Super glue is a common household item kept in kitchens and offices. Super glue is not among the top animal poisons, but cats may be exposed causing questions about their toxicity. There are several types of glue including white glue, super glue and expandable glues. The most toxic of these glues are the expandable glues.
The most common ingredients in super glues are ethyl-2-cyanoacrylate 50 100%, poly (methylmethacrylate 2-30%). These ingredients cause rapid strong non-expandable adhesion upon contact with another surface.
Cats of all age, breed and sex can be exposed. Cats are more frequently exposed by getting glue on their fur and subsequently oral exposure from grooming. The most common problem associated with super glue ingestion is mild oral irritation.
What to Watch For
Signs will depend on the part of the body exposed and may include:
Diagnosing super glue ingestion can be difficult unless you witnessed the ingestion or exposure. If the animal vomits, the vomitus may contain bits of the super glue that may be clear and impossible to see but may be smelled (odor of glue).
Physical examination may reveal chemical odor to the breath or to the skin or the presence of glue on the fur. Irritation may be seen in the mouth and throat.
Blood work including a complete blood count and biochemical profile may be recommended in patients that are depressed and vomiting.
Most exposures to super glue do not require treatment and signs are generally mild. Gastrointestinal foreign bodies are possible if the tube itself is ingested which is relatively uncommon in cats.
Eye exposure – care may include rinsing the eye with saline or water. If the lashes are adhered to the skin and causing irritation to the eye, separation may be needed under sedation. Damage to the cornea (corneal ulcerations) is treated with topical medications.
Skin exposure – care may include clipping of the hair with grooming clippers to remove glue. Some glue that is very superficial on the tips of the hair might be "groomed" off and removed with a good combing or brushing. For glue that is in a glob – it might help to loosen the glue bond.
To help loosen the bond, you may soak the area in warm soapy water. Acetone, often found in nail polish remover, will often dissolve the super glue bond without damage to the skin. Apply small amounts of acetone with a cotton swab and gently peel the skin apart. Margarine, petroleum jelly and/or mineral oil can also be used to help separate tissue and loosen glue. Apply these products and wait 20 to 30 minutes. Gently massage the area and gently peel or separate the tissues. Do not force tissues apart or the skin may rip. Tissues may be separated under sedation if necessary. If you apply any products, gently wash area with soap and water when you are done. Most adhered tissues separate in about 1 to 3 ½ days. There may be a small residue of glue that remains on the skin that may be difficult to remove. In many cases, it is a matter of the skin shedding its top layer that will allow complete removal of the glue. For mild exposure to the skin or glue on the hair, you may consider just leaving it be. Many times the products and action used to remove the glue is more traumatic to the cat than the glue itself.
Ear exposure – exposure in the ear can be problematic as glue can stick to the ear drum. The glue bond can sometimes be loosened by gently applying 3% hydrogen peroxide or acetone with a cotton ball or cotton swab. This should be followed by flushing the ear with sterile water or saline.
Call your veterinarian for their recommendations before attempting any treatments at home. All ear and eye exposures should be evaluated by your veterinarian.
The prognosis after exposure to super glue to the skin. Exposure in the eye or ear may cause corneal ulceration or damage to the ear drum.
Home Care and Prevention
There is no home care for ingested super glue products; call your veterinarian immediately if your pet is acting symptomatic. Do not induce vomiting.
Make sure you determine the type of product ingested as some of the expandable glues are more dangerous.
To prevent toxicity, keep all adhesives from pet exposure.