Educational Articles

Cats + Emergency Situations

  • Meningitis refers to inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Causes include bacterial infection, viral infection, fungal infection, protozoal infection, aberrant parasite migration, or immune-mediated disease. A CSF tap is the most accurate way to diagnose meningitis, though CT and MRI may also be beneficial. Treatment and prognosis vary, depending upon the underlying cause.

  • Metaldehyde toxicity occurs when a dog (or, less commonly, a cat) eats slug bait that contains metaldehyde. The signs of metaldehyde toxicity include vomiting, anxiety, ataxia (due to muscle incoordination), stiffness, muscle tremors, elevated heart rate and respiratory rate, increased salivation, and increased sensitivity to touch. These signs often progress to continuous muscle tremors and seizures. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and history. There is no antidote to metaldehyde; treatment is centered upon decontamination and supportive care. Prognosis is good with aggressive treatment.

  • Mothballs are solid pesticides that slowly release a vapor to kill and repel moths, their larvae, and other insects from stored clothing and fabric. Mothballs are sometimes also used to repel snakes, mice, and other animals, although this use is not recommended and can be harmful to pets, children, and the environment.

  • Mushroom toxicity can run the gamut from irritating illness to severe toxicity to death. The species of mushroom and amount ingested determine the severity of the toxicity. Since mushrooms are difficult to identify, it is best to discourage your pet from eating any mushrooms growing in the wild. In the event of mushroom ingestion, prompt treatment is critical to successful treatment. Pet owners need to be alert to the possibility of mushroom toxicity and work to eliminate their pet’s access to mushrooms.

  • House paint, art paint, varnishes and other decorative or protective solvents come in many varieties, and most are dangerous to dogs and cats. Water-based paints, the most common, include latex, tempera, and poster paints.

  • The pancreas is a vital organ on the right side of the abdomen adjacent to the stomach. It produces enzymes to assist in food digestion and hormones such as insulin, which regulates blood sugar or glucose metabolism. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the condition is called pancreatitis. Common clinical signs include decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If the attack is severe, acute shock or death may occur. Successful pancreatitis management will depend on early diagnosis and prompt medical therapy.

  • Pancreas-specific lipase is a form of lipase produced only in the pancreas and is highly specific to the pancreas. Blood values increase only when there is pancreatic inflammation. There is now a version of the fPLI test that can be used in-clinic (SNAP fPL© from IDEXX). Ideally, the sample should also be sent to the laboratory to get an actual value of fPLI to help with treatment and monitoring.

  • Penetrating wounds can look minor on the surface but may cause severe injury below the skin. A thorough assessment requires sedation or anesthesia and surgery may be required to address the extent of the injury. This handout outlines first aid steps a pet owner can take while transporting their injured pet to the veterinary hospital.

  • Pericardial effusion refers to the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the sac surrounding the heart. Pericardial effusion can have a number of underlying causes, including inflammation, infection, cancer, and hereditary defects. Mild cases of pericardial effusion may be asymptomatic, but more significant fluid accumulations can interfere with the heart’s function and lead to severe effects such as sudden death. Treatment and prognosis is dependent upon the underlying cause of the condition.

  • Pleural effusion refers to the abnormal accumulation of fluid within the chest cavity. The fluid is not found within the lungs, but instead within the pleural sac, essentially meaning the lungs are floating in a chest that is full of fluid. Several conditions can cause pleural effusion, including chylothorax, heart failure, and tumors in the lungs or chest wall. Immediate treatment often requires oxygen support and the removal of the excess fluid by thoracocentesis, which can also then be tested to diagnose the cause of the pleural effusion. Treatment and prognosis vary depending on the underlying cause of the pleural effusion.