroke (body temperature of 104°F or 40°)

  • Move him to a cool/shady spot, turn on air conditioning or fans if possible to cool the cat down and help with evaporative cooling.
  • Slowly bring the cat’s temperature down at home by wrapping him in cool, damp towels. Keep water away from the mouth and nose.
  • Spray the cat with cool water.
  • Apply ice packs or frozen vegetables to the head and between the legs.
  • Put rubbing alcohol on the cat’s paws and legs to assist in bringing the temperature down.
  • Offer plenty of cool, fresh water to drink.

Once the body temperature has returned to normal, stop cooling or you may cause hypothermia in your cat. Monitor your cat’s rectal temperature, every 5 – 10 minutes. Once you have brought your cat’s temperature down take him to the vet. The cat may appear to be over the incident, but the damage may have been caused to the organs, so it is always recommended your cat is given a check over by a veterinarian.

Moderate to severe heatstroke (body temperature is 105F or 40.5C)

Take the cat to the vet immediately. If possible, have somebody else drive, while you attempt to bring down the temperature on the way via the above methods.

When not to treat your cat at home: 

  • If you don’t have access to a thermometer to determine the body temperature
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Bleeding
  • Having seizures
  • Unresponsive
  • Body temperature over 105 F or 40.5 C

Take your cat to the veterinarian immediately.



Some ways your veterinarian will treat your cat are as follows:

  • Decrease body temperature. Your veterinarian will carefully bring your cat’s body temperature down to a safe level. He will introduce cool fluids to the body either intravenously or by administering a cool water enema.
  • Oxygen therapy will be given if your cat is having difficulty breathing.
  • Intravenous fluids will be given to treat dehydration.
  • Cortisone injections. Heatstroke can be associated with swelling in the throat, aggravating the problem. Your vet may give the cat a cortisone injection to treat this. [1]
  • Monitoring. Your cat will be carefully monitored for signs of kidney or liver failure or disseminated intravascular coagulation.


Cats who have suffered heatstroke are at greater risk of developing it again. So it is important to take the necessary steps to avoid this.

Carefully monitor your cat’s health for signs of possible long-term damage caused by the heatstroke and speak to your veterinarian if you see anything unusual.

Watch for blood in the urine.

Your veterinarian may prescribe a special diet which will put less strain on the damaged kidneys.


[1] Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Delbert G. Carlson and James M. Giffin.

Cat Health

How to Pill a Cat

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How to pill a cat

Pilling a cat is one of the most dreaded aspects of cat care. Cats are smart and will often be able to sniff out any ideas we may have about tricking them into taking a pill such. Hopefully, this article will help cat owners to pill their cat with minimal stress to both themselves and their cat. Continue reading

Cat Health

Cat Bitten By Snake – Symptoms and First Aid

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Symptoms of snake bite   Emergency care   Treating snake bites   Aftercare   Keeping snakes out of the garden

snake bites in cats

Cats are hunters by nature and unfortunately not able to discriminate between harmful prey and non-harmful prey. Many housecats will think nothing of chasing down and attacking a snake, not realising how much danger they are putting themselves in.

There are poisonous snakes throughout the world and it would be too hard to list poisonous snakes country by country so this article will aim to provide general information on snake bites, but not snake species specific to any one country.

The most common snake bites to occur in cats in Australia are from the Eastern brown snake, tiger snake, death adder, copperhead, black snake and the red-bellied black snake.

Venomous snakes in the United States can include the copperhead, rattlesnake, cottonmouth, coral snake.

The majority of snake bites occur on the cat’s head, neck and legs. Bites on the body can happen, and tend to be more dangerous, the closer to the heart the quicker the venom can travel around the body and the more dangerous.

Where and when can snakes be found?

Snakes are more prevalent in the warmer months of spring and summer, but in some areas they can be found year-round. We have had a red-bellied black snake in our garden in June (which is winter in Sydney, Australia). As snakes are cold-blooded, they need the heat of their surroundings to warm up.

One snake catcher I spoke to told me the following…

Between 10bam and 4 pm is generally when they are out. Red bellied black snakes optimal temp is 24 to 28 and Eastern Brown Snakes are 28 to 32. You will normally see them basking in a sunny position.

But I need to reiterate, it is still possible for them to be out during other hours of the day. They are also commonly found close to the water of creeks or dams. When not sunning or hunting, they like to hide under rocks and logs and in dense shrubbery and long grasses.

What is the difference between a venomous and non-venomous snake?

Most (but not all) venomous snake has elliptical pupils (slit-like, like a cat) and a triangular or diamond shaped head. A non-venomous snake has round pupils and a rounded head. Even non-venomous snakes have teeth and will bite, and while they may not poison the cat, the bite can cause pain and infection.

Contrary to popular belief, pythons and boa constrictors kill their prey by cutting off the blood supply and not by suffocation. By coiling themselves and squeezing tight, the heart doesn’t have enough strength to circulate blood against the pressure created by the snake. This in fact is a far quicker and more efficient way to kill than by suffocation.

Can cats kill snakes?

Yes, it is possible for a cat to kill a small snake but it’s not something you should allow your cat to do. Even small, non-venomous snakes have the potential to inflict damage on a cat through biting. As much as I don’t personally like snakes, they serve an important ecological role in our environment and cats should not be encouraged to hunt any wildlife, including snakes.

Even small pythons can quite easily kill a small dog or cat. Baby venomous snakes are still able to inject venom,  and non-venomous snakes will still bite a potential threat which can be extremely painful and lead to infection.

If you do have a snake problem in your area, there are more effective ways to reduce numbers by making changes to your environment to make it less snake-friendly (such as moving wood piles away from the home), or calling in a snake catcher to relocate a snake.

What is snake venom and what does it do?

Venom is a modified saliva which is stored in sacs behind the eye on each side of the head. It contains zootoxins (toxins produced by an animal) which is injected into the skin via the hollow fangs in the snake’s mouth and is used as a defensive mechanism against predators and to also kill and digest the snake’s prey. Venom can vary depending on the species, and may contain toxins which affect the blood (hemotoxins), certain cells (cytotoxins) and nervous system (neurotoxins). The main function of venom is to kill prey the snake is hunting as well as protect the snake against predators. Snakes are able to control the amount of venom is injected and in some cases may not inject any, this is known as a ‘dry bite’. Of course it goes without saying that if your cat has been bitten by a snake, immediate veterinary attention is essential as you have no way of knowing if or how much venom has been injected.

Snake bites can affect various organ systems. Breathing difficulty, acute kidney failure (nephrotoxicity), bleeding disorders, paralysis (including the respiratory system), tissue death and severe allergic reaction. There are different types of toxin, many snakes have more than one type of venom.

  • Neurotoxins cause neuromuscular paralysis which leads to weakness of the limb muscles and eventually paralysis of the respitatory muscles. Rendering your cat unable to breathe.
  • Hemotoxins destroy red blood cells (hemolysis), lower blood pressure and disrupt blood clotting by destroying platelets which are non nucleated cell fragments that form a clump to plug a damaged blood vessel as well as removing fibrinogen, which helps to mesh the platelet plug, resulting in internal bleeding. Destruction of the red blood cells means the blood is unable to provide adequate amounts of oxygen to the organs,  leading to organ damage.  As well as the blood, hemotoxins can also attack other organs and tissues. Other types of venom activate prothrombin (a blood factor responsible for coagulation, the process in which blood turns from a liquid into a gel when damage occurs to a blood vessel) causing disseminated intravascular coagulation (systemic activation of blood clots throughout the small blood vessels).
  • Cytotoxins destroy tissue, usually specific cells, usually those of an organ such as kidney cells (nephrotoxins).
  • Myotoxins destroy skeletal muscle cells, the break down of muscle fibre releases myoglobin (a protein in the muscle cells) into the blood plasma results in rhabdomyolysis which can seriously damage the kidneys.

What is antivenom?

Antivenom (also known as antivenin) is used to counteract the effects of venom. It is obtained by ‘milking’ snakes of their venom, which is diluted and a small amount is injected into horses or sheep. These animals mount an immune response, producing antibodies against the venom. Antibodies bind to the venom, thus neutralising it. However, they are not able to reverse the damage already done. This is why it is so important to seek immediate veterinary treatment.

What are the symptoms of a snake bite in cats?

There can be considerable variation in symptoms of snake bite depending on the species of snake, its size, the age of the snake as well the amount and potency of the venom. The size of the cat, any underlying medical conditions your cat may have, the amount of subcutaneous fat, as well as the thickness of the fur, can also be factors. That is not to say that a snake bite in a fully grown Maine Coon should be treated any less seriously than a snake bite in a young kitten. All snake bites are dangerous to all cats, and veterinary treatment is always necessary.

You may not necessarily see puncture wounds on your cat, they are either hidden by the fur or due to swelling. So don’t assume that the absence of puncture marks means your cat has not been bitten by a snake. The most common areas cats are bitten are the face, neck, chest and limbs.

There are two stages which develop after your cat has been bitten. Pre-paralytic and paralytic. Symptoms can develop between a few minutes to 24 hours after being bitten and may include:

Pre-paralytic syndrome:

  • Fang marks and/or swelling where the cat has been bitten
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Urination
  • Weakness
  • Trembling
  • Ptosis (drooping eyelids)
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Increased respiration
  • There may or may not be extreme pain. Hemotoxins are extremely painful but are slower acting, neurotoxins are relatively pain free, but faster acting.

Paralytic syndrome:

  • Dilated (large) pupils (mydriasis) and fixed pupils which don’t respond to light, normally the pupils would constrict (become smaller) due to increased light
  • Muscle weakness
  • Change in meow
  • In-coordination (drunken gait)
  • Rapid pulse and heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing or increased/shallow breaths (tachypnea)
  • Blue tinged gums due to lack of oxygen
  • Blood in urine (hematuria)
  • Tea coloured urine (due to break down of muscles)
  • Paralysis which starts at the back legs and moves towards the cat’s head
  • Coma

It is important to repeat that not all signs will be present, they may also wax and wane.

What should you do if your cat is bitten by a snake?

Get your cat to the veterinarian immediately. Call ahead to let them know you are on your way. In some cases, your veterinarian may not have antivenom on hand, another important reason for you to call ahead, so you can be re-directed to another practice if necessary.

If you have a person to help you, do the following below on the way to the veterinarian:

  • Remove the cat’s collar.
  • Keep the bitten area lower than the heart.
  • Keep the cat quiet and calm, a rapid heart rate will help the venom to move more quickly around the body.
  • Apply a pressure bandage over and around the bite to slow down venom spreading to the heart, this should be firm but not so much that it cuts off circulation.
  • If possible, immobilize the affected limb.
  • If there is no heartbeat or pulse, administer CPR.

This should only be carried out if there’s more than one person.  It is better to drive your cat straight to the veterinary practice than waste additional time and delaying urgent medical treatment.

Be careful when handling a cat who has been bitten, they are usually in a lot of pain and may lash out.

What NOT to do:

  • Do NOT allow your cat to walk.
  • Do NOT cut the bitten area.
  • Do NOT attempt to suck the venom out of the bite.
  • Do NOT apply a tourniquet.
  • Do NOT attempt to catch or kill the snake.
  • Do NOT apply ice.

How is a snake bite treated?

Treatment is aimed at reversing the effects of the venom as well as treating symptoms. He will use a snake venom test kit to determine the kind of snake that has bitten your cat as well as other tests to evaluate your cat. These may include:

  • Complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood smear to evaluate the red blood cells
  • Clotting times, fibrinogen and platelet counts as some types of venom can affect your cat’s ability to clot


  • Once the type of snake bite has been determined your veterinarian will administer the appropriate antivenom. Some cats will need multiple vials of antivenom during treatment. Occasionally a cat will have an allergic reaction to the antivenom although this appears to be more common in dogs than cats.

Supportive care will also be necessary and will include:

  • Intravenous fluids to maintain blood pressure and help protect the kidneys from the toxins and maintain cardiac output.
  • To reduce your cat’s chances of having an allergic reaction to the antivenom, your veterinarian may also administer antihistamines, steroids and adrenaline prior to giving your cat the antivenom.
  • Oxygen therapy or if your cat is unable to breathe on his own will be placed on a ventilator.
  • A feeding tube may be required if your cat us unable to eat due to muscle paralysis.
  • Cats suffering from paralysis may also need to have their bladder manually expressed until they are able to urinate on their own.
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat secondary infections.
  • Analgesics may be necessary to treat pain.

When can my cat come home?

This depends on the severity of the emergency and how quickly treatment began. The earlier he receives antivenom, the better. All cats respond differently to treatment.

Some cats may be able to come home in as little as 24 hours after treatment, as soon as they can eat, drink, go to the toilet and eat on their own. Some cats may take a little longer to recover and it may be several days.

Cats who have been discharged from hospital need some recovery time, they should be kept quiet, calm and indoors during this period.

Can a cat survive a snake bite?

If your cat receives prompt veterinary attention, the prognosis is good, between 80-90% of cats who receive antivenom will survive a snake bite.


Administer all medications as instructed by your veterinarian.

Keep your cat indoors while he recovers.

Please be aware that antivenom doesn’t offer your cat lifetime protection from snake bites. It is not a vaccine and only works during that particular exposure, not against future snake bites.

Keeping snakes out of your garden:

The best way to avoid snakes in your garden is to provide an environment which isn’t attractive to snakes.

  • Maintain your garden so that is is free of overgrown plants, regularly mow the lawn.
  • Keep the garden free of debris, such as corrugated iron, building materials, overgrown weeds, old junk etc
  • When installing fences, dig them at least 8-12 inches into the ground.
  • Don’t leave containers of water lying around.
  • If you have a shed, keep it free or rodents.
  • Remove fallen fruit from the ground as this encourages rodents, which will, in turn, encourage snakes.
  • Avoid wood piles, especially in the summer months. If you do have a wood pile, make sure it is well away from your house and not accessible to your cats or children.
  • Avoid rockeries, which provide an excellent habitat for snakes to hide.

What should I do if I find a snake in my garden?

Bring all pets indoors.

Contact your local wildlife group or a licensed snake catcher. Do not attempt to catch or kill the snake.

Cat Health

Cat Scratch Disease (Bartonella henselae)

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cat scratch disease

Cat scratch disease at a glance

  • Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) is a zoonotic infection caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae that is passed from cats to humans. Infection occurs via bite wounds or scratches from cats or other objects such as thorns and splinters.
  • Symptoms in cats include fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle soreness and uveitis. Humans experience lethargy, aching, loss of appetite, fever headache. In some cases, infected people experience a more severe form of the disease.
  • The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.

What is cat scratch disease?

Also known as cat scratch fever, subacute regional lymphadenitis or Teeny’s disease, cat scratch disease (CSD) is a self-limiting, zoonotic infection (transmitted from animals to humans). Cat scratch disease is commonly associated with cat scratches (although cat bites and licks can often lead to CSD too). More than 90% of those infected have a history of contact with a cat.

The disease is caused by a recently discovered gram-negative bacterium called Bartonella henselae and is found worldwide, however, it is more common in warm and humid climates as fleas are more prevalent under these conditions. 80% of those affected are children (under 17 years) and most cases come from kittens, although adult cats can also pass on the disease. Continue reading

Cat Health

Acromegaly in Cats-Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Acromegaly in cats

Acromegaly at a glance

  • Acromegaly is a disease caused by an excessive growth hormone secreting tumour on the pituitary gland.
  • Symptoms include enlarged facial features, poor coat condition, weight gain and neurological signs.
  • Diagnosis is made by CT or MRI scan as well as blood work.
  • Treatments include surgery, radiation therapy or medications.

What is acromegaly?

Also known as pituitary gigantism or hypersomatotropism,  acromegaly is a rare disease caused by an overproduction of the growth hormone (GH). It is caused by a slow growing, functional growth hormone secreting tumour (adenoma) of the pituitary gland which is located at the base of the brain. Growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland by specialised cells known as somatotrophs and is tightly regulated by a number of factors.

GH not only stimulates growth and cell regeneration, it is also an insulin sensitivity modulator and an insulin antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of insulin, a hormone which controls levels of glucose in the blood.

Acromegaly typically affects middle-aged to male domestic shorthair or longhair cats. The median age is 11 years. Any older cat with uncontrolled diabetes should be tested as it is now believed the disease is underdiagnosed.

What are the symptoms of acromegaly in cats?

Excess of the GH causes enlargement of the extremities (head, feet, jaw, skull) soft tissues (tongue, heart, kidneys, liver) and increased muscle mass and abdominal enlargement. The most obvious signs appear to be on the head with a protruding mandible (lower jaw) and wide head.

A common finding in cats with acromegaly is uncontrolled diabetes, therefore symptoms associated with diabetes may be observed. These may include, polyuria/polydipsia (increased drinking and urination) as well as polyphagia (increased appetite).

Other symptoms of acromegaly may include:

  • Enlarged bones in the feet, skull, face and jaw with increasing space between the teeth.
  • Thickened skin and dull fur.
  • Painful joints.
  • Weight gain.
  • Enlarged kidney.
  • Enlarged liver.
  • Enlarged endocrine organs.
  • Cardiovascular abnormalities such as systolic heart murmur, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure. These may present as lethargy, difficulty breathing, weakness.
  • Central nervous symptoms such as head pressing, circling and behaviour changes.

Diagnosing acromegaly in cats

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. Acromegaly may be suspected in a cat who is persistently hyperglycemic despite daily insulin injections, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as weight gain,  [1] along with ruling out other conditions which also cause uncontrolled diabetes is important (hyperthyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism).

Some tests he may wish to perform include:

  • Baseline tests such as complete blood count, urinalysis, and biochemical profile. The most common findings are hyperglycemia (high blood glucose), high cholesterol and high phosphorous levels and glucosuria (glucose in the urine). If the disease has progressed, other findings may include protein in the urine, sugar in the urine, elevated liver enzymes and azotemia.

The following tests can provide a definitive diagnosis of acromegaly:

  • Increased blood growth hormone or insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) concentrations.
  • Advanced imaging such as CT or MRI to look for the presence of a pituitary tumour.

In addition, your veterinarian will want to perform additional tests to determine the effect of excess growth hormones on the organs.

  • Thoracic radiographs may reveal an enlarged heart.
  • Signs of congestive heart failure, pleural effusion, and pulmonary edema in advanced cases.

Treating acromegaly in cats

There is no successful way to permanently treat acromegaly in cats and managing the clinical signs to provide your cat with a good quality of life. This may include:

  • Transsphenoidal hypophysectomy. It is not possible to surgically remove the tumour alone, and surgery requires removal of the entire pituitary gland. After surgery the cat will need lifelong daily administration of cortisone and L-thyroxine to compensate for the loss of pituitary function. It is a difficult surgery to perform and only not readily available.
  • Radiation therapy to shrink the tumour if surgery isn’t available or viable. This requires several treatments spaced a week apart and will be performed under general anesthesia. Improvements to insulin resistance and neurological signs can be seen within weeks or months. Most cats will still require insulin but in lower doses. Side effects are common with this treatment and may include hair loss, otitis externa (inflammation of the ear canal), loss of vision, hearing impairment and tumour regrowth.

Medical management is another treatment option which has a fair to good prognosis in the short term. This may include the following options:

  • Somatostatin analogues and dopamine agnostics to inhibit the GH production or reduce GH levels in the blood.
  • Increasing insulin dosage. Controlling diabetes with larger doses of insulin and dietary changes, such as low protein, low phosphorous foods.

This is the most common method of treating acromegaly, and while it can bring diabetes under control, the tumour continues to grow and the disease will continue to progress.

In addition, supportive care may be necessary to control mild heart failure with diuretics and vasodilators to prevent pulmonary edema and pleural effusion.


Cat Health

Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) Poisoning in Cats

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What is antifreeze?   Symptoms of poisoning   Diagnosis   Treatment     Avoiding antifreeze poisoning

antifreeze poisoning in cats
Image courtesy of Steven Brown

What is antifreeze?

Antifreeze is a common product used in car radiators to lower the freezing point of water in cooler climates. The active ingredient is ethylene glycol (EG), a clear, odourless liquid with a sweet taste, earning it the name sweet killer.

Many articles state that its the sweet taste that attracts cats to antifreeze but this doesn’t seem plausible as cats can’t taste sweet. One possible cause of antifreeze ingestion may well be that it is common for antifreeze to be spilled on the ground and the cat’s coat may come into contact with it, and ingestion occurs when the cat grooms himself, or ingestion may occur when antifreeze is in a puddle (as can be seen in the image), and the cat drinks from it. Other causes may include accidental ingestion when a cat drinks from a contaminated puddle as well as deliberate poisoning.

Ethylene glycol is most commonly found in antifreeze, but can be found in other products (see end of article). Antifreeze poisoning is much more common in cooler climates and poisoning rates generally increase in the cooler months. The most common mode of ingestion is when a cat licks antifreeze from a spill on the floor, poisoning may also occur accidentally when a cat walks through a spill, which is then licked off during grooming. Even small amounts can be fatal. As little as a teaspoon or two is enough to kill a cat.

Around 50% of ethylene glycol is excreted by the kidneys, the remainder is metabolised by the liver and converted into toxic metabolites via alcohol dehydrogenase (liver enzymes) into glycolaldehydeglycolic acid, glyoxylic acid and finally oxalate. Glycolic acid causes metabolic acidosis, oxalate combines with calcium to form calcium oxalate crystals inside the renal (kidney) tubular cells, causing blockage and renal epithelial cell death.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in cats

Signs of poisoning begin very soon after ingestion which occurs in three stages.

1) CNS Depression Phase

Antifreeze is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract causing irritation and an alcohol-like intoxication. Peak blood concentrations occur in approximately 3 hours.

Within 30 minutes to 12 hours of ingestion the cat show the following symptoms:

  • Your cat will appear intoxicated, stumbling, lack of coordination (ataxia), dizziness.
  • Extreme thirst.
  • Excessive urination.
  • Seizures.
  • Vomiting due to gastrointestinal irritation.

These symptoms last for approximately 12 hours after ingestion. As CNS depression continues, your cat’s thirst will subside, however, he will still continue to urinate excessively due to osmotic diuresis, which can lead to dehydration.

2) Cardiopulmonary Toxicity Phase

Approximately 12 – 24 hours after ingestion the following symptoms appear:

  • Tachypnea (rapid breathing).
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate).
  • Metabolic acidosis (the blood is too acidic).
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Lethargy.
  • Anorexia.

3) Renal Toxicity Phase:

Occurs between 24 – 72 hours after ingestion and includes:

  • Painful abdomen and/or kidneys
  • Cessation of urine output (anuria)
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Depression
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Diagnosing antifreeze poisoning in cats

If your cat has vomited or passed a stool, bring along a sample as this can help your veterinarian diagnose ethylene glycol poisoning. Your veterinarian will take a history from you, including possible exposure to ethylene glycol. He will perform a physical examination of the cat.

  • A commercial test kit was available for rapid identification of ethylene glycol in whole blood (ethylene glycol test). Known as the REACT Ethylene Glycol Test and produced by PRN Pharmacal. Update 26/11/14-I am not sure if this test is still being produced, as it is no longer listed on their website.
  • Urinalysis: To detect the presence of calcium oxalate crystals in the urine (crystalluria) and assess kidney damage. Crystals may be present within 3-6 hours of ingestion. Hematuria (blood in urine), proteinuria (protein in the urine), and glucosuria (glucose in urine) may also be observed.
  • Blood Gas: To detect the extent of acidosis.
  • Ultrasound is performed to view the kidneys and evaluate the extent of damage to the kidneys.
  • Serum biochemistry  to detect low blood calcium, as a result of calcium oxalate formation which depletes calcium levels (hypocalcemia). Hyperkalemia (high blood potassium levels) may also occur due to renal failure.
  • Some antifreeze products contain the colourant fluorescein, which helps detect radiator leaks. This can cause the cat’s urine to glow a bright green colour when viewed under a woods lamp. However, not all ethylene glycol products contain fluorescein, so the absence of this doesn’t necessarily rule out poisoning.


  • A cat who presents with vomiting and central nervous symptoms.
  • Oxalate crystals in the urine.

Treating antifreeze poisoning in cats

Successful treatment depends on the amount of antifreeze consumed and how quickly he is seen by a veterinarian. Even so, the prognosis is always guarded.  If you suspect your cat has ingested antifreeze, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Treatment is firstly aimed at blocking or decreasing absorption ethylene glycol and preventing the formation of toxic metabolites, removal of the toxin and treatment of the severe metabolic acidosis.  This includes:

  • Gastric decontamination-Induce vomiting, lavage stomach (washing out the stomach with sterile water or a saltwater solution if ingestion has occurred within the past hour) or both.
  • Activated charcoal-The effectiveness of activated charcoal to bind to the toxin is somewhat controversial, some veterinarians will administer it to cats suffering from ethylene glycol poisoning.
  • Antidote-Administration of ethanol which should be given as soon as a diagnosis has been made. Ethanol competes with ethylene glycol for alcohol dehydrogenase, the liver enzyme which converts ethylene glycol into its toxic metabolites.
  • Vodka-In some cases, where ethanol isn’t available, plain vodka has been used. Don’t try this at home unless you are instructed to do so by a veterinarian, alcohol is toxic to cats and close monitoring is essential.
  • Sodium bicarbonate is administered to correct metabolic acidosis.
  • Supportive treatment to include correction of fluid and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Fluid therapy can also help to increase urine production, speeding up the removal of the toxins from the blood.

What other products contain ethylene glycol?

Photographic developing fluid, hydraulic brake fluid, industrial solvents, some cosmetics, some plants, radiator coolant, decorative snow globes, air conditioning coolant.

How to avoid antifreeze poisoning in cats

  • Clean up spills immediately by throwing a bucket of water over it to disperse the liquid.
  • Always store products containing ethylene glycol in sealed containers out of reach of cats and children.
  • Keep an eye on leaks in your car and repair as soon as they occur.
  • Look for products which contain alternatives to ethylene glycol. Many newer products now contain propylene glycol.


Cat Health

Cat Vital Signs

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normal vital signs for healthy cats

Normal vital signs for healthy adult cats

  • Respiration – 20 to 30 breaths per minute in a cat at rest
  • Pulse – 130 to 240 beats per minute
  • Temperature – 100 to 103 F (37.7-39.4C)
  • Capillary refill time – 1 to 2 seconds

How to take your cat’s temperature:

This is really best to be performed with two people, one to hold the cat and the other to take the temperature. Let your cat’s behaviour guide you, if he/she becomes stressed or has a history of being difficult to handle when being medicated etc., then it is safer for you to seek the help of your veterinarian.

  • Shake down the column of mercury until it reads 96F, then lubricate the bulb tip with petroleum jelly.
  • Grasp the base of your cat’s tail and lift it.
  • Insert the lubricated end of the thermometer about halfway into your cat’s rectum and hold it in place for 3 minutes.
  • Remove the thermometer, wipe it clean with a tissue and read the silver column of mercury.
  • Clean the thermometer with alcohol.

How to check your cat’s pulse/heartbeat:

  • To check the pulse, feel for the femoral artery which is located close to the surface on the inside of the thigh at the groin.
  • I found it difficult to find the femoral artery to check the pulse, another method which I found much easier was to feel the heartbeat. To do this press against the rib cage over the heart. With the cat standing, feel the pulse just behind the elbow.
  • Either way, count the number of beats in 15 seconds and then multiply by 4 to get the total number per minute.

How to check a cat's heart

How to check your cat’s respiration:

One respiration is an inhalation and exhalation.

  • Count how many times the chest rises and falls in a 15 second period. Remember, one rise and fall = one respiration.
  • Multiply the figure by 4 to get the total respiration rate per minute.

Checking your cat’s capillary refill time:

  • Lift up the cat’s upper lip and place your finger on the gum above the upper teeth, apply a moderate amount of pressure so that the gum turns white.
  • Remove your finger and count how long it takes for your cat’s gums to return to their normal pink colour.

Assessing your cat’s gums:
normal colour of cat gums

Normal gum colour is a light pink (as in the image above). Gum colour can paint a picture of your cat’s health.

  • Bright red gums – Heat stroke or gum disease
  • White gums – Anemia, blood loss or shock
  • Blue gums – Lack of oxygen
  • Yellow gums – Jaundice
  • Dry, tacky gums are an indicator that your cat is dehydrated

Comparative age of cats to humans:

Human years Cat Years Human Years Cat Years
1 15 11 61
2 25 12 65
3 29 13 69
4 33 14 73
5 37 15 77
6 41 16 81
7 45 17 85
8 49 18 89
9 53 19 93
10 57 20 97

Gestation period in cats:

The gestation period for a cat is 63-65 days. This varies between cat though, and anywhere between 60 to 70 days is normal.

How to tell if your cat is pregnant:

Unlike humans, it is not possible to determine a pregnancy via a blood or urine test in cats. However, there are often indicators that your cat is pregnant, some signs include:

  • By the third week of pregnancy, the cat’s nipples will become enlarged and pink. This is known as ‘pinking-up’.
  • By the fourth week of pregnancy, she should have gained enough weight to make her pregnancy visible.
  • By 3-4 weeks your veterinarian should be able to palpitate the abdomen and feel the babies.

Cat Health

Tapeworm (Cestodes) in Cats – Symptoms and Treatment

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What are tapeworms?    Transmission   Symptoms   Diagnosis   Treatment   Prevention

What are tapeworms?

Also known as cestodes, tapeworms are flat, segmented worms which live in the small intestine of cats and other mammals.

Tapeworms have no mouth or digestive tract themselves and must obtain their food source pre-digested, they have a tough outer skin that is capable of withstanding the strong digestive juices. Tapeworms absorb the cat’s pre-disgested food through their porous skin. Continue reading

Cat Health

Cancer in Cats – Types, Symptoms and Treatment

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What is cancer?   Common cat cancers   Symptoms   Diagnosis   Treatment   Prevention


Cancer at a glance

  • Cancer is the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells within the body, they can arise from any type of cell such as skin, kidney, bladder, breast.
  • Some cancers grow slowly and don’t readily spread, other cancers increase in size rapidly and can quickly spread (metastasise) to other parts of the body.
  • Symptoms vary depending on the type of cancer but may include unexpected lumps or bumps, lesions, bleeding, unexplained weight loss and lethargy.
  • Treatment depends on the type of cancer but may include surgery to remove the growth, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and amputation.

Cancer in cats

What is cancer?

cancer in cats

Also referred to as malignant neoplasms or malignant tumours, cancer is the uncontrolled division of cells that normally should be restrictive in their growth. Tumours are split into two categories, malignant (cancerous) or benign.

  • Benign tumours grow slowly, are surrounded by a capsule and do not invade neighbouring tissue or spread to other areas.
  • Malignant tumours, on the other hand, tend to grow rapidly, invade surrounding tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Cancers are often described by the part of the body they originate from, for example, breast, brain, liver, bile duct or pancreatic cancer. However, cancers are classified by the types of cells involved.

Cancer is a leading cause of death in senior cats.

Classification of cancers:

  • Carcinoma originates from the epithelial cells which line the inner and outer parts of the body and can be split into two types. Adenocarcinoma originates in an organ or gland and squamous cell carcinoma which originates in the squamous epithelium.
  • Leukemias cancers of the blood cells
  • Lymphoma originates from the lymphoid tissue
  • Myeloma originates from the cells in the bone marrow
  • Sarcoma originates from the connective or bone tissue

So, a cat may have skin cancer and it could be a melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma or a basal cell carcinoma for example. All skin cancers, but originating from different cell types. I have lost two cats both of whom had nasal cancer. One cat had osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and the other had squamous cell carcinoma which originated from the lining of the nose. Identical symptoms in both cats but different types of cancer.

Common cancers in cats:

  • Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). This is the most common cancer found in cats and is responsible for 1/3rd of all cancers. It arises from lymphoid tissue, which is found throughout the body and may involve any organ or tissue. Cats with feline leukemia virus are 60 times more likely to acquire lymphosarcoma than those without. Cats living in smoking households are twice as likely to acquire lymphosarcoma. [2]
  • Skin cancer – Squamous cell carcinoma which can affect cats who spend time outdoors in the sun, especially light coloured cats. The ears and nose are most commonly affected. Other types of skin cancer may include melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and mast cell tumours.
  • Mammary cancer – The most common type of malignant mammary cancer in cats is adenocarcinoma making up 80% of mammary tumours.
  • Fibrosarcoma – An aggressive type of malignant growth (cancer) that originates in the fibrous connective tissue.

Cancer can occur in cats of any age, but it is most commonly seen in middle-aged to older cats. It is a leading cause of death in elderly cats.

What causes cancer in cats?

There are a number of causes of cancer in cats, some of which include:

  • Carcinogens (agents which can cause cancer). Examples of carcinogens include UV radiation, X-Rays, certain chemicals, environmental toxins, cigarette smoke.
  • Viruses such as feline leukemia virus.
  • Genetic predisposition.

In many cases, the cause of cancer is not known.


Cancer symptoms will vary depending on the location and part of the body affected by cancer. Some common symptoms may include:

Diagnosing cancer in cats:

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. In some cases, he may be able to make a presumptive diagnosis if there is an obvious growth, but a definitive diagnosis can not be made without a sample being sent to pathology for evaluation.

Tests he may need to perform include:

  • Baseline tests: Complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis to evaluate the overall health of your cat and look for signs of infection or inflammation.
  • Biopsy: If there is an obvious growth your veterinarian will take a biopsy which will be sent to a laboratory for evaluation.
  • Imaging: X-rays and/or ultrasound may be necessary to evaluate the internal organs and look for tumours inside the body.

Treating cancer in cats:

Treatment may vary depending on the location but may include:

  • Surgery to remove a tumour and surrounding tissue if possible. Sometimes cancer may be located in a part of the body which makes it impossible to remove. In which case chemotherapy may be recommended to shrink the cancer. This isn’t curative, but it will enable your cat to live longer.
  • Chemotherapy may be recommended after surgery to remove the cancer to kill any cells left behind.
  • Radiotherapy.

Chemotherapy may be administered at a specialist veterinary centre. It doesn’t cause hair loss in cats but in my experience, did cause our cat to be lethargic and off her food for one to two days after administration.

Preventing cancer in cats:

It is not always possible to prevent cancer in cats but there are certainly things we can do to reduce the chances of some types of cancer.

Spaying and neutering

This reduces their chances of roaming and catching FeLV, which is a known factor in feline cancers. Intact females are at greater risk of developing mammary cancer than spayed females and castration eliminates a male cat’s chances of developing testicular cancer.

Household chemicals

Our cats are exposed to chemicals every day. They are at greater risk than humans because of their fastidious grooming which means anything that comes into contact with their coat is ingested. We can’t avoid the use of certain treatments to prevent parasites, nor should we, good parasite control is vital. We can reduce exposure to household chemicals by using natural products such as white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda in our day to day cleaning. Obviously, these are not effective where proper disinfection is required, or in veterinary practices or boarding catteries, but the average household often uses chemicals when natural products can do the job just as well.


There has been a lot of talk about over-vaccinating our cats over the past 10 years. Only you and your veterinarian know your cat’s individual circumstances, but it is a discussion you should have. The new recommendation by the Australian Veterinary Association as well as the American Association of Feline Practitioners (page six) is to give your low-risk, household cats their core vaccinations (F3) as a kitten. Three vaccinations spaced 4 weeks apart at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, followed by a booster at 12 months and then every three years. This can reduce the risks of injection site sarcoma. Local regulations or individual risk factors may warrant more frequent vaccination as well as the administration of some non-core vaccinations.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) believes that in most cases, core vaccines need not be administered any more frequently than triennially and that even less frequent vaccination may be considered appropriate if an individual animal’s circumstances warrant it. However, local factors may dictate more frequent vaccination scheduling. These recommendations may be ‘off-label’ for some vaccines. AVA vaccination of dogs and cats

Reduce sun exposure

Try to keep cats indoors between the hours of 10 am – 4 pm, this is even more important if your cat is white or pale coloured. Cats should have access to shady area to get out of the sun and if you notice any redness or damaged tissue, especially around the ears, seek veterinary attention.

Smoke outside

Cigarette smoke is a known carcinogen to both cats and humans.

Annual check-ups

Even if you decide to go with triannual vaccinations, it is still important your cat see a veterinarian at least once a year and twice a year once he reaches 7 years of age for a health check-up.

If you notice any changes including lumps or bumps or other changes, seek veterinary attention immediately. Some cancers are very treatable if caught early.