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What is Drowning?

If your pet cannot swim, or has any other medical condition, it is important to watch them near any body of water. Even if your cat is rescued after falling and struggling in the water, they may still suffer some mild to life-threatening near-drowning symptoms.

There are several things that can prevent your cat from exiting a body of water. The unfortunate outcomes of that can be immediately fatal in the case of drowning, or can cause near drowning, an act that may lead to further complications down the road-- even death. Near drowning is, in short, defined as inhaling a large amount of water and surviving. The survival typically lasts beyond 24 hours, although you may notice symptoms before and within that timeframe.

Drowning Average Cost

From 440 quotes ranging from $800 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,000

Symptoms of Drowning in Cats

Near drowning occurs consistently in four stages. The first noticeable stage is your cat will make rapid swimming motions and attempt to hold their breath. Secondly, they will begin choking once the water fills their lungs. The next stage concerns gagging and vomiting. Lastly, your cat will lose consciousness, which may eventually lead to death.

Beyond the four stages, there are a few other symptoms to be on the lookout for:

  • Blue/gray tongue/mucous membrane
  • Fluid coming from mouth/nose
  • Extreme anxiety/distress
  • Dilated pupils
  • Difficulty regulating body temperature
  • Signs of shock (e.g. increased heart rate, weak pulse)
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Causes of Drowning in Cats

There are a handful of situations that can induce your cat into experiencing drowning or near drowning:

  • Age (very young/very old may lose strength faster or be unable to swim)
  • Medical conditions (e.g. blindness, seizures, dementia)
  • Exhaustion (e.g. unable to exit a pool)
  • Owner negligence (e.g. unattended pet, young children bathing pet unsupervised)
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Diagnosis of Drowning in Cats

If your cat appears to be behaving normally after having been underwater, then your veterinarian may only want to keep them under 24-hour observation to be certain they don't experience any symptoms. For the more serious near drowning cases, your vet will want to perform several diagnostic tests.

Two common exams are a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a biochemistry profile, both of which are useful in checking over the white blood cells or any damage that may have occurred to internal organs due to oxygen deprivation. Another routine check requires the use of a pulse oximeter, a clip placed on your cat's lip, to measure oxygenation. Further ways to see how well your cat can oxygenate is by obtaining an arterial blood gas. The result of that will tell your vet if your cat requires oxygen therapy.

Chest x-rays are typically taken as well as they can tell your vet if pneumonia or a pulmonary edema is present. As pulmonary edemas can take up to two days to develop, routine x-rays may be required. In the case of pneumonia (or contaminated water), your vet may utilize a transtracheal aspiration (TTA) to sample the fluid in the lungs, which helps determine what antibiotics may be needed.

In the event your cat was submerged in fresh water, a urinalysis will be useful to detect any damage to the red blood cells, resulting in hemoglobin in the urine.

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Treatment of Drowning in Cats

Treatment of near drowning varies as it depends on how long your cat was submerged, what damage was sustained, and the type of water.

Hospitalization

No matter how your cat may be behaving, it is best for them to undergo 24-hour observation after a near drowning as symptoms may still reveal themselves over time. If your cat has any difficulty breathing, your vet will administer oxygen therapy to assist. Once oxygen and/or IV therapy has failed, your cat will be connected to a ventilator to breathe for them, usually for 24-72 hours until they gain the strength to breathe on their own.

Your vet may also use a bronchodilator such as terbutaline to improve breathing by dilating the airways, but it tends to only have a minor, temporary effect. If there is water in the lungs, then diuretics can help in ridding it.

Medication

Antibiotics will be administered if pneumonia is detected or your cat was submerged in water that may be contaminated.

Other medication that will be sent via IV includes drugs such as steroids, which are used in the case of cerebral edema. Fluids are also used to reduce dehydration and in the treatment of shock.

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Recovery of Drowning in Cats

Recovering from near drowning may take some time depending on the extent of your cat's injuries. It is best to change up their normal routine to keep them relaxed and taking it easy. They may have experienced lung damage from mild to severe, so you should not allow them to exercise much, if at all, for a week or so following discharge from the hospital.

If your cat has experienced severe complications such as pneumonia or a pulmonary edema, they will have difficulty breathing, so keeping them calm and exercise-free is important until their health improves. Try to follow up with your vet even if your cat appears normal as your vet can conduct the proper tests in order to see whether or not your pet has recovered, especially in the case antibiotics are being administered.

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Drowning Average Cost

From 440 quotes ranging from $800 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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Drowning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Common cat

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Four Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

we took her a bath and some water got in her nose she’s had a runny nose and makes a weird sound every now and then I’m scared it’s something bad

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, She may have gotten a little water in her respiratory tract causing these signs. If she is acting normal otherwise she may be just fine. If she got a lot of water, should could develop pneumonia and would need to see a vet.

Aug. 3, 2020

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Whitey

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Common kitten

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1 Month

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Weak, Cold, Disfunctioning Back Leg

Hello! My kitten was found nearly drowned in the drain. Idk how long it had been there but most likely it's more than 6hours. It currently unable to walk because his back leg seems not functioning. I found a few wounds as if it was stung by a scorpion. And i also noticed there were some worms on its body, perhaps the worms from the drain. Its body is so cold right now and its mother rejected to nurse it. What should i do?! Please help me i dont want to lose my kitten. The kitten is concsious but it is not active, i mean it seems weak . There's no vet in my city and i really wanna cry rn pls help meee

Aug. 1, 2018

Whitey's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Other than keeping Whitey warm and offering formula, there may not be anything that you can do for her without veterinary care. It sounds like she had a significant trauma, and she may not survive without veterinary care. If there is a veterinarian that you can travel to, it may be a good idea to do so. I hope that Whitey is okay.

Aug. 1, 2018

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Kevin

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Siamese

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2 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Peei
Peeing Brown Not Red

My kitten accidentally drowned in a water filled with soap for almost 5-10 secondes, he's breathing but he doesn't drink or eat anything, He is peeing brown, and he keeps on meowing but in a different voice, its sounds like that he's meowing but underwater, what do I have to do to help him? Plss answer

June 15, 2018

Kevin's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Kevin may have gotten some of the soapy water in his lungs or swallowed the water, and that can cause serious problems for him. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian right away to see what might be going on with him and what treatment that he may need. I hope that he is okay.

June 15, 2018

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Arsene

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Black

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Odd Meow
Odd Breathin
Won’T Eat Treats

My older brother gave my cat a bath and didn’t think to not get water/soap near his nose and mouth. He sounds like a straw drinking out of a nearly empty cup and his meows sound weak otherwise he’s behaving normally except He won’t eat his treats

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Kia

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Tuxedo

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15 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Dead

I came home to find my 15 yr old cat floating in the pool.I was i desited .She just had blood work and had a clean bill of health new hair cut ,only problem she had was a little problem with one of her hips .We were giving her pain meds to help the hip but anyway I can't figure out what could of happened ,friends are telling me she could of had a stroke .I will always wonder what happened,I'm so hurt

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Jynx

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Not sure

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4 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Wet Fur
Breathing Sounds Funny

I was giving my cat a bath(she got a bath because she had fleas) and I think she may have breathe in some water because she was fighting it so much what would be the best way to know it she has or not?

Drowning Average Cost

From 440 quotes ranging from $800 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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