Monday, June 13, 2016

My Cat Fainted and She Couldn't Get up! Vasovagal Syncope in Cats

A few months ago I had an experience with Lola that frightened me beyond words. I heard her meowing and knew she was going to vomit; which she doesn’t do that often. (Cat parents will understand that I know the differences in my cats’ meows and what they mean.) When I went to check on her she got startled and she bolted for the other room. Then she started retching heavily and finally vomited, and as soon as she did her limbs became stiff and she fell over onto her side and fainted. She tried to get up and fell over again. 

I panicked. I started calling her name and when she was not very responsive I thought she was dying. I panicked again. Then in a matter of a few minutes I had her in the carrier and I was on the way to the emergency vet. (I opted for the emergency vet because it could take me an hour or more in traffic to get to my regular vet.) When she started voicing her displeasure at being in the carrier and was singing the song of her people in the car, I knew she was improving. (I didn't take the time to film this video below on the way to the emergency vet. I filmed it on a different day, but the song is always the same!)


A video posted by Lola (@lola_rescued_cat) on


When we arrived at the emergency vet she was her usual lovable self and had the entire staff wrapped around her paw. It was as if nothing had ever happened.


tabby cat at vet|fainting cat|vaso vagal syncope
Can we go home, Mommy? I'm fine now.


The vet informed me that Lola had a vasovagal response to the vomiting, also known as vasovagal syncope. As a Licensed Massage Therapist I’m aware of these incidents in humans, but never realized my cat could experience this.  

So what is a vasovagal response? It all begins with the vagus nerve, which is longest of the cranial nerves, extending from the brainstem to the abdomen by way of multiple organs including the heart, esophagus, and lungs. Also known as cranial nerve X, the vagus forms part of the involuntary nervous system and commands unconscious body procedures, such as keeping the heart rate constant and controlling food digestion.


The vagus nerve supplies motor parasympathetic fibers to organs from the neck down to the colon. The parasympathetic nervous system activates tranquil functions in the body (think “rest and digest); and serves to slow the heart rate, increase intestinal and glandular activity, and relax the sphincter muscles.

The vagus nerve is long, and part of its pathway runs near the stomach. During intense episodes of vomiting the vagus nerve can be overstimulated, which will cause the heart rate to slow and the blood vessels in legs to widen (dilate.) This allows blood to pool in the legs, which lowers blood pressure. Combined, the drop in blood pressure and slowed heart rate quickly reduce blood flow to the brain which results in fainting (syncope.) Straining during defecation can also bring on a vasovagal response because the pathway of the vagus nerve runs by the colon. 

I contacted my regular vet after the emergency visit, who informed me he has seen these episodes a few times in cats. He also told me it’s a weird phenomenon that sometimes spontaneously resolves. Luckily for Lola (and for me) this is what happened and she has been fine with no re-occurrences. 


If your cat experiences fainting, you should definitely get her evaluated by your vet. 





Other causes of syncope could be cardiovascular disorders, severe respiratory disease, metabolic (body chemistry) disease, hormonal disorders, nervous system dysfunction, anemia and drug therapy. Your peace of mind will be worth the visit. 

Have you ever had a frightening moment with your pet?

Dawn

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall via Flickr. 

40 comments:

  1. How scary! I'm glad Lola was fine afterwards.

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  2. We're so glad that Lola is OK! This is something we hadn't heard of before Lola. It's amazing how much our physiology shares in common with humans, isn't it?

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  3. We are so pleased that Lola is fine now but what a terrible thing to happen to her and to you.

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  4. Oh my goodness, that sure was scary. We never heard of that one. We are sure glad all is okay now.

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  5. Wow, that sure sounds scary to us. So glad that Lola is all right and glad to learn about this. I have never had that happen to any of mine and a lot of them do throw up. Well not a lot but two or three of them. Lola, good girl for coming back.

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  6. cranberreez lola, we iz veree happee ta noe ewe R aye oh kay; N pleez due knot ever
    haza nother episode like that again...oh kay !! ya scared uz and yur mom and yur sisturrr

    ♥♥♥

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  7. We've never heard of this so thanks for telling us about it. We're glad Lola is okay now...but that had to be so scary!

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  8. Oh me cats and kittens we's so glad Lola be okay and dat this was nuffin' serious. We's purrayin' it never happens again.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi and Raena

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  9. That must have been absolutely petrifying!!! I remember the morning you posted about it on FB and I was so scared for Lola. I'm actually learning about the vagus nerve myself right now. My dad had carotid surgery three weeks ago and the vagus nerve was "stretched". His left vocal chord isn't working and therefore his voice is very hoarse. The doctor said in time it should heal itself.

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  10. That certainly sounds scary. I'm glad she recovered quickly and seems to be fine now. Thank you for spreading the word on this. And yes, I know what you mean about recognizing cats different meows.

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  11. How scary! Good to know if we ever have this happen to us! Glad Lola is okay now.

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  12. That is so scary, I am glad she recovered quickly and was fine.

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  13. Whoa! That sounds awful! TW's most frightening moment was when Nicky got the embolism thing and went into seizures. She spent a precious hour on the phone trying to find an emergency vet and another hour in the cab taking him to the nearest one. That was so scary and horrible, she cried to this day when she thinks about it (like now).

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  14. OMG - how scary. Thankfully Lola is OK now

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  15. That sounds terrifying! No wonder your peep was scared. You must have been scared, too. Thank goodness you're okay now. Purrs, Seville.

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  16. Mewow Lola we have never heard of this and can see why Mommy was so worried. I am so glad you are better and it was nothing long term serious. I have traumatic memories related to experiences with three of my babies at the Bridge- Duchess who collapsed and passed from a heart attack in my arms, Livy who was murdered by a trained to kill cats dog that his horrible human let off his leash and broke in to our backyard, and Mama Pheebs who went in to respiratory failure, struggled to breathe, and went in to seizures after a struggle with nasal cancer, asthma, and other health issues the last months of her life forcing me to make the decision to let her go. In all three of these situations I have never before felt so helpless, getting to the vet seemed to take forever and it was agonizing seeing the look of terror on my babies face and not being able to do anything except try to comfort and assure them we were on our way to get help. I will never forget those moments and the only consolation I have is that any amount of time they may have suffered was short, and that they were able to pass on to the Bridge in somewhat peace.
    Losing a fur baby is hard for we parents no matter the situation, cause, age, but seeing you struggle, in pain, hurt, and in need of emergency help is far worse in my opinion.
    Thankfully Mommy was able to get you help fast and find the cause of what happened so she knows what to do if it were to ever happen again- which we cross paws and pray does not. Clove and Kaspars want me to mention how impressed they were with your performance singing the song of your and their people. Your pretty soprano voice is sweet and melodic, much like you yourself. If you ever consider adding another profession to your resume besides author, blogger, spokeskitty, rescue advocate, product reviewer, host, human behaviorist, singer would fit right in. I do not know HOW you wear so many hats at once my talented niece, simply listing all of them wears me out!
    Smooches to you and Lexy 💜💙😻💋💋💋

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  17. Oh my goodness how scary! I didn't even know this could happen in animals and I wonder if it can happen in dogs too. I'll have to look that up right away. Thank you so much for the information!

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  18. Glad to hear Lola's okay. I know what you mean about the different meows, you can tell from a mile away. I did have something similar happen to my dog Red. She has maybe vomited a couple of times, but both times she fell over and I freaked, thinking she had a seizure. Thankfully she was fine, but your heart stops when it happens.

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  19. I'm sure that was absolutely terrifying! I've not heard of this condition, so thank you for this information. I'm glad Lola is okay!

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  20. So glad Lola is okay, but how frightening! As a mom to five Huskies, one an epileptic, yes, I've had some very frightening moments! I'm Pinning this to my "Mews News" board for others to read. Thank you for your informative post!

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  21. Oh, my goodness! That would have been so scary. I'm sorry you both had to go through that.

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  22. OMG, you must have been terrified! My cat Maggie was a frequent puker, especially in her senior years but she never had this happen. Great information to know, thanks for sharing your experience. I'm so glad Lola is OK!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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  23. OMG, you must have been terrified! My cat Maggie was a frequent puker, especially in her senior years but she never had this happen. Great information to know, thanks for sharing your experience. I'm so glad Lola is OK!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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  24. WOW this we will share, it would scare me to bits!

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  25. Poor Lola but I am glad she is alright now and that she has great pet parents to look after her. I had not heard of this before so I am glad to learn something new and be informed in case it happens to any of our kitties.

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  26. Great information, Dawn. Glad to hear that Lola recovered quickly. We experienced a similar fainting situation twice with our Maxwell which was frightening. They were years apart and the vet though it was due to being scared. Unfortunately we lost him this past June during another such incident. :( The vet thinks that he had an underlying heart condition.

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  27. Good heavens....how scary. Glad it hasn't happened again and wasn't harmful

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  28. Oh my, how scary, you must have been so scared!! So glad to hear that Lola recovered.

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  29. Wow! That was scary. Hope it doesn't happen again.

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  30. Holy scared! I am so glad Lola is doing well. Talk about scary. Great job, Mom.

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  31. Yikes. I am glad she is okay. I've never heard of anything like this before. I appreciate that you listed the other reasons that could cause fainting in cats. It is always better to have things like this checked out.

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  32. How very scary - but so fascinating to read about and GOOD to know!

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  33. That would be so scary! I would be panicking if one of my cats fainted like that. I'm so glad that it was not something worse. I've heard of the vagus nerve before too because when I work with special needs people, they sometimes have a vagus nerve simulator to stop their seizures. I never even thought about it causing fainting! Thank you for the heads up. :)

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  34. Wow. I didn't know this was a thing! I'm glad to hear she recovered quickly.

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  35. I had never heard of this! I am glad Lola is okay.

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  36. I feel you Lola! I have vomited so hard one time I almost passed out! Glad you are doing better now, sweet kitty!

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  37. I am so glad she is ok! How scary!

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  38. Lola, I openly just now saw this on your mommy's list of the most read blogs. So glad I did! And so glad you are better. XXXX How scary! My mom would have gotten me to the Vet but she would certainly feel panic.

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  39. Hello! I could have sworn I?ve been to your blog before but after looking at some
    of the posts I realized it?s new to me. Nonetheless, I?m
    definitely delighted I discovered it and I?ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

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  40. I am so glad to find this entry. I just experience this with my cat this past Sunday. My cat vomited and then just sat there looking through me, unresponsive, barely conscious, tongue hanging out, saliva pouring out...I thought she was choking as she was gurgling pretty hard. I had her in her carrier and to the ER Vet in 20 minutes. She was already "waking up" on the way there but still not her self...gurgling sounds and heavily congested in her sinuses so I thought she had a partially obstructed airway. They ran lots of tests...by the time we left...she was totally fine. They think her upper airway had some vomit or saliva in it so they put her on antibiotics to prevent infection...all other xrays and tests normal.
    It was terrifying to witness. I thought she was dying from a heart attack or stroke since she was breathing albeit difficult.
    Thanks for sharing Lola's experience.

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