Carbon monoxide poisoning in cats

We all know how dangerous Carbon Monoxide poisoning can be to us humans, but it is equally important to remember that our pets are affected by it too. This is especially important to our feline friends –  after all, there is nothing more a cat likes on a cold day than to be happily curled up next to a fire or heater.

Why is Carbon Monoxide poisonous to cats?

We rely on our red blood cells within our blood vessels to carry oxygen around our bodies and deliver this to the cells that need it. When we breathe in Carbon Monoxide this binds to the red blood cell effectively stopping it carrying the life-giving oxygen we need. As a result, your cat may be sleepy and drowsy and when walking may be wobbly. More severe signs include convulsions and death.

Why is my cat having breathing difficulties?

There are many different reasons your cat may be struggling to breathe and these include:

  • infection (bacterial, viral, parasitic)
  • trauma
  • bleeding
  • foreign objects
  • heart failure
  • asthma
  • anaemia
  • allergies
  • pain
  • fever
  • diseases that make the belly enlarged or bloated (such as enlarged liver or fluid in the belly)
  • medications
  • tumours
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Diagnosis and treatment

Your vet will ask you about your cat’s health, an onset of signs, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition.  During the examination, your vet will carefully observe how your cat breathes and will listen to his chest for evidence of a heart murmur or fluid in the lungs. Your cat’s gum colour will be evaluated, as this can indicate whether oxygen is being delivered to the organs effectively, or if it there is a low red blood cell count (anaemia).  If your cat is having extreme difficulty breathing, the vet or nurse may take your cat straight out to the back area to enable them to give your cat oxygen to help him breathe and settle down before doing any more examinations or tests.

Most cases will require blood tests to check for underlying disease conditions and X-rays or ultrasound to examine the lungs and heart.

Treatment will depend on the diagnosis your vet makes for your cat’s breathing problems. Most breathing problems require admittance into the hospital until your cat’s breathing has significantly improved.