Syncope in cats is usually only brief event but it can be a frightening ordeal for any cat owner. It is not normal and if becomes a reoccurring in your cat it may lead to brain damage or injury. It is often confused with a seizures or a heart condition, but it is entirely different.
Syncope in cats is a lack of either blood flow or oxygen to your cat's brain and the result is a fainting spell. These fainting spells can last for just a few minutes or for several agonizing minutes for the owners; but in most all cases they will end very quickly and cause little damage, unless they become frequent.
These fainting spells can occur in any breed at any age as it is not an age related condition. It will be extremely important with this condition that owners document exactly what occurred throughout the spell to help your veterinarian try to fully determine the cause.
There are several potential causes of syncope and it will very be important to separate it from brain dysfunction, epilepsy, or strokes. Documenting the length of time will help in separating it, as it will be much shorter in duration that any of these three major developments.
Fainting spells in your cat in the majority of cases will be caused by low blood pressure or lack of oxygen to the blood. Blood pressure in your cat is the force that is excerpted by circulating blood on the walls of the blood vessels; is generated by the heart, and regulated by the arteries in response to the flow of blood.
This lack of pressure is so low in your cat that it causes fainting as the flow of blood is ineffectively delivering enough oxygen and other valuable nutrients to several vital organs, not just the brain. It can also affect the heart and the kidneys, and if they are interrupting too frequently, they may be permanently damaged.
There are several conditions that can cause low pressure in your cat. Dehydration caused by nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea is one of the leading causes of lowered blood pressure as it reduces the volume of blood being circulated. Any type is a moderate or serious bleeding disorder, as well as a severe inflammation of an organ that reduces the flow of blood, results in fluid leaving blood vessels to enter into the inflamed organs.
Weakened heart muscle mass can also cause the heart to slow and reduce the amount of blood pumped. Respiratory infections in your cat can also inhibit blood pressure.
There are several similar symptoms of syncope that your veterinarian will have to rule out in order to treat the actual cause for fainting in your cat. The conditions that are most often confused with syncope include the following:
Epilepsy, which is a true form of seizure disorder and occurs when a burst of electrical impulses in your cats brain escape their normal limits. It is much more severe than just fainting as your cat will undergo electrical impulses which cause twitching and convulsions in your pet.
Narcolepsy is chronic sleep disorder that is characterized by your cat becoming overwhelmed by drowsiness and will suddenly fall asleep. Cats with this disorder find it very difficult to stay awake for long periods of time. It is often confused with fainting as well as seizures.
Hypocalcemia is the presence of low serum calcium levels in your cat's blood and if it is severe enough, it can cause your cat's muscles to shake, sudden bouts of weakness, and both seizures and collapsing in your cat. It is also much more severe than fainting spells.
Syncope most often will start with a very sudden weakness in your cat where they will virtually loose their coordination. In most cases, this loss of coordination will make your cat set or lay down for a period of time and when they go to get back up they will faint.
Leg rigidity may also temporarily set in and when this happens it will confuse and scare your cat. You may hear them cry out trying to let you know something is wrong right before they faint. Once they recover, they will have a very distant look in their eyes as they are trying to refocus on events around them.
But perhaps the most telling of all symptoms may be a sudden lack of control of their bowels. This is very uncommon in cats unless there is a very serious underlying cause. If they do lose control of their bladder and than get weak, it will tell you they have they most likely have syncope.
Document the events:
Trying to diagnose this condition can be extremely difficult for your veterinarian and they will have to run several tests to rule out the myriad of conditions that are not actually syncope. Once your cat does faint, you can be an invaluable source to your veterinarian by documenting what occurred.
Try to document everything the best you can from the description of the actual fainting spell including how long it lasted and what you think brought it on. Was it related to an exercise or an excitement event, how many times has it happened, and was their any coughing spells involved?
Coughing spells in cats are not normal events and they should always make you concerned. When a fainting spell does happen, immediately open you pet mouth and look at their membranes around their lips and tongue.
Write down the color; pink is normal, white or blue is not. This will be invaluable to your veterinarian. Also make note if there was any type of drooling or leg movements by your cat during their fainting spell. The final thing you can do is to check your cat's heart rate during the event.
Document the number of beats every 15 seconds, as this will also help to identify if there is an underlying cause.
Syncope in cats in most all cases will be caused by low blood pressure and supplementing your cat with Vitamin B12 and folic acid will help to prevent both low blood pressure as well as anemia in your pet.
Helping your veterinarian with a complete description of the event as well as building blood pressure strength can help manage this condition very easily.