Common Poisonings in Cats

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Common Poisonings in Cats

Top 10 Poisonings in Cats

A poison is any substance that is harmful to the body. This includes manufactured products such as prescription drugs and cleaning solutions, and also ­natural herbs and other plants. Their innate curiosity may lead cats to lick or taste things that are poisonous. Fastidious grooming may cause a cat to lick poisonous products from his coat.

Animal baits are palatable poisons that encourage ingestion. This makes them an obvious choice for intentional poisoning. Cats may also be unintentionally poisoned by these products if they eat a rodent who has ingested poisoned bait. (Remember that even indoor cats may hunt and kill small prey animals-rodents, insects, or small reptiles.)

Many cases of poisoning occur in the home or in the garage. Potentially poisonous substances should be kept in secure containers and, ideally, in cupboards that close securely (remember that prying paws can open some cupboard doors). Poisonous houseplants can be removed and outdoor plants removed or fenced off from pets. Keep medications in childproof containers and inside secure cupboards.

The Top Ten Poisonings in Cats

According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, these are most common poisonings that occur among cats.

  1. Permethrin insecticides designed for dogs; never use dog flea and tick products on cats!
  2. Other topical insecticides; follow directions carefully.
  3. Venlafaxine, a human antidepressant that goes by the brand name Effexor; apparently, cats are attracted to the capsules.
  4. Glow jewelry and sticks; the liquid inside is mildly toxic.
  5. Lilies; virtually all varieties of lilies can lead to kidney failure.
  6. Liquid potpourri; cats may lick this or clean it off their paws after stepping in it.
  7. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen and aspirin.
  8. Acetaminophen (Tylenol); even one tablet can be fatal.
  9. Anticoagulant rodenticides; cats may eat these or may eat rodents who have the poison in their system.
  10. Amphetamines; even very small amounts are serious.

General Treatment of Poisoning

When signs of poisoning develop, the most important consideration is to get your cat to the nearest emergency veterinary facility at once. If possible, find the poison and bring the container with you. This provides the emergency personnel with an immediate diagnosis and expedites treatment.

If the cat has ingested the substance recently, residual poison is often present in his stomach. An initial and most important step is to rid the cat's stomach of any remaining poison. The most effective way to empty the stomach is to pass a stomach tube, remove as much of the stomach contents as possible, and then wash the stomach out with large volumes of water. This must be done by your veterinarian.

In many cases, it is preferable to induce vomiting at the scene rather than proceed directly to the veterinary hospital. For example, if you see the cat swallow the poisonous substance, it is obviously best to make the cat vomit it right back up. Similarly, if the poison was ingested within two hours but it will take 30 minutes or longer to get to a veterinary facility, it is frequently advisable to induce vomiting at home. However,

DO NOT induce vomiting

  • If the cat has already vomited
  • If the cat is in a stupor, breathing with difficulty, or shows any sign of neurological involvement
  • If the cat is unconscious or convulsing
  • If the cat has swallowed an acid, alkali, cleaning solution, household chemical, or petroleum product
  • If the cat has swallowed a sharp object that could lodge in the esophagus or perforate the stomach
  • If the label on the product says, “Do not induce vomiting”

How to Induce Vomiting and Prevent Poison Absorption

Induce vomiting by giving the cat hydrogen peroxide. A 3 percent solution is most effective. Give 1 teaspoon (5 ml) hydrogen peroxide per 10 pounds (4.53 kg) body weight of the cat, with a limit of 3 teaspoons. If the cat doesn't vomit after the first dose, you may repeat every 10 minutes, up to three times, until the cat vomits. If possible, get your cat to walk around or shake him gently in your arms after giving the hydrogen peroxide. This often helps stimulate vomiting.

Once the poison has been cleared from the cat's stomach, give him activated charcoal to bind any remaining poison and prevent further absorption. The most effective and easily administered home oral charcoal product is compressed activated charcoal,which comes in 5-gram tablets (recommended for the home emergency medical kit).

This article is excerpted from “ Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.

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Reviewed on 12/3/2009 11:30:05 AM

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