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What are Blue Skin And Mucous Membranes?

Veterinarians use the term cyanosis to describe blue skin and gums in cats. This condition can appear when your cat’s heart is not effectively pumping enough blood to circulate his body. Hemoglobin is the protein that is responsible for transporting blood throughout your cat’s body. Healthy hemoglobin is red in color. When there is not enough oxygen being delivered throughout the body, the result is a blueish tint to skin and mucous membranes.

If you are like most cat owners, your cat’s health is of the utmost importance. While most cats are generally healthy, there are times where unusual symptoms can occur. Blue tinted skin and mucous membranes in your cat can be troubling to see. This is not caused by disease, but is a direct result of an underlying condition affecting your cat’s health.

Symptoms of Blue Skin And Mucous Membranes in Cats

Cyanosis is often a frightening symptom for pet owners to see in their beloved cat. Below is a list of other symptoms that may occur along with the discoloration of skin and gums. 

  • Blue tinted tongue
  • Purple colored foot pads
  • Blue or purple colored gums
  • Swollen extremities
  • Hind leg paralysis
  • Crackling cough
  • Wheezing in the lungs
  • Overall body weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Unhealthy appearance


Veterinarians classify cyanosis into two types:

  • Central cyanosis: This occurs when the entire systemic blood system in your cat is affected. This affects every tissue in your cat’s body. In these cases, the bluish discoloration is widespread.
  • Peripheral cyanosis: When peripheral cyanosis occurs, blood is not receiving the proper amount of oxygen in certain areas of the body. 

Causes of Blue Skin And Mucous Membranes in Cats

There are several different causes for blue skin and mucous membranes to occur in your cat. Here are some of the most common causes in domestic cats. 

  • Peripheral blood disease
  • Congenital heart conditions
  • Fluid around the heart
  • Mitral valve disorder
  • Blood clot in the lungs
  • Neurological problems
  • Brain stem malformations
  • Problems in the spinal cord due to injury
  • Raised levels of methemoglobin in the body
  • Ingestion of certain chemicals such as benzocaine or acetaminophen

Diagnosis of Blue Skin And Mucous Membranes in Cats

Your veterinarian will use a variety of tools to diagnose the cause of cyanosis in your cat. First, he will take a detailed medical history from you regarding your cat’s health. It is important to include information such as onset of symptoms, severity of symptoms and how your cat is behaving. After taking a history, your doctor will examine your cat. A blood test will tell your doctor how your cat’s hemoglobin is being affected and if any infections are present. A urine sample will also be taken and analyzed. 

If cyanosis is visible to your doctor, he will attempt to increase your cat’s oxygen levels. He may place your cat in a special oxygen rich chamber to bring his levels up to normal. An ultrasound may be able to reveal fluid in the areas surrounding your cat’s lungs. If fluid does exist, your doctor may perform a needle procedure to remove the fluid so your cat can breathe better.

When a heart defect is suspected to be the cause of cyanosis, an echocardiogram may be performed. This test can give your doctor detailed information about the structure of the heart.

Treatment of Blue Skin And Mucous Membranes in Cats

The treatment plan for cyanosis in your cat will depend on the cause of the condition. Here are a few ways this condition may be treated and managed:


When oxygen levels are low due to illness such as pneumonia, medications such as antibiotics may be given. If your cat’s blood sugar is low, glucose may be administered to relieve symptoms. Diuretics are often given to help remove fluid if congenital heart failure is diagnosed


A fine needle aspiration may be performed to remove fluid from the chest wall. In addition, surgery may be required to repair blockages, remove tumors or remove foreign objects restricting blood flow. 

Recovery of Blue Skin And Mucous Membranes in Cats

The recovery process will depend on the cause of cyanosis and the treatment your veterinarian uses. There are no at home remedies you can use to treat this condition. It can be a serious condition with life-threatening consequences for your cat, since his body is not receiving enough oxygen through his blood.

If surgery has been performed, your veterinarian will give you medications to use afterward and a detailed account on how to care for your cat once he goes home. Needle aspirations usually do not require long-term or special care. In these cases, the cat’s oxygen levels rise as soon as the fluid is removed. 

Your veterinarian may send you home with a special diet or nutritional supplements for your cat. Be sure to follow his orders exactly to obtain the best possible outcome for your pet. 

Your doctor may also recommend that you restrict your cat’s activity level until he becomes stronger and more stable. 

Blue Skin And Mucous Membranes Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

14 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms



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Domestic long hair
3 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Small blue spot on stomach

I noticed the other day a small blue spot on my cats stomach. Not sure how long it has been there, but from what I can tell my cat is still super active and eats/drinks like normal. Do these sometimes just show up and go away on their own?

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8 Weeks
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Blue skin purple foot pads

We adopted a cat a few weeks ago.. we were playing around with her tonight checking to make sure she has no skin bugs with out flash light. Noticed the skin on her back is blue. Her belly skin and tail skin is white. She's black and grey tabby. We looked up blue skin in cats and this came up. The pads of her feet are a purple color. She's playful and seems to have normal play time with our other cat. But now I'm worried... She definitely wants to be cuddled up and warm a lot

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Maine Coon
3 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Shallow Rapid Breathing

The cat threw up yellow bile here and there i thought it was usual hairball of the month. However i left the cat alone for a few days for a small trip and when i got back still hadnt finished its food like normal usually i fill up like a half gallon with his food and another 2 half gallons with water whenever i leave him for more than a day and this time i got back and the food was all there including the water and he is very weak. His symptoms are blue gums it feels like his kidneys may have swelled again (he had a uti last year) he likes to be in the garage. I think he might have ate a rat that might have been poisoned by neighbor or possibly licked some antifreeze. Either way he has blueish gums, a swollen organ near the hind legs causes him pain to touch,weakness, depression, had like a seizure of sorts getting out of litter box, extremely shaky,and elevated breathing.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Take Zeus to a Veterinarian (regular or emergency) immediately, there is nothing I can recommend you do at home at this point since it seems that he may have been this way for a few days if no water or food was touched. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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