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What is Cardiac Arrest?

This condition can be reversed, but it requires immediate veterinary care to lower the risk of serious complications. Cardiac arrest can become fatal without prompt treatment from a veterinary professional.

Cardiac arrest in cats occurs when regular blood circulation stops, which causes the heart to stop beating. This can happen when cats are unable to breathe normally for several minutes. The respiratory system and cardiovascular system in cats normally work together to ensure regular blood circulation, a normal heart rate, normal breathing and healthy blood pressure levels. When the respiratory system is affected by illness or trauma, oxygen levels in the blood can drop low enough to lead to cardiac arrest. 

Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest in Cats

Cardiac arrest is considered a life-threatening emergency for cats, so it is important for owners to know the symptoms of it. Signs of this condition include:

  • Breathing heavily
  • Showing no response to stimulation
  • Losing consciousness
  • Having pupil dilation
  • Having bluish gums, skin and mucous membranes, which indicates dangerously low levels of oxygen in the bloodstream
  • Having a low body temperature, also known as hypothermia

Causes of Cardiac Arrest in Cats

Cardiac arrest in cats can occur for a number of reasons. Possible causes of this condition include the following:

  • Oxygen levels in the blood that are too low
  • A low supply of oxygen
  • Heart disease
  • A metabolic disease
  • An electrolyte imbalance
  • Brain injuries
  • Low levels of bodily fluids
  • Blood poisoning from toxic bacteria in the bloodstream
  • Shock from trauma
  • Anesthesia for medical procedures

Diagnosis of Cardiac Arrest in Cats

A prompt and accurate diagnosis of cardiac arrest in cats is important in order for veterinarians to treat it properly. A diagnosis includes providing a veterinarian with information on the cat’s medical history and details on when symptoms began to appear and what types of symptoms occurred. Owners should also tell a veterinarian any relevant details that might help explain why their cat went into cardiac arrest, such as an injury or possible exposure to toxic substances. This can help veterinarians treat or manage underlying conditions after they have restored cardiac function. Doing so can help stabilize cats and lower the risk of complications. 

Veterinarians typically do a physical exam that includes checking circulation and respiration for any abnormalities. This exam also involves regularly monitoring blood pressure and checking pulse rates. Veterinarians also perform tests to determine what is causing cardiac arrest. Common tests that are used include X-rays of the chest, blood samples to check the levels of oxygen and other gases, echocardiography to check for evidence of heart disease and a complete blood count. Other tests that are often done include a biochemistry profile and urine tests, which help veterinarians find out what might have led to cardiac arrest.

Treatment of Cardiac Arrest in Cats

Since cardiac arrest in cats is an emergency, prompt veterinary care is required. Owners should bring cats to the nearest veterinary hospital or emergency clinic for treatment. 

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

Immediate medical care by veterinary professionals involves getting the heart to begin beating again and restoring its natural rhythm, as well as returning the cat’s respiration rate to normal. Veterinarians do this by clearing the airways and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. In some cases, veterinarians place a tube down the airways to help keep breathing regular. They might also administer oxygen to restore normal levels of this gas in the bloodstream. Medications that help support regular cardiac function are usually given to cats that are under cardiac arrest. 

Cardiac Massage and Compressions

Another method of restarting the heart involves performing cardiac massage on the chest, which is sometimes required in cats that have heart failure. When this is ineffective, veterinarians might perform chest compressions. These compressions involve pushing down on the chest rapidly to get the heart beating again. 

Open Chest Resuscitation

If cardiac massage and chest compressions are unsuccessful, veterinarians might make incisions in the chest in order to restart the heart. They might also inject medications into the heart to try to restore a heartbeat. 

Recovery of Cardiac Arrest in Cats

Cardiac arrest in cats has a low recovery rate, although this depends in part on what caused this condition to occur and how soon treatment began. The type of treatment that was used can also have an impact on recovery. For example, cats typically require a longer time to recover after having open chest resuscitation. 

Cats usually have to stay in a veterinary hospital for the first few days after treatment to ensure that their condition stabilizes. During this time, veterinarians frequently check blood pressure, cardiac function and respiratory function. If any complications occur, these are treated promptly to help increase the chance of a successful recovery. Owners should bring their cats in for follow-up visits as often as needed. 

Cardiac Arrest Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Maine Coon
5 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Medication Used

Baytril injection, enroflocacin 22

My car died at the vet,s overnite he went in fir crystal, s in his bladder an could not pee he was in horrific pain the vet put cather in an some blood was seen in urine have him pain meds on Monday morning he was not eating or drinking he loved to eat he was a Maine Coon orange weighed 28 pounds never sick 5 years old Sunday nite the vet,s called an said he had difficulty breathing I asked should I be concerned an she said we r taking good care of him Monday a.m.7.33 o'clock that he died during the nite he was my therapy cat greatly loved an missed when I went to say goodbye his eye was closed an one eye was slightly open I asked the doctor what happened he said I do not know, not what I wanted to hear today is Tuesday 31st I called Saturday morning an said I want to know WHY this happened in his care he has not returned my call ,I need to know what happened an why was not he treated more serious he was my breath an now I can not breathe please tell me why his eye was closed an other was a little open did he die a painful long death alone ??? I am desvasaed

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1993 Recommendations
It is never easy having an unexpected loss of a loved one like this and it is normal to be looking for answers; one of his eyes being a little open and the other one closed is not diagnostically relevant and may have been moved during handling. Unfortunately I cannot shed any light on Copper’s death and would advise you request a necropsy to be done at a Pathology Laboratory or another Practice to try to uncover the cause of Copper’s passing. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Maine Coon
7 Years
Serious condition
-1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

No appetite
Labored Breathing
Loss of Appetite

My cat's problem started with vomiting, loss of appetite , and lethargy. After couple days she had labored breathing. We took her to her vet who said the cat seems fine to him and gave her 4 shots. Vit B injection, cerenia for nausea, an antibiotic and steroid shot. That evening her breathing became very labored so i took her to an emergency vet care. Chest x-rays showed fluid in her chest and an enlarged liver. Vet's treatment plan included oxygen therapy and lasix. 6 hours later she went into cardiac arrest and 2 minutes later she died. She had no known medical problems at all so her death is a shock. I'm looking for answers as to why this happened so fast? Please give some info. Thanks.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1993 Recommendations

Sorry to read about your loss. It is normal to look for answers after loosing a loved one, especially when it is unexpected and quick; but I can only give some possibilities and no definitive answers. Lethargy and loss of appetite are vague signs which may apply to numerous conditions, the laboured breathing may have been caused by infection, heart failure, fluid in the lungs, pain response, tumours, anaemia (not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen), fever or trauma; the increase in liver size may have been caused by tumours, systemic disease, blood vessel abnormalities or poisoning. Liver disease is a probable cause; however, without carrying out a necropsy, we cannot know for 100% what caused Princesses death. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Baby kitty dead Holt outside lost one girl kitty dead now 2day min

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