Subcutaneous Emphysema in Cats

Subcutaneous emphysema is a medical problem that indicates there is air under the skin or other tissues. This condition may affect the skin or the lungs and is most frequently caused by a puncture wound or trauma. If located under the skin, you may identify some bumps on the surface of the cat’s skin. Even if the condition is not likely to cause additional complications, it will be painful and should be treated.

Subcutaneous Emphysema in Felines

Subcutaneous emphysema is a rare condition that may affect felines as well. There may be air accumulation under the skin. The condition can be painful, and it can also affect the lungs, in which case the cat will have breathing difficulties. This condition may require additional attention.

Subcutaneous emphysema is not a fatal condition, but due to the fact that it will cause discomfort, you need to act as soon as you detect the problem.

Causes of Subcutaneous Emphysema

Subcutaneous emphysema is a condition that is most commonly caused by trauma or bites (i.e. wounds inflicted by the cat himself or by another cat). Even smaller puncture wounds (i.e. from a needle) can result in air accumulation under the skin.

Other possible caused of subcutaneous emphysema may include:

  • Trauma to the chest
  • The cat is scared by a sudden movement or noise
  • Damage to the trachea or bronchi
  • Damage to the lungs
  • Lung problems
  • Lungworms

These causes may be the cause of air collected under the skin or in the lung tissues, but don’t necessarily cause this problem.

Symptoms of Subcutaneous Emphysema

Subcutaneous emphysema occurs 3 to 7 days after the puncture wound or trauma. The symptoms of subcutaneous emphysema will depend on the amount of air accumulated under the skin.

Most commonly, you will be able to identify a bump. The skin may be thinner in this area and may also be crusty or flaky. If the amount of air accumulated in higher, the dog will have a puffy look.

Watch out for symptoms such as:

  • 1 or several bumps under the skin
  • Swelling of the neck
  • Pain in the lung area
  • Licking of the affected area, cats tend to lick or bite areas that may cause pain or discomfort
  • Lack of energy
  • Depression

Diagnosis of Subcutaneous Emphysema in Cats

If you notice a bump or swelling, you need to consult your vet and get a clear diagnosis. The swelling may be subcutaneous emphysema, but it may also be a different type of problem such as cancer.

A radiograph and possibly a biopsy or skin scraping test will be performed.

Treatment Options

If the diagnosis is subcutaneous emphysema, the vet will schedule an appointment to extract the air that is gathered under the cat’s skin. A sterile needle will be used or a small scalpel, depending on the size of the bump.

In some cases, the condition will go away without treatment.