What are Chemical Burns?
You can try to wash off the chemical at home using an alkaline solution of bicarbonate soda and water for twenty minutes before you rush to the vet. However, chemical burns should be treated as an emergency that warrants immediate veterinary attention. If left untreated, the chemicals can start to eat away the flesh.
Chemical burns in cats occur when a cat comes into contact with a poisonous chemical such as a household cleaning product, fertilizer, or pesticide. Due to their particular eating habits, cats don’t tend to ingest these substances of their own volition; chemical burns typically occur when cats walk across a fertilized garden or a freshly cleaned surface. They may ingest the chemical while trying to lick it off their skin.
Symptoms of Chemical Burns in Cats
Symptoms may vary depending on which chemical caused the burn. One of the first signs of a chemical burn in a cat may be an overwhelming chemical smell. There may be immediate evidence of a chemical burn on the face, eyes, or head. Wash off the chemical and then take your cat to the vet immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- A chemical smell on your cat
- Red, swollen skin or sores
- Puckered skin
- Loss of hair
- Increased urination or defecation
- Excessive licking at the burn site*
- Signs of pain, such as yowling
- Trouble opening the eyes
*Do not allow your cat to continue to lick the affected area as this could make them seriously ill.
Causes of Chemical Burns in Cats
The main cause of chemical burns in cats is coming into contact with a dangerous chemical. Cats, while cautious of what they eat, are curious animals, and this could lead them to accidentally ingest a harmful chemical.
Diagnosis of Chemical Burns in Cats
Before going to the vet, there are some preliminary steps you should take to prevent the burn from getting worse. Call the vet as soon as you can to let them know what happened. If you know which chemical caused the burn, make sure you read the label to check whether or not there’s an antidote.
When you wash the chemical away, wear sanitary gloves to avoid exposing yourself to the chemical. If the chemical has gone directly into the eyes, try to hold the eyelids apart and wash them out with lukewarm water. If your cat has ingested the chemical, flush out the mouth. Dry your cat completely, wrap them in a blanket, and then rush to the vet.
Your vet will be able to make a tentative diagnosis based on presentation of symptoms and appearance of the burns. Be sure to inform your vet of the extent and duration of your cat’s symptoms, as well as which chemical they came into contact with, if you know it. Your vet will be able to ensure that your cat hasn’t been poisoned internally through a blood test.
Treatment of Chemical Burns in Cats
Treatment will begin immediately. The treatment method will depend on the type of chemical and the severity and location of the burn. The vet may need to shave the fur in order to gain better access to the burn to clean it.
Your vet may prescribe an antibiotic ointment for painful burns. However, for some mild burns, the vet may not prescribe any treatments at all, as cats regularly bathe themselves and will end up licking off the ointments.
If the burn is considered severe, antibiotics and pain management medications may be prescribed. If the eyes or mouth have been burned, surgery or supportive nutritional therapy may be required. Your vet will be able to advise you based on your cat’s specific situation.
Recovery of Chemical Burns in Cats
Recovery and prognosis will depend on the severity of the burn. The general rule of thumb for burns is that those involving less than a third of the cat’s body are most likely to make a good recovery.
Always follow your vet’s post-treatment instructions carefully. If your cat has had surgery, don’t allow them to irritate the surgery site. Always administer any medications, particularly antibiotics, for the full duration of treatment even if symptoms start to improve. Never use any over-the-counter ointments or medications made for human use as these may worsen the condition.
You’ll need to practice preventative measures to avoid another occurrence of chemical burns. You may want to limit your cat’s outdoor activity if you don’t know what caused the burn. Always keep all household cleaning products out of reach of your cat. Always clean up any spilled chemicals immediately.
Depending on the severity of the burn and whether or not your cat has undergone surgery, your vet may schedule follow-up appointments as needed to assess your cat’s progress. If you have any questions regarding treatment or recovery, consult your vet.
Chemical Burns Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My cat got into my neighbors garage and now she has a chemical smell and when I touch her it begins to make my skin burn. I’m not sure what they had in there garage but it was red. I’ve tried to wash her 2 times now and she still smells, but when I pet her now it doesn’t burn my skin.
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I need help ! I put this flea liquid on my cat between her shoulder blades and today I noticed that they were meowing more than usual I go to look and the hair where I applied the flea stuff is gone and their skin in that patch is yellow What do I do ? I don’t have money to go see a vet.
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