What is Acute Collapse?
Acute collapse is generally symptomatic rather than a standalone condition. Acute collapse may be caused by a number of conditions, including but not limited to shock, Addison’s disease, and diabetes.
Acute collapse is a rare but serious symptom in cats that occurs when a cat becomes suddenly weak and faints or collapses. This is not the same thing as lying down; acute collapse is similar to a person passing out, and is characterized by weakness and disorientation. Collapse may also be preceded by vomiting, diarrhea, or panting. In most cases, cats will collapse for one minute or less and may return to normal quickly. However, it is unwise to delay treatment based on this fact, as acute collapse may be a sign of a serious condition and can also cause sudden death.
Symptoms of Acute Collapse in Cats
Due to the myriad of conditions it may be attributed to, acute collapse should be treated as an emergency. By the time fainting happens, the underlying condition may have advanced to a serious state. Seek immediate veterinary attention if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Weakness or unsteadiness
- Signs of anxiety and/or confusion
- Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
- Muscle twitching
- Pale gums and tongue
- “Glassy” eyes
If your cat has suffered acute collapse and does not respond to you, this means it has lost consciousness and requires emergency veterinary treatment.
Causes of Acute Collapse in Cats
The main cause of collapse – regardless of the underlying condition – is a disruption in the blood and oxygen supply to the brain. Your vet will be able to determine what has caused the disruption during diagnosis. The most common cause of acute collapse in cats is heart muscle disease. There are no breed, sex, or age predispositions for acute collapse in cats, and acute collapse can affect any cat.
There are several underlying conditions that may cause acute collapse. They include:
- Electric shock
- Allergic reaction
- Certain cancers
- Internal hemorrhage
- Abnormal blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Diseases of the blood
- Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency)
- Respiratory diseases
- Diseases of the nervous system
In some cases, there may be no identifiable cause for acute collapse.
Diagnosis of Acute Collapse in Cats
The vet’s first priority is ensuring that the cat has indeed experienced acute collapse instead of a seizure. Be sure to inform your vet of the extent and duration of your cat’s symptoms, as well as any allergies, current medications, or any exposure to toxic substances that you know of.
Cats may appear completely normal after waking up from a collapse; this can make it difficult for the vet to make a diagnosis. It is important that you let your vet know how your cat acted before, during, and after the episode, as this may assist in the diagnostic process.
Your vet will conduct a number of tests to identify the underlying cause of the fainting. The first will likely be an ECG, which may accompany an ultrasound and x-ray of the chest. Blood tests, CT scans, and MRIs may also be required.
Treatment of Acute Collapse in Cats
Treatment of acute collapse will involve treating the underlying cause. Since so many conditions can cause acute collapse, a treatment plan will be created based on your cat’s individual needs. For heart conditions, your vet may surgically place a heart monitor or pacemaker.
In cases which no cause can be identified, your vet will be able to advise you on what to do when your cat suffers from acute collapse in the future. One thing you’ll want to do is practice preventative measures. Pay attention to what happens to your cat just before they have an episode of acute collapse – they may get extremely excited or frightened. This will help you avoid triggering an episode.
Recovery of Acute Collapse in Cats
Always follow your vet’s post-treatment instructions carefully. Recovery and prognosis may vary depending on the underlying cause of collapse. However, you’ll want to follow some general advice for ensuring your cat is comfortable throughout recovery.
Ensure your cat has a warm, safe place to rest. Keep all cleaning products secured where your cat cannot reach them. You may want to restrict your cat’s outdoor activity, particularly if the cause of the collapse was exposure to toxic substances. If your cat has had surgery, do not let them irritate the surgery site. Always administer medications according to your vet’s instructions. Never give your cat any kind of pain medication made for human use unless explicitly instructed by your vet.
Your vet will schedule follow-up appointments as necessary to monitor the underlying condition, if there is one. If you have any questions, or if the condition is not responding to treatment, contact your vet immediately.