Blue Skin and Mucus Membranes in Cats

Cyanosis in cats is a condition characterized by blue-colored skin and mucus membranes. It occurs when there is an inadequate amount of oxygenated hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen to the body tissues, or due to hemoglobin abnormalities. While this may sound alarming, it’s important to understand the underlying causes and treatment options for this condition.

Symptoms and Types

Cats with cyanosis may exhibit various symptoms, including a heart murmur, crackles in the lungs, muffled heart sounds, harsh sounds during inhalation, a honking cough, difficulty breathing, and weakness. Their limbs may appear cyanotic, cool, pale, painful, swollen, and lack a strong pulse. In some cases, cats may also experience hind limb weakness or paralysis.


Cyanosis in cats can originate from different systems within their bodies. When it comes to the respiratory system, cyanosis may be caused by issues in the larynx, trachea, lower airway, pleural space, or chest wall. Cardiovascular system-related causes include congenital defects, acquired diseases, fluid collection around the heart, pulmonary hypertension, clogging of lung blood vessels, and peripheral blood vessel disease. Cyanosis can also stem from the neuromusculoskeletal system, such as brain-stem dysfunction, spinal cord dysfunction, and neuromuscular dysfunction. Additionally, methemoglobinemia, a condition in which methemoglobin binds to water molecules instead of oxygen molecules, can contribute to cyanosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect that your cat may be experiencing cyanosis, it is essential to seek veterinary care immediately. Your veterinarian will first stabilize your cat’s oxygen levels, usually in an intensive care unit equipped with an oxygen cage. A full physical examination, along with various tests such as blood chemistry profile, complete blood count, urinalysis, electrocardiogram (EKG), thoracic radiographs, and an electrolyte panel, will help determine the underlying cause of the cyanosis. Additional diagnostic procedures may include laryngoscopic and bronchoscopic exams, a transtracheal wash, bronchoalveolar lavage, fine-needle lung aspirate, or thoracocentesis.

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Treatment for cyanosis in cats typically involves stabilizing the cat’s oxygen levels by providing oxygen therapy. Depending on the underlying cause, your veterinarian may prescribe medication, recommend surgery, or suggest further therapy to address the condition.

Living and Management

During the treatment and recovery period, it is important to restrict your cat’s activity as advised by your veterinarian. If heart disease is involved, a low-salt diet may be recommended. Regularly check your cat’s gums for a healthy pink or reddish color, as pale or purple gums may indicate an emergency situation requiring immediate veterinary attention.

Remember, if your cat is experiencing blue skin and mucus membranes, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian to determine the cause and appropriate course of action. For more information on pet health and care, visit Katten TrimSalon.