Your Guide to Common Cat Poisonings

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Rat Poison. Rodenticide poisoning is the accidental ingestion of products used to kill rodents such as mice, rats and gophers. These products are common and accidental exposure is frequent. Poisoning is most commonly caused by ingestion of a product containing one of the following ingredients: bromethalin, cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), strychnine, zinc phosphide and anticoagulants (such as warfarin, fumarin, chlorophacinone, diphacinone, pindone, bromadiolone, brodaficoum). The impact on the poisoned animal varies depending on the type of poison ingested. An animal may develop a bleeding disorder, neurological problems, gastrointestinal distress or kidney failure. In some cases, rodenticide poisoning is fatal. If you suspect that your pet has ingested rat poison, call your veterinarian immediately.

Smoke Inhalation. Smoke can create significant damage within the airways. Pets, as well as people, can quickly succumb to the effects of smoke inhalation. If your pet is exposed to smoke, remove him from the area immediately and provide him with access to fresh air. If oxygen is available, offer by face mask. Contact your veterinarian or local emergency facility immediately. Your pet will require additional medical treatment for a successful outcome.

Strychnine. Strychnine is a toxin derived from the seeds of Strychnos nux vomica and S. ignatii, used to control rats, moles and other predators. However, when ingested by cats, it is extremely toxic, and can cause death. Direct exposure to bait is the most common cause in cats, although intentional poisonings are not uncommon. Toxicity can also occur from the ingestion of poisoned rodents and birds. The primary effect of the toxin is on the neurological system. The toxin interferes with inhibitory transmitters, which produce a state of muscle rigidity and stimulation. Death is often caused by the effect on muscles that stimulate breathing. If you witness your cat ingesting strychnine, contact your veterinarian at once. He or she may direct you to induce vomiting immediately, if it is within minutes of ingestion. Take all poison packages with you to your veterinarian’s office.

Toads. The Colorado River toad and the giant toad (also called the marine toad) are the two most common poisonous toads found in the United States. Though most toads are bitter tasting and usually result in profuse drooling in any pet that tries to take a taste, only a couple of species of toads are truly poisonous. The poisonous secretions from these toads can affect animals who come in contact with them, causing a host of clinical signs. The poison is highly toxic to pets. Cats have a high probability of dying if untreated.

Topical Poisons. Poisoning associated with topical medications is uncommon in dogs and cats. The topical product usually associated with toxicity is an inappropriately applied topical flea product. The products specifically labeled for use in dogs can result in serious toxicity if administered to cats. The toxic substance in these products is permethrin, which can have devastating effects if given to cats.

Tylenol. Acetaminophen is a medication commonly used to alleviate fever and pain. Common brands include Tylenol®, Percoset®, aspirin free Excedrin® and various sinus, cold and flu medications. Cats are much more sensitive to acetaminophen than dogs and are therefore more susceptible to acetaminophen toxicity. One regular strength acetaminophen tablet is toxic and potentially lethal to a cat. There is no home care for acetaminophen toxicity. If you suspect that your cat has ingested any amount of acetaminophen, contact your family veterinarian or local veterinary emergency facility immediately.

Vitamins.Vitamin toxicity occurs when the intake of a dietary vitamin exceeds the normal requirement causing adverse clinical signs or disease. Normal requirements differ for different vitamins and there are a variety of causes of vitamin toxicity, depending on the type of vitamin.

Zinc. Zinc toxicity is most often seen in young dogs that ingest some form of zinc but may also occur in cats. The most common sources are pennies minted after 1982, zinc nuts and bolts, which can be found in transport cages, galvanized metals, zinc-containing ointments (e.g. zinc oxide ointment) and zinc game pieces from board games. Zinc is directly irritating to the stomach lining so it may cause gastrointestinal irritation as well as a potentially fatal blood disorder. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy and pale gums. A toxic dose for a typical cat may be as few as 1 penny.

 

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