Top 10 Cat Emergencies


Cats often become reclusive and hide when they are not feeling well, which makes knowing when they need to be seen by your veterinarian a challenge. They have unique signs of emergency conditions that often go unrecognized by owners. Some injuries are obvious, such as a cat with an open wound, while others have more subtle signs that can be equally dangerous if left untreated. Knowing signs of illness is crucial in determining when to seek emergency care for your cat. Below is a list of some of the most common cat emergencies and their signs.


Urethral Obstruction

This is a condition in which a cat, usually male, is unable to urinate due to a blockage in the urethra (the tube leading from the urinary bladder to the outside environment).


Cats will show a sudden onset of restless behavior, which includes frequent trips in and out of the litter box. They will often attempt to urinate in unusual places such as in a bath tub or on a plastic bag. You may notice a very small stream of urine that contains blood. More often than not, despite a cat’s straining, there may be no urine or even just a drop produced. In later stages of the obstruction, cats may cry loudly, vomit, and become lethargic.


You should consider these signs a serious emergency and seek veterinary care immediately. There are reports of cats developing kidney failure and dying within 12 hours after the onset of signs. Expect your cat to be hospitalized at least 36 hours for treatment of this condition. Veterinary treatments may include a urinary catheter, intravenous fluids, and pain management. Female cats are less likely to become obstructed due to their wider urinary tract.


Toxicities (Poisoning)

The combination of their curious nature and unique metabolism (the way their body breaks down chemicals) makes cats vulnerable to toxins. Owners are often unaware that their home contains multiple products that are poisonous to felines. The most common cat toxins include antifreeze, Tylenol, and rat or mouse poison.


The signs your cat displays depends on the type of poison he or she has encountered. Antifreeze will often cause wobbliness or a drunken appearance first, then progresses to vomiting/weakness as the kidneys fail. Tylenol may cause an unusual swelling of the head and changes the cat’s blood color from red to chocolate brown. Rat or mouse poison interferes with blood clotting so you may see weakness from internal blood loss or visible blood in the urine or stool.


Breathing Problems

Often, cats hide the signs of breathing problems by simply decreasing their activity. By the time an owner notices changes in the cat’s breathing, it may be late in the progression of the cat’s lung disease. There are several causes of breathing changes, but the most common are feline asthma, heart disease, or lung disease.


Foreign Object Ingestion

Many cats love to play with strings or string-like objects (such as dental floss, holiday tinsel, or ribbon), but those strings can be dangerous for your cat. When a string is ingested by a cat, one end may become lodged or “fixed” in place, often under the cat’s tongue, while the rest of the string passes further into the intestine. With each intestinal contraction, the string see-saws back and forth actually cutting into the intestine and damaging the blood supply.


Signs that your cat has eaten a foreign object may include vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea, and weakness. Occasionally owners will actually see part of a string coming from the mouth or anal area. You should never pull on any part of the string that is visible; instead, call your veterinary health care team immediately.


Surgery is usually necessary to remove the foreign object and any damaged sections of intestine.


Bite Wounds

Cats are notorious for both inflicting and suffering bite wounds during encounters with other cats. Because the tips of their canine, or “fang,” teeth are so small and pointed, bites are often not noticed until infection sets in, which is usually several days after the initial injury.


Cats may develop a fever and become lethargic 48 to 72 hours after experiencing a penetrating bite wound. They may be tender or painful at the site. If the wound becomes infected or abscessed, swelling and foul-smelling drainage may develop.


You should seek emergency care for bite wounds so your veterinarian can thoroughly clean the area and prescribe appropriate antibiotics. Occasionally, the wounds can develop large pockets called abscesses under the skin that require surgical placement of a drain to aid in healing.


Hit By Car

Cats that spend time outdoors are at a much greater risk for ending up in the emergency room. Being hit by a car is one of the most common causes of traumatic injuries, such as broken bones, lung injuries, and head trauma. You should always seek emergency care if your cat has been hit by a vehicle, even if he or she appears normal, because many injuries can develop or worsen over the following few hours.


Increased Thirst and Urination

Sudden changes in your cat’s thirst and urine volume are important clues to underlying disease. The two most common causes of these changes are kidney disease and diabetes mellitus.


Your veterinarian will need to check blood and urine samples to determine the cause of your cat’s change in thirst and urine. Having your pet seen on an emergency basis for these signs is important because prompt treatment increases chances for recovery. Exposure to certain toxins, such as antifreeze or lilies, will show similar signs, and delaying veterinary care can be fatal.


Sudden Inability to Use the Hind Legs

Cats with some forms of heart disease are at risk for developing blood clots. These clots can sometimes lodge in a large blood vessel—the aorta—where they can prevent normal blood flow to the hind legs. If your cat experiences such a blood clotting episode (often called a saddle thrombus or thromboembolic episode), you will likely see a sudden loss of the use of his or her hind legs, painful crying, and breathing changes.


On arrival at the emergency room, your cat will receive pain management and oxygen support. Tests will be done to evaluate the cat’s heart and determine if there is any heart failure (fluid accumulation in the lungs). Sadly, such an episode is often the first clue for an owner that his or her cat has severe heart disease. In most cases, with time and support, the blood clot can resolve, but the cat’s heart disease will require lifelong treatment.


Upper Respiratory Infections

Cats and kittens can experience a variety of upper respiratory diseases caused by a combination of bacteria or viruses. An upper respiratory infections, or URI, can cause sneezing, runny nose, runny eyes, lack of appetite, and fever. In severe cases, it can cause ulcers in the mouth, on the tongue, and on the eyes. More often than not, severe cases are seen in cats that have recently been in multiple-cat environments, such as shelters. Small kittens, or kittens struggling to thrive, are also easily infected and may develop more severe complications, such as low blood sugar.


Sudden Blindness

A sudden loss of vision is most likely to occur in an older cat. The most common cause is increased blood pressure (hypertension), which may be due to changes in thyroid function (hyperthyroidism) or kidney disease. There are some cats that appear to have hypertension with no other underlying disease.


Sudden blindness should be treated as an emergency and your veterinarian will measure your cat’s blood pressure, check blood tests, and start medications to lower the pressure and restore vision.


If you notice a change in your cat’s eyes, whether he or she loses vision or not, you should consider this an emergency have your pet seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.



Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary-related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.




Easter Pet Poisons


The veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline receive hundreds of calls this time of year from pet owners and veterinarians concerning cats that have ingested Easter lilies.

“Unbeknownst to many pet owners, Easter lilies are highly toxic to cats,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS assistant director at Pet Poison Helpline. “All parts of the Easter lily plant are poisonous – the petals, the leaves, the stem and even the pollen. Cats that ingest as few as one or two leaves, or even a small amount of pollen while grooming their fur, can suffer severe kidney failure.”

In most situations, symptoms of poisoning will develop within six to 12 hours of exposure. Early signs include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy and dehydration. Symptoms worsen as kidney failure develops. Some cats will experience disorientation, staggering and seizures.

“There is no effective antidote to counteract lily poisoning, so the sooner you can get your cat to the veterinarian, the better his chances of survival will be,” said Brutlag. “If you see your cat licking or eating any part of an Easter lily, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately. If left untreated, his chances of survival are low.”

Treatment includes inducing vomiting, administering drugs like activated charcoal (to bind the poison in the stomach and intestines), intravenous fluid therapy to flush out the kidneys, and monitoring of kidney function through blood testing. The prognosis and the cost – both financially and physically – to the pet owner and cat, are best when treated immediately.

There are several other types of lilies that are toxic to cats as well. They are of the Lilium and Hemerocallis species and commonly referred to as Tiger lilies, Day lilies and Asiatic lilies. Popular in many gardens and yards, they can also result in severe acute kidney failure. These lilies are commonly found in florist bouquets, so it is imperative to check for poisonous flowers before bringing bouquets into the household. Other types of lilies – such as the Peace, Peruvian and Calla lilies – are usually not a problem for cats and may cause only minor drooling.

Thankfully, lily poisoning does not occur in dogs or people. However, if a large amount is ingested, it can result in mild gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Other Dangers to Pets at Easter Time

Pet Poison Helpline also receives calls concerning pets that have ingested Easter grass and chocolate.

Usually green or yellow in color, Easter grass is the fake grass that often accompanies Easter baskets. When your cat or dog ingests something “stringy” like Easter grass, it can become anchored around the base of the tongue or stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. It can result in a linear foreign body and cause severe damage to the intestinal tract, often requiring expensive abdominal surgery.

Lastly, during the week of Easter, calls to Pet Poison Helpline concerning dogs that have been poisoned by chocolate increase by nearly 200 percent. While the occasional chocolate chip in one cookie may not be an issue, certain types of chocolate are very toxic to dogs. In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the danger. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose the biggest problem. The chemical toxicity is due to methylxanthines (a relative of caffeine) and results in vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and possibly death. Other sources include chewable chocolate flavored multi-vitamins, baked goods, or chocolate-covered espresso beans. If you suspect that your dog ate chocolate, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately.

Spring is in the air and Easter is a wonderful holiday. Remember that your pets will be curious about new items you bring into your household like Easter lilies, Easter grass and chocolate. Keep them a safe distance away from your pets’ reach and enjoy the holiday and the season.



Caring for Pets When It Matters Most

0003_preventive_CaringPathwaysPets are part of the family, but sadly, they’re only with us for a season. Once that season nears its end, a decision must be made about helping them make their end-of-life transition. Of course, this is never an easy task. At Caring Pathways, we understand how difficult this time can be for a pet owner, so we want to help make it easier. Our mission is to provide gentle, compassionate care for pets in their final life stages as well as grief support services for their owners. Founded by Dr. Larry Magnuson, Caring Pathways has been providing in-home end-of-life care services since 2010 to pets in the Denver Metro and surrounding areas.

What Makes Us Different

Dr. Magnuson and the rest of the team at Caring Pathways have years of experience working with pets, both professionally and personally. That’s why operate on a very personal level to ensure that we give pets and their owners the care and attention they deserve. Although we only offer end-of-life services for pets, we are staffed with more than half a dozen licensed veterinarians who can assist with a number of pet health needs. We are committed to providing the highest caliber of excellence with 100% of our focus on these needs. We also take all the necessary time to listen to our clients so we can grant their requests as well in a caring, tactful manner.

About Our Services

Because we know how emotional and painful saying goodbye to a pet can be, we are proud to offer all of our end-of-life services in the comfort of our clients’ homes. The services we offer to pets in the Denver Metro and neighboring areas include:

Caring Pathways is committed to offering every family a personal, caring experience during their pets’ final days. If you think your pet’s life season is coming to an end, request an in-home visit. Our team will be happy to assess your pet and determine the next step to take to make him or her as comfortable as possible.

5 Winter Safety Tips for Pets

Winter Safety Tips for Pets

Here at Caring Pathways, we want to do more than just provide end-of-life-care for pets. We want to help pet owners keep their pets well for as long as possible by providing them with some safety tips throughout the year. Now that we’re in winter, there are some potential dangers that can await your pet, so consider the list of five winter safety tips below to keep your pet safe.


Antifreeze is one of the most common winter danger to pets because it’s so commonly used in cars and has a sweet taste, which lures animals to drink it. But antifreeze is highly toxic and can be fatal even in small amounts if ingested. Make sure to clean any antifreeze spills on your driveway and in your garage to protect your pet. Also, consider using a brand that contains propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol, which is less toxic if accidentally ingested.


Even though most dogs and cats are covered in fur, they can still get frostbite in cold conditions, especially on their ears, paws, and tail. Short-haired breeds are even more at risk, and if the temperatures are cold enough, frostbite can take place in a matter of minutes. To protect your pet, limit their time outdoors on frigid days, and consider giving them a couple pairs of pet booties or a sweater to provide them with some extra warmth.

Car Engines

When temperatures drop, feral cats and other outdoor animals are known to find warmth and shelter under the hoods of cars, near the engines. While this may seem like a safe place to an animal, if the car is started, that animal can be severely injured or even killed. Keep this in mind if you’ve noticed any stray cats in your neighborhood. You can save an animal’s life by simply getting in the habit of checking under your hood or honking your horn to alert any animals that may be sleeping underneath.



Another place that animals may end up in their search for warmth is basements. This is common for mice and other rodents. If you suspect that you have a rodent problem in your home, think twice about using rodenticide (rat poison); your pet might find it and eat it before the targeted rodent does. Explore more humane ways of ridding your home of rodents, such as using essential peppermint oil or simply adopting a cat—if you don’t already have one.

Sidewalk Salt

While ice-melt products are sometimes inevitable for Colorado’s winters, did you know they can be dangerous to pets? The chemicals in these products can irritate the paw pads, causing a burning sensation. If you recently salted your sidewalk and driveway, or if you’ll be taking your pet for a walk on a sidewalk or bike trail, use caution. Either have your pet wear pet booties or use a paw protection wax, or simply use a pet-friendly ice-melting formula.

If ever your pet is in need of emergency care, contact your family veterinarian or emergency veterinarian immediately. And remember, Caring Pathways is staffed with a team of experienced, compassionate veterinarians who can answer any questions you have about your pet’s care. Just give us a call at 720-287-2553.

Keep Your Best Friend Safe this Holiday Season

Holiday Pet Safety Tips

During the holiday season, there are so many dangers our pets may encounter, but if a few extra precautions are taken, you can keep your best friend safe.

Top 5 Most Common Holiday Dangers

These are some of the most common dangers that are often seen during the holiday season:

  • While we can handle having a few drinks in celebration of the season, our pets cannot. It’s important to always keep alcoholic beverages out your of your pet’s reach to ensure that they’re safe from the danger of alcohol poisoning.
  • Christmas trees. It isn’t the holiday season without a festive tree! However, these lovely decorations can also cause a few hazards in the home. Christmas trees can be knocked over by overly adventurous and curious pets, causing damage to the home and injury to the animals!
  • Electrical cords. Does your best friend like to chew? The sight of all those new cords under the tree may be too appealing for your pet, so we recommend disguising and hiding electrical cords to prevent your pet’s curiosity. It’s also important that they never be left unattended around the decorations!
  • Holiday meals and sweets. You hear all year round that there are foods your pet should never consume, but during the holiday season we have so much more of those dangerous foods around the house! Traditional holiday meals contain so many of those dangers, like poultry bones, onions, garlic, grapes, and more. In addition, we often do a lot of baking during the holidays, introducing our pets to even more potential dangers with chocolate, sugar, macadamia nuts, raisins, and more. Keep those foods and treats out of your pet’s reach at all times!
  • Poinsettias and other holiday plants. For some odd reason, the most popular plants to bring inside the home at the holidays are toxic to your pet! Poinsettias, amaryllis, and lilies of all kinds are dangerous and we recommend keeping them out of your pet’s reach at all times. You may also want to consider purchasing silk flowers for the look of the festive plant without the dangers.

If you have any questions about your pet’s safety and well-being this holiday season, please contact our team with questions. That’s what we’re here for! Have a happy and safe holiday with your pet this year.

Can This Food Harm Your Pet?

Foods That Can Harm Your Pet in the Denver Metro Area

Believe it or not, there are so many dangerous foods which can affect our pets’ health and well-being and the animal care team at Caring Pathways wants to help you keep them safe. Especially during the holiday seasons, there are many popular human foods that our pets may encounter, some of which can be dangerous for them, and it’s important for all pet owners to know the difference.

Some popular foods that can harm your pet include:

  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Onions
  • Poultry bones
  • Raisins
  • Xylitol found in sugar free candy
  • …and more

How to Protect Your Pet During the Holidays

During the holiday season, it’s important to talk with your house guests to make sure that no one gives your pet treats without your consent. This is the best way to ensure that your pet doesn’t eat anything without your knowledge. It is also important to keep an eye on fallen table scraps which your pet could pick up and eat without warning. We recommend keeping your pet in a separate room during holiday mealtimes and parties to avoid this concern.

Remember that if your pet does consume food that is dangerous for them, we encourage you to contact your pet’s veterinarian so they can help you determine if emergency care is necessary. After all, your pet’s safety is crucial if they are to lead a long, healthy life.

Keep Your Pet Safe This Halloween Season

Halloween Pet Tips in the Denver Metro Area

Happy Fall! We love the changes in season here at Caring Pathways, and we want to make sure that the pets of our community are aware of the many dangers the fall season can bring. We make it our priority to keep you educated about your pet’s safety. We invite you to check out some tips about the most common fall and Halloween hazards in our area.

Halloween Décor Safety

Decorating for Halloween is exciting for many people and it truly creates a beautiful autumn atmosphere, but some decorations can be hazards for our pets! The most dangerous are foil tinsel, which can cause intestinal obstructions if consumed, and candles, which can cause severe burn injuries if knocked over. We recommend avoiding these items and keeping your pet safe this Halloween.

The Dangers of Halloween Candy

Halloween is a season of fun costumes, festive decorations, and tasty treats, but it can also be a season of dangers for our best friends! Make sure that your pet is provided with treats that are safe for them and are never given a human treat such as candy, especially chocolate or sugar free candy which contain ingredients that are toxic for pets.


Are you dressing your four-legged friend up in a costume this Halloween? Pets in costumes are the cutest things, but as a pet owner, it’s important to remember that it’s your responsibility to make sure they are also comfortable and safe in their costume!


The veterinary team at Caring Pathways wants to help you keep your pet safe all season long!

In-Home Pain Management for Pets


No one wants to see their pet in pain. What’s worse is that some pets are masters at hiding their pain, so you may not even be aware that your companion is hurting. Caring Pathways in Denver specializes in pain management and a number of other services related to end-of-life care. As part of our pain management services, we can help you know what symptoms to look for in your dog or cat to determine if they’re in pain and provide options to control it.

How Do I Know If My Pet Is in Pain?

Since you as the pet owner spend the most time with your canine or feline friend, you are in the best position to determine if there are any behavioral or physical changes that could indicate a painful condition. Arthritis, disease, or sometimes just age can leave a pet uncomfortable in their golden years. Below are some of the most common symptoms that are associated with pain in dogs and cats:

  • Aggression or irritability
  • Decreased interest in food or play
  • Growling or snapping when touched
  • Hiding
  • Reluctance to move/mobility issues
  • Lameness or limping
  • Stiff gait

It’s also important to carefully examine your pet’s eating and drinking habits as well as their bowel movements, since many painful conditions are known to affect these areas. Also keep an eye on any changes in their sleeping habits, mobility, and overall mood.

How Can I Manage My Pet’s Pain from Home?

For your convenience, Caring Pathways offers in-home consultations and assessments, so you can determine your pet’s pain level and status. We offer palliative and hospice care to help improve your companion’s quality of life and keep them as comfortable as possible. Our veterinarians are trained and experienced to address pain management and other a number of other issues related to an aging pet. Feel free to contact us at (720) 287-2553 to schedule an in-home pain management assessment consultation for your pet or to learn more.


Obesity and Your Pet



Did you know that an estimated 50% of household pets are overweight, or worse, obese, for their weight class? This can be a very serious issue down the road! Our pets age significantly faster than we do, putting them at a greater risk of health problems over a shorter period of time. If a pet is over their ideal body weight, they have even more chance of developing health problems such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure, just to name a few.

Make Sure They Can Get Home: Check Your Pet’s Microchip

Calico cat in the studio.

Is your pet’s microchip up-to-date? If your pet were lost, would an animal hospital or shelter be able to contact you once your pet was found?

It’s important to get your pet microchipped; but it’s just as important to make sure that microchip contains the correct information in order for your four-legged friend to get home.

How does a microchip work?
The microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, is injected by a veterinarian or veterinary technician just beneath your pet’s skin in the area between the shoulder blades. This is usually done without anesthesia, and the experience can be compared to getting a vaccination.

Each microchip has a unique registration number that is entered into a database or registry, and is associated with your name and contact information. If your lost dog or cat is found by an animal hospital, shelter or humane society, they will use a microchip scanner to read the number and contact the registry to get your information.

Make sure you can be found, too
While it may be comforting to know the microchip won’t get lost or damaged, and that it will probably last the pet’s lifetime, the microchip is useless if you’re not updating your contact information with the registry. If your pet has been microchipped, keep the documentation paperwork so you can find the contact information for the registry. If you don’t have the documentation paperwork, contact the veterinarian or shelter where the chip was implanted.

Keep in mind there are more than a dozen companies that maintain databases of chip ID numbers in the U.S. By using AAHA’s Universal Pet Microchip Lookup at, you can locate the registry for your chip by entering the microchip ID number. If you don’t have your pet’s microchip ID number, have a veterinarian scan it and give it to you.

Only about 17% of lost dogs and 2% of lost cats ever find their way back to their owners. Prevent the heartache and ensure your pet has an up-to-date microchip.

Originally published by Healthy Pet.