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What are Cyanosis?

Two different categories of cyanosis exist, central and peripheral. Central cyanosis involves the entire blood supply having reduced amounts of oxygen and can be life-threatening. All tissue throughout the body is affected. Central cyanosis is often the result of severe disease, defect, or poisoning. Peripheral cyanosis occurs when only one location of the body is experiencing poorly oxygenated blood supply. Usually, it is a limb or tail that is affected. Local blood flow reduction is often connected with blood stream obstructions or tourniquets on the limb. Cyanosis can happen at any age, but if it is found in a young cat, a genetic defect is often the underlying issue.

When there is diminished oxygen in the blood, it changes color to a blueish tone.The off-colored blood, in turn, gives tissue color a blue, purple, or brownish tinge. Tissue color changes are termed as cyanosis, and are an indication of a health problem within the body. Health issues that result in lack of oxygen to the blood, a condition referred to as “hypoxia”,  generally have to do with diseases of the heart and lungs or ingestion of harmful toxins.

Cyanosis Average Cost

From 295 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,000

Symptoms of Cyanosis in Cats

While the most obvious symptom of cyanosis is the discoloration of visible skin, the common underlying causes of cyanosis carry many more complicated signs. Symptoms may develop rapidly, and need immediate veterinary attention. Signs to watch for are as follows:

  • Blue/purple/brown color of the lips, tongue and gums
  • Blue/purple foot pads
  • Lethargy 
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Difficult or open-mouth breathing
  • Tachypnea (rapid breathing)
  • Tiring easily
  • Poor coat
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Causes of Cyanosis in Cats

There are numerous causes of cyanosis development in cats. Cyanosis itself is not a health issue, but a symptom of health issues within the body. Causative diseases often are related to the heart and lungs. Poisoning is another common underlying issue. Possible causes include:

  • Airway obstruction (possibly from tumor growth)
  • Thromboembolism (a blood clot that develops from heart problems)
  • A tourniquet created on purpose or by accident 
  • Shock
  • Respiratory paralysis
  • Hypoventilation
  • Atrial septal defect leading to right to left shunting (blood bypasses lungs)
  • Tetralogy of fallot (four coexisting heart defects)
  • Hypothermia
  • Pneumothorax (gas in the chest cavity that collapses the lungs)
  • Pleural effusion (fluid in the chest)
  • Severe pneumonia
  • Muscle disorder or failure
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) ingestion
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Hydrogen cyanide exposure
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Diagnosis of Cyanosis in Cats

Once you bring your cat to a veterinary clinic or animal hospital, it may need to be stabilized before any diagnostic testing can be performed. Certain underlying issues severely interfere with breathing and can be fatal if not treated. Once the cat is in a sustainable condition, the veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination and will listen to the heart and lungs of the cat. You will need to provide the vet with your cat’s full medical history. 

The first test that may be run is an arterial blood gas measurement. A blood sample taken from an artery is monitored while receiving oxygen supplementation. The blood will clear if lung disease is the underlying issue, and will not if an obstruction or poisoning has occurred. Pulse oximetry is another noninvasive test that provides a continuous reading of blood through the armpit or groin while oxygen is supplied. 

An ultrasound of the heart may be needed to see any defects are present. Electrocardiography may also be required if heart complications have been identified. Thoracocentesis can be used to remove a sample of fluid or gas in the chest cavity for testing. A transtracheal wash can help identify any bacterial infections in the lungs. Blood work including a complete blood count and a biochemical panel can help reveal the overall health of the cat. 

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Treatment of Cyanosis in Cats

Appropriate treatment will depend on the underlying health issue in the cat. Central cyanosis is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention, often involving the placement of the cat into an oxygen chamber.

Congenital Heart Disease 

If defects of the heart are found, surgical correction may be necessary. Heart surgery carries serious risks and requires the use of general anesthetic. If blood clots have been found, often a heart defect is the cause. 

Chemical Exposure 

Medication should be administered to counteract poisoning by Tylenol or other chemicals. N-acetylcysteine is generally used to alleviate the toxicity. Internal tissue injury should be limited and prevented where possible.

Respiratory Disorders

If fluid is present in the chest cavity, it should be removed by thoracentesis. If fluid is in the lungs, diuretics may be prescribed. If infection is present, a course of antibiotics will be needed. Oxygen supplementation may be needed to ease breathing throughout these treatments. 

Airway Obstruction 

The foreign body causing obstruction will need to be removed. Surgery is sometimes needed for complete removal. Intubation of the trachea may be needed to restore breathing before the obstruction is removed.

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Recovery of Cyanosis in Cats

If your cat has undergone surgery for health problems related to cyanosis, recovery may be slow. All at-home care instructions should be followed to ensure the best possible outcome. Monitor the incision site daily to watch for swelling, bleeding or other signs of infection. Limit activity and keep the cat indoors during the healing process. A postoperative appointment will be needed to verify success of the surgery.

Congenital defects are hard to prevent, however, any cat with defects should not be bred. This can help eliminate the passing on of hereditary issues. Keep all medications and chemicals locked away in your home to ensure your cat can not access and ingest them.

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Cyanosis Average Cost

From 295 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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Cyanosis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Seal point Himalayan cat

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Wheezing, Blue Tongue And Gums, Difficulty Breathing

Our cat had episodes where he has extreme difficulty breathing, his tongue and gums turn blue/purple and he wheezes/coughs. In between these episodes he acts pretty much normal, eats and drinks well still and isn’t lethargic. We have been told that he has asthma and have been giving him albuterol as a treatment but it does not seem to help long term, just in the moment. Is there another treatment available?

July 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Ellen M. DVM

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Hello, I am so sorry to hear that your cat has been having issues with asthma. If his gums and tongue are turning blue, this indicates severe respiratory distress and should be treated as an emergency. Albuterol is generally used as a "rescue inhaler" meaning that it is used when the cat is having an acute asthma attack, which is why it is helping in the moment, but not long term. For long-term management, it is recommend that cats with asthma be put on an inhaler that also includes a steroid to help decrease inflammation in the airways. Sometimes veterinarians will also prescribe an oral steroid, or will use the oral steroid instead of the steroid inhaler, depending on the case. Here is a great link about asthma in cats. I hope that your cat starts feeling better soon! https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-asthma-what-you-need-know

July 27, 2020

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Cleo

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Cat

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Wound
Pus Leaking From Eyes
Blue Skin

My cat had an infected wound on her foot, near one of her foot pads. Took her to the vet and she received a 2 week dose of antibiotics through an injection. A few days ago I noticed she had pus coming out of her eyes, this lasted a couple of days. The pus has stopped but I’ve just noticed that around where her infected wound was her skin is now blue. What could this be?

Aug. 8, 2018

Cleo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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That sounds very strange, and it might be best to have a recheck for Cleo to make sure that everything is okay with that wound, and with her eyes. Without seeing her, I have a hard time knowing what might be going on, or if it is normal - it may be healing normally, but it would be a good idea to make sure.

Aug. 8, 2018

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Bebo

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Indian billi

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8 Months

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Weakness
Weakness, Bluish Purple Skin
Weakness, Bluish Purple Skin,
Weakness, Bluish Purple Skin, Anorexia

My cat had an old wound I saw maggots inside so asked vet I he told to grind naphthalene ball and sprinkle powder inside..I did the same and left my cat alone..few hrs later when I saw her again there was puke on floor and lather coming out of her mouth.. called vet he said to give half tablet of citrizine...so I did and the cats drooling decreased then I gave her glucose and after 2 hrs again gave citrizine half tablet as told by vet...today morning she looked very weak unable to walk properly I gave her pet electral and she still looks weak but better is able to stand...I noticed purplish blue area at a spot near her abdomen where I sprinkled naphthalene and her skin looks blue too..what should I do? I am forcefully spraying electral her mouth with syringe she is not eating anything but she drank water.

July 18, 2018

Bebo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Napthalene is toxic to cats if they eat it, and Bebo may have licked some of the toxin from her skin. If you have a veterinarian who can see her, it would be a good idea to have her examined - she may need supportive care, as that can cause kidney and liver failure. I hope that she is okay.

July 18, 2018

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Alfie

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Cat

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5 Weeks

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Inactive
Cyanosis

My kitten is very small and bony but is being fed 3 times a day. It is being given a milk supplement and wet cat food. He is purplish around the mouth and passing hard stool. He was very active when I first got him but the pst two days he hasn’t really meowed nor being active only laying down

May 11, 2018

Alfie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Kittens are prone to parasites, infectious diseases, and problems from birth. Without knowing anything about Alfie, it is hard for me to say what might be going on with him, but if you are noticing that he is a blue or purple color, he should be seen by a veterinarian to make sure that he isn't having any respiratory problems.

May 11, 2018

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Ilee (Isles)

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Cat

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Tongue is darker color and has several dark spots on it. She is 2 years old and was a runt. She is a white calico cat. She has been fixed but has not had shots. She is an indoor kitty and support animal. Her appetite and activity level is normal.

April 11, 2018

Ilee (Isles)'s Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

The changes that you are noticing with Ilee may be normal for her, a pigment change as she ages, or she may be having a problem. Since I cannot see her, it would be best to have her examined by a veterinarian, so make sure that she is okay. If she has not had any vaccinations, that would be a good idea, as well, to keep her healthy.

April 12, 2018

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ms tricksky

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Ally

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1 Day

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Laughing Purple Cat

I woke up from my 409 day coma and all I wanted to do was go home and cuddle my cat but ms tricksky was purple and I lays in the floor laughing for 249 hours send help

Cyanosis Average Cost

From 295 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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