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What is Citrus Poisoning?

If your cat consumes a citrus fruit, he may begin to exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and weakness. If his skin comes into contact with a citrus fruit, he may develop allergic dermatitis, which is a type of skin irritation.

Luckily, this condition is rarely fatal. However, you should still bring your cat into a veterinarian as soon as possible if you spot the symptoms of citrus poisoning so a professional can treat him.

Almost every home has popular citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, or limes. However, many people are unaware that these tangy fruits are toxic to cats because they contain essential oil extracts such as limonene and linalool, as well as psoralens.  

Symptoms of Citrus Poisoning in Cats

If your cat eats any type of citrus fruit, he may begin to exhibit symptoms of poisoning immediately. The severity of the symptoms will vary depending on how much citrus is consumed. Some of the most common signs of citrus poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Allergic dermatitis
  • Trembling

Causes of Citrus Poisoning in Cats

This type of poisoning is caused by exposure to citrus fruits. Cats can experience gastrointestinal upset if they consume citrus fruits, and they can also experience skin irritation if their skin comes into contact with one of these fruits. Citrus fruits are toxic to cats because they contain essential oil extracts such as limonene and linalool, as well as psoralens.  

Diagnosis of Citrus Poisoning in Cats

If you find your cat eating a citrus fruit or you begin to observe any of the signs of citrus poisoning, take him to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible. Tell your vet the symptoms you have observed, when they began, and whether your cat has been exposed to anything unusual lately. 

There is no test to confirm your cat is suffering from citrus poisoning, so the vet will often have to rely heavily on the information you provide in order to diagnose your cat’s condition. That’s why it’s so important to be as descriptive as possible when listing anything your cat could have eaten or been exposed to recently.

In some cases, the vet may choose to use a thin tube known as an endoscope to examine the cat’s stomach cavity. If there are still pieces of the citrus fruit in the stomach, this will help the vet make a diagnosis of citrus poisoning.

Treatment of Citrus Poisoning in Cats

Treatment will begin right away following the diagnosis of citrus poisoning. If your cat has not consumed the citrus fruit but is experiencing skin irritation because he made contact with it, the vet will need to give him a bath. This will remove any toxins and help soothe his irritated skin. If he already has patches of irritation, the vet can apply a topical corticosteroid to treat the inflammation and itchiness. After the bath, be sure to keep your cat warm with towels and blankets until he has completely dried off.

If your cat has consumed the citrus fruit, the vet may need to induce vomiting using a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution that is administered orally. Once this treatment has finished, the vet can also administer activated charcoal to absorb any toxins that still remain in the cat’s stomach cavity. Or, he may choose to do a gastric lavage, which is a stomach wash, to flush out any of the remaining toxins that could cause irritation.

It’s possible your cat could become dehydrated because of the excessive vomiting. The vet will be constantly monitoring your cat’s condition and if he feels the cat is becoming dehydrated, he will connect an IV to administer fluids.

Recovery of Citrus Poisoning in Cats

Citrus poisoning can be fatal, although this is incredibly rare. Most cats will make a full recovery following the treatment. It’s possible your cat will need to be kept following treatment if he is still suffering from dehydration, but if not, your cat will be released to you right away.

Talk to your vet about your cat’s diet before you leave. Because your cat’s stomach may still be sensitive following treatment, the vet may recommend only feeding him soft foods for the next few days as he recovers and builds up strength.

Remove any citrus fruits you may have in your home or put them in a place where your cat cannot come into contact with them. If you have citrus plants in your yard, keep your cat indoors as much as possible. It’s important to also check the label on any fragrance or shampoo you are using to ensure it does not contain citrus oil extracts. If so, you may need to stop using these products or keep your cat away from them. It’s best to ask your vet what you should do in this situation.