Is Your Cat Hiding Internal Injuries? How to Spot the Subtle Signs

Introduction

Internal injuries in cats can be life-threatening if not promptly addressed. Cats often hide signs of injury or illness, so it’s important for cat owners to be vigilant and recognize even subtle changes that may indicate an internal problem. Internal bleeding and organ damage are major concerns with internal trauma that require emergency veterinary care. Knowing the signs of internal injury allows cat owners to seek timely treatment and potentially save their cat’s life.

Signs of Internal Injury

There are several common signs that may indicate a cat has suffered internal injuries. These signs can include both physical symptoms as well as behavioral changes:

Lethargy or lack of energy is one of the most common signs of internal injury in cats. An injured cat may move less or seem more sleepy and unwilling to play or interact (Lort Smith). This is because the body is focused on healing the injury rather than normal activity.

Hiding or seeking isolation more often can also be an indicator. Injured cats tend to hide as an instinctual protective behavior when vulnerable (Red Rocks Animal).

Personality changes like increased irritability, unusual vocalizing, or uncharacteristic aggression can occur with internal injuries. The cat may cry, yowl, or growl more due to pain or distress.

Loss of appetite is another key sign, since internal trauma often causes nausea. An injured cat may refuse food and water, or eat and drink much less than normal (WagWalking).

Rapid breathing or panting can point to internal bleeding, as the body tries to compensate for blood loss. Breathing difficulty signals the injury may be affecting the lungs or airways.

Overall collapse, weakness, or inability to walk can indicate serious internal trauma. This warrants immediate emergency vet care.

Abdominal Pain

One of the most common signs of internal injury in cats is abdominal pain. Cats with abdominal pain may show tenderness in their belly when touched or pressed upon gently. They may cry or meow when picked up, since the act of lifting places pressure on their abdomen. Cats may also be reluctant to jump up or down from furniture, as the impact can cause jarring pain.

According to the Lort Smith Animal Hospital, abdominal pain can arise from trauma, masses, foreign objects, infections, or other internal issues that irritate the abdominal organs. If the abdominal wall is bruised or wounded externally, that can also lead to obvious pain and tenderness. Injuries from being hit by a car or other blunt trauma often cause internal bleeding and substantial abdominal pain.

Cats experiencing chronic or acute abdominal discomfort may continually position themselves in stances that alleviate pressure on their belly. This includes laying on their side, stretching out, or standing with an arched back. They are hesitant to lie on their stomach or allow it to be touched. Loss of appetite and lethargy can also indicate abdominal misery. Any signs of abdominal pain following trauma or an unknown cause warrant an urgent veterinary visit to check for internal injury or bleeding.

Breathing Changes

Labored, rapid, or panting breathing can be a sign that a cat has suffered internal injuries. If a cat has experienced trauma like being hit by a car or falling from a height, it may indicate there is internal bruising, bleeding, or damage to organs that is impacting normal respiration. Some specific breathing changes to look out for include:

  • Labored breathing – This is when a cat seems to struggle to inhale and exhale. Its chest and abdomen may move dramatically with each breath.
  • Rapid breathing – A cat may start taking shallow, quick breaths rather than normal relaxed breathing. This is a sign it’s not getting enough oxygen.
  • Panting – Cats don’t normally pant like dogs. If a cat is panting with its mouth open, it likely needs more air.

According to veterinarians, cats with internal injuries often exhibit faster breathing as their bodies try to compensate for internal bleeding or trauma (Source: https://www.catster.com/ask-the-vet/how-to-tell-if-cat-has-internal-bleeding-vet-answer/). Breathing changes like these indicate a cat may be in distress and prompt veterinary care is needed.

Collapse

One of the most concerning signs of internal injury in cats is a sudden collapse or weakness where your cat is unable to stand. This indicates a serious underlying condition that requires immediate veterinary attention. According to Acute Collapse in Cats – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis …, acute collapse occurs when a cat becomes suddenly weak and faints or collapses. Your cat may be standing one minute then go limp and unable to support their weight. They may collapse on their side and be unable to get back up.

Collapse signifies a potentially life-threatening issue such as shock, heart failure, blood clots, poisoning, trauma, or internal bleeding or injuries. Cats can suffer internal injuries from high falls, resulting in dangerous issues like pneumothorax, organ damage, and bone fractures. According to High-Rise Syndrome in Cats, high-rise syndrome refers to injuries cats sustain from falling from heights like balconies. This can cause severe internal trauma.

If your cat collapses, it indicates a medical emergency. Seek immediate veterinary help without delay. Try to safely transport your cat to the vet for rapid diagnosis and life-saving treatment. Your vet will run tests to determine the cause and provide supportive care to stabilize your cat.

Eye Changes

One of the signs that a cat may have suffered internal injury is changes to the eyes. This can include dilated pupils, discoloration of the eyes, or swelling around the eyes 1. Dilated pupils that do not react properly to light can indicate neurological trauma, shock, or distress. Discoloration, such as redness or paleness, can also signal internal issues. Swelling around the eyes may accompany bruising or damage. Cats’ eyes are very delicate, so any changes from the norm could reflect wider problems within the body.

Some of the potential internal issues that may manifest through eye changes include head trauma, toxin exposure, oxygen deprivation, or severe stress on the organs. If your cat’s eyes look different after an accident or fall, take it as a serious sign to get them checked by a vet immediately. Timely treatment is crucial for preventing lasting vision damage or further internal deterioration.

Gum Color

One of the most telling signs of internal bleeding in cats is a change in their gum color. Healthy feline gums should be bubblegum pink. However, according to the experts at Catster (Catster), pale or white gums are definitely not normal and can indicate blood loss and an emergency situation. The color change is due to a reduction in red blood cells and oxygen in the bloodstream from internal bleeding.

As blood leaks into the abdominal cavity from an injury, it gets absorbed by the body instead of transporting oxygen. This causes anemia and pale gums.

It’s important for cat owners to routinely check their cat’s gum color. Lift their lips and examine the color. Any abnormal paleness, especially if it comes on suddenly, could signal internal bleeding and requires immediate veterinary care.

Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds can occur for many common reasons in cats, often due to simple irritation or infection of the nasal passage. However, nosebleeds may also indicate a more serious underlying medical issue, like head trauma.

If a cat experiences a nosebleed after a traumatic injury or impact to the head, this indicates potential damage to the nasal cavity or sinuses, and bleeding into these areas. Head trauma that results in nosebleeds can also be a sign of injury to the face, nose, or skull overall. Fractures, punctures, lacerations, or blunt force impact can all lead to hemorrhaging from the nose.

Nosebleeds due to head trauma tend to be acute and sudden in onset, often after the cat has experienced a fall, blow, or other accident. The blood may flow from one or both nostrils and can range from minor to severe. Excessive or prolonged nose bleeding is a medical emergency.

According to veterinary sources like WagWalking, facial trauma is one of the most common causes of nosebleeds in cats. Along with bleeding, other signs of head injury include altered consciousness, dilated pupils, stiff limbs, and more. Immediate veterinary treatment is crucial.

Vomiting Blood

Vomiting blood signals internal bleeding and can be a life-threatening emergency. The blood in your cat’s vomit may be bright red or have a coffee-ground appearance. According to PetMD, cats may vomit blood due to issues like inflammation of the stomach and intestines, ulcers, tumors, or clotting disorders.

Blood in vomit often originates from the upper gastrointestinal tract. Causes can include irritation from frequent vomiting, infections, foreign objects, trauma, or cancer. According to WagWalking, even small amounts of blood require veterinary examination to determine the underlying cause.

Look for other symptoms like lethargy, diarrhea, and appetite changes along with vomiting blood. Then get emergency veterinary care, as internal bleeding can quickly become life threatening without treatment. Tests like bloodwork, imaging, and endoscopy can check for the cause so proper treatment can begin.

When to See the Vet

There are certain signs and symptoms that indicate your cat may have suffered an internal injury and require emergency veterinary care. These emergency symptoms that warrant an immediate trip to the vet include:

  • Difficulty breathing or panting
  • Pale gums or tongue
  • Sudden collapse or weakness
  • Crying or whining in pain
  • Uncontrolled bleeding from nose or mouth
  • Vomiting blood
  • Bloated or distended abdomen

Even if you don’t observe any of these emergency red flags, it’s important to monitor your cat closely after a potential internal injury. Look for changes in behavior like lethargy, loss of appetite, or hiding. Check their gums regularly to ensure they remain pink. And monitor litterbox habits – straining to urinate or defecate can indicate internal trauma. At the first sign of concerning symptoms, take your cat to the vet immediately. Don’t wait to see if symptoms improve on their own. Internal injuries can worsen rapidly, so timely veterinary care is crucial.

As the Veterinary Emergency Group states, “Cats are masters at hiding illness and pain. Don’t wait to see if symptoms improve on their own.” Trust your instincts, and if you suspect your cat may have internal injuries, get them veterinary attention right away. Their wellbeing depends on your vigilance and quick response.

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