Your cat is at risk for injury from hundreds of commonly-used home medicines and chemicals. Many home owners are unaware of these potential home hazards, and thousands of cats are injured or die each year due to exposure to these substances. In this article, we consider five common household items that may pose a risk to your cat.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is considered a very safe form of pain relief in people, but this drug should never be administered to cats. While low doses are tolerated in dogs, there are far better and safer pain killers available for both species. Cats cannot properly metabolize acetaminophen and toxic effects include damage to red blood cells, anemia, and severe liver injury. As little as one regular strength Tylenol® tablet can be lethal to an adult cat! Symptoms of intoxication include vomiting, weakness, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face and legs. Most cats are exposed to TylenolÒ by ingesting a dropped pill or following administration by a well-intentioned, but uninformed owner. Acetaminophen also is a poor analgesic for dogs, so you are better off asking your vet about effective and safer treatments than risking adverse effects.
Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Advil®), and Naproxen (Aleve®) all belong to a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’). These drugs are commonly used to treat people for fever, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions. Cats are unable to metabolize these drugs, and even one low (81 mg) dose given daily to a cat can be lethal after several days. Ultra-low doses can be safe, but should be guided by a veterinarian. While dogs better tolerate some NSAIDs, other drugs in this group carry a high risk of toxicity. NSAID toxicity in dogs causes gastrointestinal ulcerations, enhanced bleeding tendencies and kidney failure. Exposure occurs when cats ingest unsupervised medication or receive doses by well-intentioned but misinformed owners. Initial symptoms of toxicity may include vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and dark stools. There are several NSAID’ on the market licensed to treat arthritis and pain in cats including Rimadyl® Deramaxx® EtoGesic® and Metacam® These medications (and low-dose aspirin in dogs) are generally safe if used as directed by your veterinarian. Never give any NSAID to your pet unless instructed by your veterinarian, and be aware that pre-existent diseases (kidney failure) and drug interactions (including commonly-used prednisone and furosemide) can potentiate the adverse effects of these drugs.
Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) keeps car engines from freezing in winter and overheating in summer. However, ingestion of this product is one of the best known toxicities affecting household cats. While many people take their auto to the local garage, millions of Americans purchase over-the-counter antifreeze products to replace or supplement auto engine coolants. Inappropriate storage, drainage (into uncovered containers or pans), spillage in the garage or driveway, and inappropriate dumping into streets creates a real potential for lethal ingestion. Ethylene glycol (EG) is a critical toxic constituent of most antifreeze products. Following ingestion EG is metabolized into a number of chemicals that injure the kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain. Acute kidney failure is the best recognized lethal problem but initially cats may appear drunk and then normal. Without intensive care, dogs and cats exposed to toxic amounts of ethylene glycol will die. Antifreeze carries a sweet, appealing taste so many cats drink it willingly. As little as one teaspoon can be lethal to a cat. Clearly, antifreeze must never be handled in a careless manner!
Gorilla Glue® is among the most prominent of the water-activated, expanding adhesives sold in hardware and home improvement stores. If ingested, this glue product can be fatal. Gorilla GlueÒ exposure most commonly occurs when cat chews on the bottle and ingests the glue. This is more common in dogs but can occur in cats, especially kittens. The glue expands and hardens within the stomach, a process that prevents vomiting of the ingested product. The lodged “foreign body” and associated ulceration of the stomach lining causes a loss of appetite, lethargy, and vomiting. Treatment requires surgical removal of the glue ball from the stomach. If your cat ingests this or any adhesive, read the package insert, call the 1-800 contact number on the package, monitor closely for symptoms, and contact your veterinarian.
Paper Shredders have become a common home office item. While these machines can help protect your identity, the ripping mechanism also presents a clear danger to the heads, limbs, tail, and skin of dogs and cats. Thus, while the following section may seem akin to a horror movie, the risks of shredders are worth understanding, and we suggest you read on. The aperture or opening of a shredder mechanism is designed to reduce risks, so it is relatively narrow. However, the powerful motor of some devices can literally pull in a hairy extremity or exploring tongue, causing severe tissue damage. Most paper shredder injuries occur when machines are left on in the “auto-feed” mode. Cats may be attracted to the top of the device, especially if the motor is warm. Hair can become caught in the jaws, activating the shredder, and pulling in attached skin, tail, or even digits. The best ways to protect your cat (and children) from such injuries involves two simple rules: keep the paper shredder unplugged and never leave your machine on auto-feed.
To sum it up: there are many items in your home or garage that are potentially dangerous to your cats. Help keep your cat safe by following these suggestions:
Never give your cat prescription or nonprescription medications without the advice of your veterinarian.
Keep antifreeze, glues, and other chemicals safely stored and out of the reach of your cat.
Keep paper shredders unplugged (or at least fully turned “off”) when not in use.
Don’t let your cat roam around the basement or garage.
Don’t wait! Call for help if you have a concern about your cat. Some toxins and substances can be treated effectively with prompt therapy; some toxins are fatal if treatment is delayed.
If you think your cat has been exposed to a toxic substance, contact your veterinarian, local emergency clinic, search for information on www.PetPlace.com and/or call the Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA) at 1.888.426.4435 (There is a $55.00 fee for this service).