Iron is a chemical element that is normally important to red blood cell production in the body. It is found in a variety of supplements and vitamins. Iron toxicity typically occurs after accidental ingestion of the supplements or from overdoses of supplements.
Iron comes in a variety of forms and is indicated by the word Ferrous, meaning "containing iron." These formulations of iron are generally found in oral iron supplements. The forms of iron that may result in toxicity are:
Toxic levels of iron cause damage to the stomach and intestinal lining. It can also cause severe liver damage and heart damage.
Cats are more easily affected by iron overdoses than people because cats do not have a way to excrete excessive iron from their bodies. If low doses of iron are given over a period of time, toxicity can still develop since their body cannot get rid of the iron already present.
What to Watch For
The first signs generally occur within six hours of eating a toxic amount of iron. Even without treatment, your cat may appear to have improved after the initial gastrointestinal upset. Unfortunately, spontaneous recovery has not occurred and about 24 hours later, diarrhea returns along with liver failure, shock and possible coma. Bleeding disorders can also occur.
Diagnosing iron toxicity is based on the level of iron in the blood as well as access or exposure to iron supplements.
Blood tests may also be needed to determine the function of the liver and kidneys.
X-rays may be required to determine if additional iron is within the intestinal tract.
Expect your veterinarian to recommend hospitalization with continuous intravenous fluids. Additional recommendations may include:
Home Care and Prevention