What is Vitamin A Poisoning?
If you are feeding your cat a lot of foods rich in vitamin A, such as liver or dietary supplements, and notice behavioral or physical changes, speak to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Vitamin A poisoning can cause pain and discomfort, so it is important to understand the symptoms and causes in order to protect your pet.
Vitamin A is an essential part of a cat’s diet, but it should be consumed in moderation. When your cat is given a diet high in vitamin A, hypervitaminosis A, or vitamin A poisoning, may occur. High levels of vitamin A can damage the liver and impact the cat’s bone metabolism, leading to excessive bone growth. Over time, high levels of vitamin A can cause bones to completely fuse together, especially in the spine and around the cat’s joints.
Symptoms of Vitamin A Poisoning in Cats
Cats do not exhibit symptoms of vitamin A poisoning right away. In fact, cats usually do not show any signs of poisoning until they have been fed a vitamin A-rich diet for months or years. Younger cats may begin to show signs as early as 4-6 weeks after excessive consumption has taken place. Symptoms may include:
- Joint stiffness and immobility
- Difficulty grooming
- Lack of appetite
- Joint and bone pain
- “Kangaroo” stance, in which the cat sits with his front legs out in a strange position
Causes of Vitamin A Poisoning in Cats
Vitamin A poisoning occurs when a cat is fed excessive amounts of vitamin A, however each cat responds differently, so what is excessive for one cat may not be for another. It’s always best to speak with a vet to determine how to provide a balanced diet to your cat. Some of the foods that may lead to vitamin A poisoning when eaten excessively include:
- Supplements with cod liver oil
Diagnosis of Vitamin A Poisoning in Cats
If your cat displays any symptoms of vitamin A poisoning, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Provide as much information to the vet as possible about your cat’s diet, activity levels, and changes in behavior. If your cat has started to isolate himself or contort his body into unusual positions to stay comfortable, let the vet know.
Veterinarians can usually diagnose vitamin A poisoning after a simple review of your cat’s diet, however tests may be performed to rule out other conditions and confirm vitamin A poisoning. These tests include:
- Blood tests to determine your cat’s vitamin A levels
- X-rays to analyze the condition of the bones and joints
- Biochemistry test to check the condition of the liver
Treatment of Vitamin A Poisoning in Cats
After your cat has been diagnosed with vitamin A poisoning, it is essential to speak with the vet about what dietary changes need to be made. You should also ask whether a follow-up appointment is needed so the vet can retest your cat’s vitamin A levels to determine if the treatment is effective.
Most symptoms will begin to immediately improve once you change your cat’s diet. Talk to your vet about how to put your cat on a balanced diet to reduce the vitamin A levels in his blood.
Unfortunately, any changes to your cat’s bone structure are irreversible. But, the vet can still treat discomfort caused by joint and bone pain by prescribing painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications. If the vet believes some of the new bone formations need to be removed, he may recommend surgery, although this is usually only advised in severe cases of vitamin A poisoning. Young cats are at a higher risk of these bone problems since their bodies are still growing and their bones are more sensitive to excessive levels of vitamin A.
Your vet may also suggest placing food and water bowls on an elevated platform to prevent the cat from having to hold his neck and spine in an uncomfortable position.
Recovery of Vitamin A Poisoning in Cats
The vet will usually recommend you return for a follow-up visit within a week or two to determine if your cat’s condition is improving.
Once vitamin A poisoning has been treated, it is important for cat owners to learn how to prevent it from reoccurring. Avoid giving your cat any dietary supplements unless your vet has advised you to do so. Many supplements are high in vitamin A, so incorporating these into your cat’s diet could cause another case of vitamin A poisoning.
Liver should also be given to your cat sparingly, if at all. Speak to the vet about how often your cat is allowed to enjoy liver. Cats are very fond of liver, so they may refuse to eat other foods once they have been given it. Because of this, your vet may recommend you keep it out of your cat’s diet completely.