Treating Arterial Thromboembolism (ATE) in Cats

Treating Arterial Thromboembolism (ATE) is difficult if the disease is not caught early. Most cats act normal and then suddenly yowl in pain and become paralyzed in the rear legs. Once blood flow is cut off to the hind legs, there is limited time before tissue dies, leading to a new round of problems.

Arterial thromboembolism affects cats of any age. Depending on the cat's condition when he is brought into the veterinary office, euthanasia may be recommended. Many cats will survive the event, but it can be expensive to treat. If a cat is in extreme pain and the rear limbs are cold and believed to have tissue damage, some vets and pet owners decide to ease the cat's suffering immediately.

Understanding Feline Arterial Thromboembolism

With ATE, blood pools in a heart chamber causing a blood clot to form. This clot then travels through the arteries until it becomes stuck in an iliac artery that brings blood to the back legs. The lack of blood flow causes paralysis in the rare limbs.

A cat will be playing normally and suddenly scream in pain and fall over. Often, the pads of the cat's feet start turning bluish and become cold to the touch. No pulse is felt in the rear feet at all. At this point, the cat slips into shock. Pain is intense for the animal. It's important to rush your animal to the veterinarian immediately.

Treatments the Veterinarian Will Try

At the veterinary office, pain relievers are administered to make the cat comfortable. The veterinarian will check the cat's vital signs, and try to find a pulse in the rear legs. X-rays will be taken to find where the blockage is and if congestive heart failure is present. Echocardiograms are used to confirm heart disease if it is present.

When the cat is stable, blood tests are performed to check electrolyte levels and check for damage to the organs. In some cases, medications are given to try to keep the blood clot from growing bigger.

If tissue damage is present, the tissue must be removed. Amputation is always a possibility. Most cats will be in the animal hospital for at least a week for monitoring and treatments.

If heart disease is found, the cat will be put on heart medications to treat the condition and prevent arterial thromboembolism from occurring again.

Prognosis for a Cat with Arterial Thromboembolism

Cats that survive the first ATE episode are at high risk for another episode. According to a study done by the University of Minnesota, cats tend to have a 50 percent chance for survival providing the cat's temperature does not dip below 98.9 degrees before reaching the veterinary office.

Cats that go through treatment usually go on to have a life span averaging between 100 to 130 days. If a second blood clot forms, their chance of survival decreases. After the first episode, it's important for a cat to be put on daily aspirin supplements to try to prevent new blood clots from forming.