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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28932
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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My cat started gagging (sounded like a hairball) and then passed

Customer Question

My cat started gagging (sounded like a hairball) and then passed out. He quickly regained consciousness but has now been breathing really shallow quick breaths for a number of hours.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
Cats can become anoxic if their airway is temporary blocked by food or a hairball and then pass out just as people might if food is caught in their airway. My concern, however, is that Chairman Meow (!) is still breathing abnormally which suggests persistent respiratory compromise or perhaps cardiovascular disease resulting in respiratory compromise. I would be more comfortable having an on call vet thoroughly examine Chairman Meow including X-rays of his chest and throat.
Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you so much for your response. Just a little clarification- though - he made gagging noises but nothing came out - there was no hairball. I also know that he was not choking on anything because he was sitting beside me for a number of hours before he got up and started doing this. Chsirman Meow has passed out about 10 times before in his life, and after the second time I had taken him to see a vet to get tests done and the vet basically said that sometimes cats just pass out! I guess my concern right now is that normally he returns to his regular behavior within an hour of the episode and is usually quite famished after it happens and right now he has not eaten since last night and his breathing is very quick and shallow. He doesn't seem to want me to get near him and normally he is quite affectionate. Do you have any guesses as to what might be going on? Is the only possibility that he has some kind of heart issue?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for the additional information! No, cats don't just pass out without a good reason. These are called syncopal ("fainting") episodes and are most often related to arrhythmia (irregular heart rate). My primary concern would be cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) in a 12 year old and it has progressed to the point that he can't recover as quickly as he has before. An X-ray of his heart is likely to find that it's quite enlarged. An echocardiogram (ultrasound) of his heart should be confirmative and would tell you how best he might be treated.
Please continue our conversation if you wish.