Aortic thrombo-Embolism in cats – a tragic condition

I had the tragic task of dealing with a case of aortic thrombo-embolism in the emergency clinic at the weekend, in a beautiful cat who had been presented by her owner after suddenly going off her back-legs.

This condition, which results in a blood clot forming and blocking the major blood vessels to the legs – most usually at the point where the body’s main artery, the aorta, branches to supply the hindlimbs – results in cat suddenly losing the use of their back legs, with the legs often feeling cold to the touch and with the absence of any normal sensation. This was confirmed when I performed a test to see whether there was any blood flow to the back legs by making a small needle impression in the pads (which normally results in a small spot of blood, as you would get if you pricked your finger with a needle) and by cutting the nail back past the quick, which is the equivalent of the very tip of our fingers and usually results in bleeding. The absence of any blood after both these tests confirmed the diagnosis and as a result the decision was made to put the cat to sleep.

There can be many reasons for such a clot to form in cats, with the most common reason being an underlying heart condition which if left undiagnosed and untreated can result in abnormal blood flow and potentially a clot forming, with some devastating and sudden effects. It is therefore important to ensure that you take your cat to the vet for regular check-ups, which will include the vet listening to their heart. Sometimes, however, as in the case yesterday, there is no apparent reason and it it just makes the situation that much more tragic.

Click here to read some more information about emergency situations with cats.

36 thoughts on “Aortic thrombo-Embolism in cats – a tragic condition”

  1. My beautiful 5 year old Birman lost the use of his back legs yesterday and is hospitalised with no hope of recovery. I have given him a further 24 hours to see if there is any recovery at all but I don’t really hold out any hope. He showed no signs of being ill and had a full medical 2 weeks ago when he had his yearly jabs and all was well. I am completely blown away by losing him and only wish there was something that could be done or if there were warning signs. The only thing that had changed was that he intermittently howled but I had put this down to him losing his buddy who died last year but on reflection this may have been because he was in pain and we simply didnot recognise this.

  2. Lost my best friend and beautiful boy yesterday to an embolism,so sudden and unexpected,seems so quite without him by my side,never knew you was ill,miss you always

    1. Lost my gorgeous Charlie to embolism just 2hrs ago I’m absolutely devestated 🙁 how am I ever gonna go on without seeing his beautiful fluffy face! Rip boy will love you forever xx

  3. These comments are sweet & help me feel less alone, as I too just lost a beloved Birman to this sudden and shocking condition. He was active & playful up until the afternoon he fell ill. Looking back, the only differences I noticed were maybe a slight less interest in food; rather than eat his favorite treats (tuna) he would just lick the juices off. He lost a little weight, hard to notice through all his beautiful fluff, but I could feel more rib definition than had ever been normal with him. We’d just moved to a new part of the country where he had acres of open meadow to scamper through, so I thought maybe he was just getting lots of exercise. I hope my post will help another owner of one of these loving breeds (Ragdoll, Persian, Himalayan, Birman) who succumb to this condition. There are often no signs other than a very slight decline in vigor that is only apparent in hindsight. My cat, Aristotle, was playful & loving for 9 years of joy; so loyal & protecting like most Birmans — truly couldn’t have asked for a better, more handsome kitty! I am still in such shock, feels like I’ve been slapped in the face and my heart pulled out through my throat. Love to all who are missing their sweet, amazing companions.

    1. Sadly we had to say goodbye to our lovely boy Coco who developed a loss of sensation in his back legs in the early hours of Saturday morning. We rushed him to the vet who diagnosed aortic thrombo-embolism and euthanasia was advised. Prior to this tragic event, Coco was a healthy birman cat who loved sitting in the garden watching the world go by. We never thought that we would have to say goodbye at such a young age (he was coming up to his 6th birthday on the 5th February) and therefore this has come as a complete shock to us. There were no warnings and he had annual check-ups at the vets. We can only take solace in the fact that we and the vet acted quickly and therefore he didn’t suffer for too long, and that our other birman Kiwi is helping us through the grieving process.

      1. I’m so sorry for your loss. This happened to my Savannah cat today. I had been to the vet in June for a lagging leg but it was diagnosed as a strained ligament. This morning while he was eating he fell off the table during a jump. I picked him up and he was limp. No crying, no signs of pain. When I arrived at the vet they said he would have to be put down. He was a $5000 cat but no more of a cat than his brother who was free. They are all precious! Your post has offered me peace because I know I did the right thing. I think I can go to sleep after being awake for 34 hours now 🙁

  4. Two weeks ago I lost my precious bouncy Coco to an aortic thromboembolism. She was only 7 yrs. and I had adopted her just 15 months ago. Her life was just settling in at her forever home with me. She was a cuddler and just so very unique in personality. I have been suffering tremendous guilt thinking perhaps I should have tried the surgery even though the vet gave me no hope that she would recover. All of your comments are helping me to accept that I made the right decision. Thank you all.

    1. I have also found peace through this forum! Everything happened so fast for me and I had been working the night shift in the ICU and came home exhausted to a bad situation that put my baby down within one hour of finding out his grave prognosis. It feels like a nightmare and a blur. Blessings to you two years later…..I know you still miss Coco! My baby left this morning.

  5. I, too, just suffered the devasting blow of losing our beloved Fluffy due to this horrible disease. He was perfectly fine Friday evening and then in the middle of the night suffered this horrifying event. We rushed him to the vet and within hours were told there was almost a 0% chance of recovery. Just hours before he was snuggling in between us purring and acting his loving self and 12 hours later, we made the painful decision to let him go so there would be no more pain or suffering….Oh this is so hard but reading other posts I don’t feel so alone and know I made the right decision. I’m just heartbroken, completely heartbroken that my best friend, constant companion and most loving baby is gone….I’ll miss him every day. Thank you all for sharing your stories while I cope.

  6. I just sent my cat, Koko, to the vet because his hind legs were not working and he had to drag his feet. Currently being hospitalized right now, I’m hoping for the best. However, I am also trying to be prepared for the worst.

    Reading the comments reassure me that putting Koko to sleep might be one of the best choices. Thank you.

  7. I’m desperate for a connection to others that have lost their beloved cats to this shocking condition. Our sweet boy was just 4 years old, no warnings, no signs. The sudden loss in such a painful way at such a young age has me gutted. We lost him on Saturday evening and I just can’t get him off my mind. Like all of you, he has such a big piece of my heart… he was so loved.

  8. It pains me to write, that this past weekend I had to do one of the hardest things in my life. I was forced to mercifully put down my 9 month old beloved seal point sphynx Piggy. He was diagnosed with congential HCM which in turn led to a acute ATE episode. I initially tried to fight the embolis & break it up with anticoagulant (Heparin) therapy along with IV fluid hydration which seemed to help get the temporary use of his hind legs back. I was allowed to take him home the next evening in stable condition but with a poor prognosis from the doctor. To no avail only 5 hours after leaving the ER Piggy had developed another clot and his hind paw was cold and stiff. I took him back to the ER that same night to have him reevaluated and receive more anticoaugulant therapy, pain management, & hydration. I was advised that euthanasia might be the best course of action in light of the dire circumstances. I was willing to take things to the limit and go bankrupt to save Piggy if possible, but at the end of it all my girlfriend and I couldn’t stand to see him suffer in the way he was, only for him to live another day and for him to relapse and suffer more. We elected to have him put down. I now feel like most of you who have commented on this article. It’s a undescribable pain you feel inside after losing your bestfriend and companion. No words can describe the pain I feel and the sadness that fills my empty heart. I can only hope that a cure for this wicked disease and condition is soon found so that no cat or animal owner will ever have to feel the pain & sadness that I have. My heart goes out to all of you who’ve lost due to HCM & ATE. May you find comfort in this post and know that there are others out there just like yourself, who are grieving in the same way.

  9. Yesterrday afternoon, my beloved Luke screamed loudly. I rushed to his side and found him breathing hard with his tongue hanging out. I knew immediately that he was in serious trouble and thought that he might die immediately. After about ten minutes though, I took him to the vet where we let him go.

    I had found Luke in the bushes in front of my church 12 years ago where he had been abandoned. He had been with us ever since. I have cried several times and probably will many more. This was just horrible. Poor little guy.

  10. Three hours after finding our 11 year old cat panting & foaming at the mouth we had to put him down because he had an embolism. It was such a shock because he was eating & playing hours earlier & climbing a tree the day before. He looked healthy, his fur so shiny. Reading the comments above makes me feel not so alone with his sudden death.

    1. I too have just lost my 10 yr old cat to this horrible condition, he took Ill on Thursday , couldn’t breathe sounded like a fur ball, the following morning he had no use of his back legs, got him to the vet who confirmed this diagnosis, all I can say is that I’m so devastated , but also hope he didn’t suffer too long , he was my first cat and was dearly loved , RIP Tyler

  11. My boss’ cat was fat, sassy, happy & healthy until about a little over 2 wks ago she suffered an embolism. Paralysed both hind legs – but she was not put down but instead brought back home. Today Silver is walking, but she does knuckly both back feet, but big improvement from 2 wks ago. Not sure if my boss will put her to sleep or give Silver more time. But my heart is breaking because she is purring, walking, seems to be very happy. Time will tell & even though not my kitty, so heartbrokeen……and praying she will walk normal soon.

  12. My 11 year old cat died this morning after 2 days of blood clot symptoms. Took her to vet 2 days ago after she couldn’t move her back legs and decided too take her home as she was comfortable and I’m grateful that I was with her at the end. She has been the most delightful cat anyone could have wished for. We called her our princess and she was. All the above messages have helped me understand the last two days. She was an honour to call my cat. Devastated xxxx

  13. Lost my 7 year old fluffy baby to this last night. Such a shock as he was healthy and showed no symptoms. Still not convinced I made the right decision to end his life, it happened so so fast!. So mixed up 🙁

  14. I had to put my boy Milo to sleep this morning after he suffered an embolism last night. There was no sign at all he was ill, he came running to the door meowing when I got home and 10 minutes later he couldn’t walk. I’m devastated but reading all of these comments makes me feel less alone. I’ll be getting Milo’s brother checked at the vet just in case, but I can’t imagine the house without Milo in it.

  15. I as well lost my beloved Birman cat, Isabelle today from the same illness. Shocking how she was fine one min and the next howling l, panting and not able to move her back legs. I’m devastated. She was my baby. I am lucky that she did live to be 15years old. But still wasn’t ready to lose her.

    1. This was the same for my 15 year old Ozzie, this confirms what happened as he was happy and healthy for the last days of his life. I was comforted that it was quick for him lasting only 10 minutes. I guess this is life and we cannot always predict the outcome or longevity of our beloved creatures. So glad my son was there to let him know how loved he was at the end..

  16. I lost my beloved milo to this terrible condition he had his breakfast inthe morning came back home and had his dinner went out and was found 2 hours later sceaming in pain dragging his back legs spent 2days at the vets for them to tell me they couldnt do any more and I had let him go I loved him so much and the house isent the same with out him but it has gave me comfort reading these comments..

  17. It gives me comfort reading these comments. I had lost my soon to be 4 year old boy on friday night. He was sitting at the dinner table with me and the next thing i know hes howling in pain and panting in a back room. I was advised of the poor prognosis and even with pain medication he wasnt howling, but was groaning. I made the decision to give him peace. He was my 1st baby and loved so dearly, always there by my side and so handsome. His sister still looks for him and its a nightmare that i just want to wake up from. I hate how quick everything happened. He will be forever missed.

  18. Our Cat Alfie 5 years old suffered the same painfull howling saga about 5 weeks ago…We were told no cure and we could take him hime for a few days to say our final goodbyes…Its been 5 weeks and he made good revovery but today he has started to show signs of tiredness and making a few sounds like he is in pain..I will be taking him to the vet tommorrow to see whats the best thing to do..It may be time to say goodbye to him…Such a beutiful handsome cat with such a great calm personality. Absolutely gutted.

  19. I have just lost my 7 year old boy Todd to this. I am heartbroken. He was meowing at the back door and I was horrified to see he was dragging both his back legs and I thought he’d been run over by a car or something. Heartbreaking to see him like it. He was howling and panting and just wanted to hide away. I rushed him to the emergency vet and was shocked when the vet told me it wasn’t good news. I kept asking the vet if he was sure. I’d never heard of this condition. He was given morphine and a sedative and we made the decision to put him to sleep. Hardest thing ever. I loved him so much.

  20. My Toga experienced this on 1/7/17. One minute he is on the couch with me, ready for cuddle time and the next he’s on the floor vomiting and paralyzed. I rushed him to the emergency vet – don’t even remember driving there – and an hour later made the decision to end his suffering. I was so fortunate to have been home when this happened, and my fiancé and I were able to spend an hour with him and shower him with love. I have cried every day since this happened as I am absolutely shocked. He was 12 years old and had been given the thumbs up on health just a few months prior. He seemed off that day but nothing I could put my finger on. I’m simply devastated and trying to keep it together since I have three other fur children with me. I wish I had heard of this before – I am shocked it is so common. My sympathies to all of you – I was honored and so lucky to have him in my life and I will never, ever forget him. I hope he knows I tried to make the right decision for him.

  21. I’ll share my experience here as well. I adopted an older cat a few days ago, she was ten years and going through illness – not eating properly, thin and her coat scraggly – so I took her to the vet. That was Wednesday. I left with a few medications, feeling hopeful. They’d performed a full medical on her, including bloods, and everything looked fine. Just some rotten teeth that needed pulling, explaining the lack of appetite. I just organised yesterday to get her booked for oral surgery. Found her this morning, Sunday, on her side, her breathing laboured, unable to stand or use her legs, crying out in pain. I took her to the vet and they advised euthanasia. Stayed with her to the end – after the injection it was very quick. I’m so sorry I spent so little time with the sweet girl. Very affectionate and I was looking forward to at least a couple of years of companionship. Happened very suddenly, it’s been almost 12 hours and I’m still reeling. My heart goes out to everyone here.

  22. lost my sweet Candy to this. Reading all of your posts helped. Thank you. It was all so sudden! I had 16 years to love her. What I would give for one more day.

  23. My cat Onno came home tonight with paralyzed hind legs. I thought he got hit by a car so I thought, at least he’s still alive he can be fixed!. After a quick exam by me, I could see no visible wound or broken bone so I was extra concerned. He was also very loud and vocal telling me something was wrong. I rushed him to the vet and was diagnosed with aortic thromboembolism. With such a horrible prognosis, we elected euthenasia. He was only 3 years old and I’ll miss him. Thank you all for your stories I feel less alone

  24. My darling sweet boy collapsed out of the blue with this dreadful condition late last night – he’s at the vet but prognosis is not good. I had to give him a chance as he’s not even 3 years old – I never even knew he had a heart condition. I’m stunned and in complete shock

  25. Today we had to say goodbye to our beloved KC. He was 13 years old and he was our little darling. He was fine all day, doing his usual routine until he started crying, trying to hide in our entryway. I literally grabbed him and ran out the door while my daughter drove us to the vet. They knew immediately what the problem was. I had no idea this is so common. I’m devastated. Praise to God for letting us love these creatures.

  26. I’m glad I stumbled upon this site in looking up my cats diagnosis. A couple hours ago I took him to the Vets because he was dragging his back foot. He’s 12, an indoor only cat, fat and cuddly beyond belief. The Vet kept him and gave him blood thinners and another medication and placed him in an oxygen pen for the night. I’m upset reading how fatal this appears to be. I didn’t feel our vet sounded that way. I’m hoping to pick him up in the morning and his foot will be fine… Now I’m not sure I should be so optimistic. I will update tomorrow.

    1. Here’s an update. After two days in the vet hospital and a slew of tests; blood, heart ultrasound etc. There seems to be no clear reason why he had the embolism. He’s home now under blood thinners and is using his leg. Maybe there’s hope for some of the luckier kitties. Condolences to everyone who’s lost their precious babies to this awful experience. I pray my kitty doesn’t have another one.

  27. So heartbroken over the loss of our beautiful sweet Birman boy 5.6 yrs. Still not sure what happened. Normal and happy though we all noted slight decline in athleticism. But not cause for alarm. Started vomitting amd howling like we have never heard before. Vomitting stopped, but he would noft eat. Off to the vet who xray amd pulled a fur ball out of his bowels, but no commentary on what might be at root. He actually seemed normal, ravenous appetite. Then 3 days later could not walk on hind legs. Mostly right. Back to Vet who suspected neuro. He lost feeling in legs but somehow was still sweet wanting to be petted on the head etc. He lost use of bowels. The vet gave him an enema and two days later he went down hill even more, now bowel control amd no feeling in hind legs at all. Our vet was still suggesting neuro. Made agonizing decision to euthanize. We comforted him those last few days never left his side. He must have been some strong soul to survive a clot even for some days. I kept wondering if i had the capacity to turn my home into a rehab if he would have survived. He would have needed bowel expression and 24 hr care. Was it saddle embolism? I keep searching and searching for an answer as to how he could be fine and then suddenly critical. As it was he kept his sweet demeanor all the way. We loved him so. I feel lost confused and utterly gutted. He was the glue in our family. We cant stop crying…

  28. My daughter called me earlier tonight that Kilo just died. I went over to see this precious baby. My daughter said she came home and Kilo was dragging her back legs and foaming at the mouth. Then she died right in front of her. Very sad. Kilo was a very sweet girl. She will be missed. Kilo also belongs to my son and my granddaughter.

  29. Thank you for posting all of your comments as it has helped me deal with the loss of my sweet boy, Bandit. I am still trying to make sense of this. Losing him so suddenly after only 8 years is just unfair. For him, he only had 8 years of life. For me, I only had 8 years to enjoy him. One minute I was playing with him like we always do with a feather toy and he was fine. 15 minutes later he let out 3 loud cries and was panting hard and laying on is side. We didn’t make it to the vet. He passed away in the car on my husband’s lap. They said he had blood in his lungs and threw a clot. What bothers me most is the end wasn’t peaceful.. It was filled with pain and fear. He didn’t deserve that. He was the best you could ask for. Almost human. This cat would floss his teeth after I flossed mine. He was my buddy. I have his littermate and 3 others as well. I am trying to stay strong for them as his “real” brother is looking all over the house for him which is breaking my heart. The others just know something isn’t right. It hurts to watch them and I am trying to stay so upbeat and normal for them as my heart is just in pieces. Seeing that others have had to deal with this is helping me get through it. I just keep replaying that horrible scene in my mind and asking if I could have done anything different. My answer, and the vet’s answer…no. This is a fatal situation. But yet I keep looking for an answer. Trying to make sense of it. He deserved many more years of life and a peaceful end. Not this sudden pain and death. We do the best we can with them and it just breaks our hearts to lose them. They are family.

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