Arsenic Poisoning in Cats

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Arsenic Poisoning in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Arsenic Poisoning in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Arsenic Poisoning in Cats?

Arsenic is a heavy metal-like element that is found in the environment in stones, groundwater, and soil. It can also remain on foliage and grass when they’re sprayed with a substance that contains the poison. While field animals like cattle typically consume more arsenic because of their outdoor life and higher exposure to herbicides and pesticides, cats are at risk as well.

Arsenic is widely used as an ingredient in fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and parasite treatment medications. It is also used in wood preservation and remains on the surface and in wood ashes. 

For unknown reasons, the taste of arsenic-containing chemicals appeals to cats. Felines that brush against or walk through an area where an arsenic-carrying solution was used can ingest the poison while grooming. Arsenic affects blood vessels and travels to all blood-rich organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs. The spleen and GI system are also common destinations. When it reaches the organs, it can cause massive bleeding, organ swelling and rupture, and permanent damage or death.


Arsenic Poisoning in Cats Average Cost

From 1840 quotes ranging from $200 - $15,000

Average Cost

$2,500

Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning in Cats

Depending on the form and amount ingested, and the overall health of the cat, arsenic can cause varying signs and levels of severity. Arsenic that gets on the cat’s skin causes different symptoms that are mostly localised. Lower doses that are consumed over time by eating grass, for example, will cause chronic symptoms like appetite loss, nerve damage, and weight loss

Symptoms can appear immediately or within a few hours of exposure and may include:

Symptoms of poisoning from skin contact may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infections
  • Blisters
  • Swelling
  • Cracking

Types

Types of arsenic poisoning depend on where the cat absorbed it, including:

  • Ingestion in the GI tract
  • Skin contact 
  • Inhalation to the lungs

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Causes of Arsenic Poisoning in Cats

Exposure to arsenic is possible in many settings. Listed below are causes of arsenic poisoning in cats:

  • Drinking from wells or other sources of groundwater
  • Accidental ingestion of herbicides or pesticides
  • Parasite medication ingestion or overdose
  • Eating, rolling, or lying in treated grass or weeds
  • Licking garage floors or other areas where arsenic-containing substances may spill
  • Licking wood or eating ashes


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Diagnosis of Arsenic Poisoning in Cats

A veterinarian will begin diagnosing arsenic poisoning by obtaining a thorough symptom history with the pet parent. They will want to know when the exposure happened, what sort of substance it was, the exposure mode, an estimate of how much the cat ate, drank, or had on their skin, and the cat's general health status.

A physical exam should reveal common symptoms including the poison’s effect on the internal organs, such as palpable swelling. The physical exam is followed by lab tests. These can include chemical analyses of the urine and GI contents, and sometimes a liver and/or kidney biopsy if they suspect these organs are affected. Hair may be examined for arsenic, especially in long-term and chronic cases. Routine blood tests aren’t typically used for diagnosis because the arsenic clears quickly from the bloodstream as it enters the organs.


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Treatment of Arsenic Poisoning in Cats

Treatment is aimed at ridding the cat’s body of arsenic, managing symptoms, and supporting the feline. Treatment methods and duration will depend on the type and amount of arsenic, and the approximate time of ingestion. 

Ridding the body of the poison

If the cat has ingested the poison within four hours of the exam and is displaying no symptoms, the vet will empty the stomach by administering emetic drugs, or by gastric lavage. This may be followed by a substance such as kaolin-pectin, which is a gastric protectant that helps the GI system heal. 

Chelation therapy may also be used to remove a substance using a medication that binds with specific chemicals. Once bound, the chemicals are carried out of the system. Dimercaprol (BAL), D-penicillamine, and succimer (DMSA), common chelating substances, are administered by tablet or injection. Succimer is newer, less toxic, and more effective so it’s currently used most often.

Replace blood and fluids

If the cat has lost enough blood through the bleeding organs, the vet will order a blood transfusion. IV solutions may also be administered to combat fluid loss from dehydration.

Maintain liver and kidney function

Continuous monitoring of the cat’s kidneys and liver via specialized blood tests will give the vet information about their functioning capacity. If the kidneys show damage leading to chronic or acute kidney failure, dialysis may be considered.

Provide supportive care

If the poisoning is severe enough, the cat will remain in the hospital for a day or two. During this time, they’ll be given supportive care, which is critical to their recovery. Besides rehydration with fluids, antibiotics may be given to combat secondary infections. If the vomiting and diarrhea persist, the kitty will receive anti-emetic and anti-diarrheal meds. Temporarily, the cat will be put on a bland diet to prevent further GI tract irritation. The veterinarian will recommend that supportive care be continued at home until the cat is entirely well.


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Recovery of Arsenic Poisoning in Cats

Follow-up appointments are necessary for cats with arsenic poisoning to allow for continued liver and kidney monitoring and assessment of the cat’s overall condition. The vet will determine whether the feline needs to continue on a bland diet, and will give instructions for re-introducing the cat’s regular diet or starting them on a new one.

Cats recovering from arsenic poisoning may take a long time to get back to their former activity levels. If they sleep a lot and don’t seem interested in playing, they likely just need rest. In general, the time needed to recover completely will depend on the severity of the poisoning and the kitty’s overall health.

Arsenic poisoning can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your cat is at risk of arsenic poisoning, start searching for pet insurance today. Wag!’s pet insurance comparison tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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Cost of Arsenic Poisoning in Cats

The cost of treating arsenic poisoning: $200 - $15,000

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Arsenic Poisoning in Cats Average Cost

From 1840 quotes ranging from $200 - $15,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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Arsenic Poisoning in Cats Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Arsenic Poisoning in Cats Average Cost

From 1840 quotes ranging from $200 - $15,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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