What is Excess Iron in the Blood?
Since excess iron concentrations in the blood can cause the formation of harmful iron deposits in the liver, it’s absolutely imperative that you seek out consultation from a veterinarian if your cat starts showing symptoms of iron toxicity.
Iron toxicity or iron poisoning happens when an animal’s body is unable to absorb excess elemental iron. Typically, this element is absorbed into the cells, but when this can’t happen, free iron travels to the liver where it will cause necrosis of the mitochondrial structures. In addition to this, it can also irritate the stomach's gastrointestinal mucosa.
Iron toxicity, or excess iron in the blood of your cat, is a condition that can be very harmful to your furry friend. Iron is needed in most animal species because it provides the material for the construction of hemoglobin inside the cells. If your cat seems to be excessively drowsy, lethargic, or is vomiting, then this condition can be the cause of your pet’s sickness.
Symptoms of Excess Iron in the Blood in Cats
When your cat has ingested an excess amount of iron, there are several symptoms to look out for.
- Vomiting and Diarrhea (blood can be present in either)
- Liver Failure
- Hypovolemic Shock
It’s important to note that your cat might seem to quickly recover from the first three symptoms. However, they may return, along with the final symptoms, which may start to occur 24 hours or more after ingestion. These can lead to coma or death.
- Liver effects: Iron damages mitochondria and kills the liver’s periportal hepatocytes.
- Stomach effects: When this type of iron toxicity occurs, excess iron causes irritation in the gastrointestinal mucosa.
Causes of Excess Iron in the Blood in Cats
Iron toxicity needs to be tackled quickly in cats because of the damage the condition can cause to the stomach, liver, and heart.
This condition can form as a result of your cat eating iron-rich human multivitamins. Cats cannot excrete excess iron as well as humans, so even if minute amounts of iron are introduced into a cat’s diet, it can accumulate, leading to the condition.
Diagnosis of Excess Iron in the Blood in Cats
A vet will have to execute some extensive tests in order to check your cat for iron poisoning. Due to the potential severity of the problem, it isn’t recommended that you attempt to diagnose your feline’s health. Also, since this condition will seem to abate, the wait-and-see method can be very harmful to your cat.
Consultation: Your vet will ask if your cat has been lethargic, drowsy, or vomiting.
Blood Tests: A serum iron concentration test will determine the amount of unbound iron present in your pet’s bloodstream. Since serum iron binding can vary over time, repeated tests will have to be performed over a six hour span of time.
X-Rays: Your vet will need these in order to determine if there are iron deposits in your cat’s intestinal tract.
Since this is a serious condition, the process of diagnosis may take several hours.
Treatment of Excess Iron in the Blood in Cats
After diagnosis, your veterinarian will elicit treatment that will target the systems most affected by the heightened iron content.
If the veterinarian decides that the excess iron is having an adverse effect on your cat’s stomach he/she might
- Induce vomiting: This will hopefully remove the unbound iron from your cat’s system.
- Administer gastrointestinal protectants: These will protect your cat’s digestive system from the caustic iron.
- Prescribe milk of magnesia: The active ingredient in this is magnesium hydroxide, which reduces iron, so that it cannot adversely affect your cat’s digestive tract.
If your vet decides that there is a dangerously excessive amount of iron in your cat’s blood, then chelation therapy will be administered. Deferoxamine is considered an iron chelator and converts the excess iron into a compound that won’t adversely affect your cat. Deferoxamine will have to be administered every four hours for your cat to recover from the iron toxicity.
Recovery of Excess Iron in the Blood in Cats
Your vet will want to monitor your cat’s health for four to six weeks. During the period that your feline recovers, here’s what you can expect:
Severe cases will be expensive. It will take time for your cat to recover and Deferoxamine can sometimes be hard to procure.
Your cat may never fully recover. Severe cases can cause permanent damage to your cat’s liver, which will result in the need for special medications and diets for your feline.
The best way to prevent an excess of iron in the blood from recurring is to ensure that your cat cannot gain access to multivitamins or iron-containing supplements for humans.