What is Poisoning?
Poisons, especially insecticides or rat poisons, are fast acting as the molecules attach to the blood cells and spread throughout the body. Poisons affect the feline body in different ways depending on the active ingredient. Some toxins attack the blood cells, causing internal bleeding, others target the central nervous system, affecting the brain and the heart, whereas other poisons target the organs, slowly shutting each vital organ down. Poisoning in cats is always an emergency situation that must be treated as soon as possible by a veterinary professional. Cat owners that wait to seek medical attention or attempt to treat the poisoning at home without veterinary consult risk the possibility of sudden death.
Poisoning in cats involves the ingestion, absorption, or inhalation of a toxic substance. Plants, medications, insecticides, chemicals and even human food products can poison a feline. If you witness your cat coming into contact with or ingesting a product you know to be toxic, you can find medical care before the poison spread throughout the body. Unfortunately, the majority of cat poisoning cases occur when the owner is not present and the only way a pet owner would be alerted is with the exhibition of symptoms. Felines who have been poisoned will likely begin to salivate profusely from the mouth, its behavior may change from calm to anxious or excited, and the cat may begin to vomit. Depending on the type of toxin, a feline could quickly go into shock, seizing and losing consciousness within a few hours.
Symptoms of Poisoning in Cats
The symptoms of poisoning in cats depends on the active ingredient the toxin contains, but the majority of poisons will cause gastrointestinal distress, neurological changes, and labored respiratory signs.
- Vomiting (with or without blood)
- Diarrhea (with or without blood)
- Excessive salivation (drooling)
- Labored breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Skin swelling or inflammation
- Incoordination or unsteady gait
- Signs of kidney failure, such as polydipsia (increased thirst)
- Signs of liver failure, such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Increased heart rate
- Abdominal pain
Insecticides & rodenticides
- Rat baits
- Ant baits
- Permethrin (insecticides)
- Metaldehyde (snail and slug repellent)
Chemicals & Household products
- Antifreeze or ethylene glycol
- Fertilizers (containing potassium K, phosphorus and nitrogen)
- Lead paint
- Autumn Crocus
- Tylenol (acetaminophen)
- Antidepressant medications
- Muscle relaxants
- ADHD medication
- Diet pills
- Cancer drugs
- Baker’s Chocolate
- Artificial sweeteners
Causes of Poisoning in Cats
Due to the excessive cleanliness in the nature of a feline, the most common cause of poisoning in cats is ingestion by licking a toxin off the fur. It is not very common for a feline to consume a poisonous food product, unless it is mixed in with her food. Cats do have a tendency to chew on decorative house plants, as indoor cats do not have the opportunity to ease stomach nausea through the consumption of grass, causing plant toxicity. Inhalation of chemicals, such as cleaning products, can cause poisoning in cats if the cat is present as the owner cleans with a high fume chemical agent.
Diagnosis of Poisoning in Cats
Your veterinarian will be able to deduce a diagnosis of poisoning in a cat rather quickly, based on physical signs and symptoms. If you have witnessed the poisoning or suspect what the toxin could be (a chocolate wrapper by the feline or chewed plant, for example), bring the box, product label, wrapper or sample of the item with you to the veterinary office. Knowing exactly what active ingredient caused the poisoning will help the veterinarian choose a treatment plan and your cat will be on her way to recovery much faster. Poisoning cases can become deadly in a very short time, so your veterinarian may do a quick review of your cat’s medical history but you may not be present at this time.
Treatment of Poisoning in Cats
Treatment of poisoning in cats depends on the type of toxin the feline came into contact with. Possible treatment options your veterinarian could prescribe include:
- An administration of ethanol (in cases of antifreeze poisoning)
- Fluid therapy (to help to flush the toxin from the body)
- Muscle relaxants (for tremors)
- Anti-seizure medication
- Induce vomiting
- Activated charcoal (an agent that binds with the toxin and prevents it from being absorbed by the body), used in poisonings that cause internal bleeding or corrosion of the esophagus if vomiting is induced.
Recovery of Poisoning in Cats
The prognosis for poisoning in cats depends greatly on timing. The sooner your cat finds medical attention, the sooner treatment can begin and the less time the toxin has to spread throughout the body. Cats who receive treatment early will return to their normal selves in a few days with an excellent prognosis. Ask your veterinarian about poisoning in cats for the future and find out who you should call, as well as at-home tips you can use in an emergency situation.