March 2009 Issue

Help for the Choking Cat

The cardinal rule: Do not restrain or otherwise stress the panicked animal. Seek veterinary help immediately.

Cats are known to be fastidiously discriminating in their eating behavior. Compared to dogs, they are extremely cautious about what they take into their mouths. Owing to their finicky habits, a cat is unlikely to ingest anything that could cause it to choke. But accidents do happen. A catís environment is full of countless little objects, from sticks, stones and rodent bones ó to thimbles, buttons, rubber bands and strands of yarn. If a cat inadvertently takes such a foreign object into its mouth, is not immediately able to disgorge it and attempts to swallow it, the animalís upper respiratory apparatus can become blocked and its oxygen supply can become seriously diminished or totally impeded. Oxygen deprivation can cause death within a matter of minutes. Therefore, any signs of choking must be viewed as an emergency situation requiring immediate attention. However, says Gretchen Schoeffler, DVM, chief of emergency and critical care services at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, veterinarians rarely treat cases of feline choking. This is because such traumatic events tend to be either (1) self-limiting; (2) relieved thanks to prompt action by an affected animalís owner; or (3) fatal before veterinary help can be obtained.

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