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Collaborative Effort Saves Cat in Respiratory Distress

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Several VMTH Services and veterinarians collaborated to save Blink the cat.

VMTH "Case of the Month" – April 2014

One of the many advantages for pet owners going to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis is the vast number of specialists available, regardless of an animal’s condition. Thankfully for Blink, a 1-year-old male domestic long-haired cat, that collaborative approach to care saved his life.

Blink was an outdoor cat that had gone missing for several days. He returned home in severe respiratory distress so his owner rushed him nearly two hours to the VMTH. Veterinarians from the Emergency Medicine, Critical and Intensive Care Service worked with the Internal Medicine Service to evaluate Blink’s respiratory tract, which revealed 80 percent narrowing of the trachea. It was unclear how this injury had occurred, but Blink was unable to breathe properly. The specialists consulted with the VMTH's Anesthesia Service on the best approach of sedating Blink in order to open his airway. Balloon dilation of the narrowed region in his trachea was then performed, and he spent the night on oxygen in the Intensive Care Unit. After two days and another balloon dilation, Blink’s breathing returned to normal, and he was released to go home.

Less than two weeks later, Blink was back in the ICU in respiratory distress and required another trachea ballooning. Based on the recurrence of the stricture in such a short time frame, UC Davis veterinarians discussed other treatment options with Blink’s owner. These included stent placement to hold the trachea open, resection of the area of strictured trachea, an anti-fibrotic drug treatment plan, additional balloon dilation and others. With Blink’s breathing back to normal again following an additional ballooning, his owner took him home to decide on further treatment going forward.

After a few weeks, though, Blink made that decision for him. Blink returned to the VMTH in respiratory distress. During bronchoscopy, veterinarians discovered a complete disruption of his trachea on both ends. The Diagnostic Imaging Service performed an emergency CT scan to provide more definitive information on the disruption of his Blink’s trachea. The Anesthesia Service immediately prepared him for surgery, where specialists from the Soft Tissue Surgery Service reconnected his trachea by anastomosis (surgically connecting two structures).

Following surgery, Blink spent three days in the ICU with heavy sedation, pain control, oxygen therapy, and strict rest to allow his trachea time to heal. He eventually returned home with his respiratory problems behind him.

Multiple rechecks over the next three months showed no narrowing of Blink’s trachea. For his safety, Blink has now become a house cat. While he misses exploring the rural setting of his home, he appears to have many healthy years ahead of him.

About the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
The William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis—a unit of the School of Veterinary Medicine—provides state-of-the-art clinical care while serving as the primary clinical teaching experience for DVM students and post graduate veterinarian residents. The VMTH treats more than 45,000 animals a year, ranging from cats and dogs to horses, cows and exotic species. To learn more about the VMTH, please go to Timely news updates can be received on its Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages.

Rob Warren
VMTH Communications & Marketing Officer