Of course, early warnings don't do you any good if you don't do something about them. You should check out any indicators of potential health problems with your vet as soon as possible, just to be sure. But there are other times when a call to the vet -- or a trip straight to the animal hospital -- is a right-this-minute priority.
Any emergency situation. The common sense definition of a veterinary emergency is when you would call the doctor for yourself if it happened to you. Emergencies where you should take a cat to the vet would therefore include:
- Profuse bleeding, including any open wound or bleeding from the nose, mouth, ears, or any other body opening.
- Fractures or dislocations. If you suspect a broken bone, don't try to find the break or set it yourself. Let a professional handle it.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Fever of more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Cats have a normal body temperature that's a few degrees warmer than ours, but a persistent fever over 102 needs medical attention.
- Difficulty breathing, swallowing, standing, or walking, including prolonged or frequent panting (cats will sometimes pant in extremely hot or humid conditions, or when they have over-exerted in play), staggering, or an uncoordinated or clumsy gait. (Kittens are always a little clumsy, of course.)
- Straining or crying in the litter box, especially during urination. Some cats naturally make a big production out of using the box or even make sounds while digging, eliminating, or burying. You'll have to determine what's normal for your cat, but if you have any doubts, call the vet anyway.
- Convulsion, electrocution, or drowning.
- Blunt trauma, including high falls, being hit by a car, or getting caught in doors or machinery, even if there is no apparent serious injury. These kinds of accidents may cause internal bleeding or injuries only a veterinary exam can detect.
Any symptom that persists more than 48 hours or worsens (even a relatively mild one). Let's say you notice your cat has started sneezing a lot. It could be that she just crawled into a dusty nook somewhere, or it could be the start of a feline cold. If the sneezing doesn't go away after several hours, the cold begins to look like the more likely choice. If your cat is still sneezing a lot by the second day, it's pretty clear it's not going away by itself any time soon and it's time to call the vet.Of course, if any symptom worsens suddenly or interferes with your cat's breathing, eating, drinking, walking, or elimination, don't wait 48 hours. Call the vet immediately.Now that you know the fundamentals of cat disease, we will start to get into the particulars. We will begin in the next section with discussion of cats with asthma.