What is Fainting?
If your cat faints, seek immediate help. His behavior is a symptom of a medical condition. A licensed veterinarian can diagnose it and recommend an appropriate cure.
Syncope, or fainting, in cats occurs during an interruption of blood supply to the brain. This event stops the flow of vital nutrients and oxygen, resulting in physical impairment. Common risk factors include age and heart disease. Treatment varies and depends on the underlying cause.
Symptoms of Fainting in Cats
Fainting in cats shows up through physical abnormalities. Reflexes become slow. At times, movement is non-existent. Some cats become confused or exhibit glassy-eyed stares. Yet, not all collapse or experience a loss of consciousness. Be mindful of this fact to avoid mistaking a symptom for general tiredness. They are as follows:
- Unforeseen falls
- Sudden sitting or lying down
- Unresponsiveness to voice or touch
- Hind leg stiffness or weakness
- Loss of consciousness
- Refusal to move
- Total collapse
Fainting in cats may last a few seconds to hours. Most recover on their own. Since it’s a symptom of a medical condition or disease, early detection is key. Set an appointment with a vet as soon as possible.
Causes of Fainting in Cats
Cats faint for different reasons. None of them are environmental. All incidents relate to a physical malady. Young felines born with a congenital heart anomaly and seniors have the highest risk. Below are frequent triggers:
- Hypoglycemia: Diabetes and poor diet spur on hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Along with fainting, it causes extreme hunger, clumsiness, and death.
- Lung Dysfunction: A virus (pneumonia) or fluid build-up (pulmonary edema) in the lungs prevent oxygen circulation. As a consequence, the brain, joints, and nerves don’t get enough oxygen to function in a normal way.
- Cardiovascular Disease: Heart defects such as cardiac arrhythmia or cardiomyopathy also lower oxygen circulation throughout the body. Signs are shortness of breath, numbness of limbs, and disorientation.
- Degenerative Myelopathy: Incurable, degenerative myelopathy damages the spinal cord. As it progresses, misfired sensory messages to the brain and legs lead to sudden falls.
- Hip Dysplasia:. Hip dysplasia or misalignment of the hip joint limit your feline’s mobility. He may collapse and struggle to rise again afterward.
- Poisoning: When a cat ingests a pesticide, human drug, or cleaning product, he may faint. The toxins in these products compromise his internal organs, causing them to fail.
Potential cat owners should know certain breeds are susceptible to fainting. The ragdoll is one. This long-haired beauty often develops hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with age. The left ventricle grows thicker than normal, causing a wide range of breathing problems and depression.
Diagnosis of Fainting in Cats
To diagnose fainting in cats, a vet does an exam and orders a series of tests. The purpose is to find the driving disease or medical condition. His discovery provides the necessary data to create a treatment plan.
- Complete medical history: Medical events in your pet’s past shed light on why he’s fainting. The vet needs this information to derive a diagnosis.
- A thorough physical exam: A vet checks your feline’s body for bruises, fractures and cuts. This includes taking his pulse.
- A series of blood tests: They help identify malformed red blood cells and glucose levels. It’s a way to visualize infection or disease such as diabetes.
- X-rays: Since musculoskeletal disorders cause fainting, a vet may request this radiology test. X-rays display bone or joint damage. Other related tests are ultrasounds and MRIs. The former reveals images of vital organs and latter, the brain.
- Holter monitor: A feline wears this device around his neck. It records heart rhythms for a period of 24 to 48 hours to distinguish irregularities.
Treatment of Fainting in Cats
Medical care for fainting in cats stems from the underlying source. A vet might make a simple recommendation or discuss surgery. In irreversible cases, there’s no treatment. The first step is to restrict activity and keep your animal quiet until arrival at a hospital.
For felines with low sugar or an adverse reaction to drugs, a vet prescribes appropriate medication to control sugar levels or counteract the effects of another drug.
In cases of poisoning, a vet induces vomiting to rid a cat's system of harmful toxins. Another method is excessive flushing with liquids.
For felines with bronchitis or other bacterial ailments, a vet prescribes this drug. Give your pet the entire dose of antibiotics even after he appears better.
Steroids are used to reduce inflammation. They are helpful in cases of pneumonia, which swells lung tissue.
Whenever possible (and prudent), a vet performs surgery to realign hip joints. Be aware this option isn’t for all cats.
If your cat has an irreversible disease, a vet suggests lifestyle changes. They involve dietary and exercise restrictions to maintain weight or sugar levels.
Recovery of Fainting in Cats
Since fainting in cats is a symptom of more than one type of affliction, recovery and management scenarios differ. Both hinge on the cause of the episode. Here are a few considerations:
- Expect at least one follow-up visit. The vet will re-examine your cat to make sure he’s getting better. Be ready to answer questions about his overall health.
- The vet may prescribe a special diet. In the event of poisoning or diabetes, your feline can’t eat food that’s harsh or high in sugar.
- The vet may restrict activity until fainting spells end. It’s for the safety and well-being of your cat.
- Some cats never recover. Because of their age or disorder, they must live with fainting spells. Your focus then is to figure out how to reduce the number of incidents through lifestyle changes.
Fainting Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 16 year old neutered female DSH cat has been diagnosed with AV block. During a series of ECGs, x-rays and ultrasounds, a thickening was also observed in her small intestine. The vets feel this could be IBS, could be lymphoma or could be nothing. We are waiting to re-scan her abdomen to see if there has been any change in the area before considering whether or not to implant a pacemaker in such an elderly cat (who may or may not have cancer).
Since she is home from hospital, she has had 2 bouts of syncope that I have observed. Is there anything I can do to help get her heart going again and/or make syncope recovery faster & easier. She is only out for a few seconds, but seems very disoriented and weak afterwards. Thanks
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