If you suspect that your cat has ingested any kind of poison, and he or she is displaying medical or behavioral changes or any of the following symptoms:
– paralysis (full or partial)
– diarrhea (or loss of control over bowel movements and urine)
– difficulty breathing
– inflammation of the skin,
– lethargy or
then this is a medical emergency!
What to do? The short answer is: Get your cat to the vet ASAP.
1. Don’t panic – take a deep breath and get your thoughts in order.
2. Call your vet immediately. Describe the poison and the symptoms and alert them that you are coming in with the cat.
3. If you can, take any remains of the poison with you – a piece of the plant, an empty pill container, leftovers of the substance (possibly regurgitated by the cat) or anything else that you might have.
4. Get your cat in a carrier and get to the vet ASAP! If your vet is unavailable, go to the nearest emergency vet.
5. Do NOT try to induce vomiting and do NOT try to use any home remedies or medications to counteract the poison. These can be more dangerous to your cat than the poison itself!
If you’re still reading this, then I’m glad this is not a time of emergency, and we can move on to talk some more about cats and poisoning.
How Do Cats Get Poisoned?
There are several ways in which a cat can ingest poison:
- Swallow a poisonous substance directly.
- Ingest prey that’s been poisoned.
- Get a poisonous substance on its coat and then ingest it when self-grooming.
- Absorb poison through the skin.
- Inhale toxic fumes.
What Are the Common Poisons Involved?
Cats may have nine lives, but they are also finely attuned predators with sensitive internal organs. Many seemingly harmless substances can cause kidney, heart or liver failure in cats.
The PetPoisonHelpline site lists dozens of common substances that can be toxic to pets, many of which can be found in any average household. These include obviously toxic items such as rat poison and Tylenol, as well as some flowers, garlic and chocolate.
Most cats know better than to chew on lilies, munch on onions or drink antifreeze, but accidents can and do happen. Curious cats, especially kittens, can chew on unfamiliar objects, and cats of any age can get their coat covered in toxic spills in the garage or try out deliciously-scented rat poison.
How Long Does It Take for the Poison to Take Effect?
This varies depending on the poison, method of delivery and the size and medical condition of the cat.
Some poisons have a very dramatic and sudden effect. Others build up gradually and elicit milder symptoms, even if they end up being just as deadly. Unless the cat was seen ingesting the substance, diagnosis can be very challenging. This is especially true with slow and gradual poisoning, as symptoms can mimic those of other medical conditions. Your vet will probably ask about sources of poisons in the cat’s environment and run blood panels to try and pinpoint the problem.
Treatment of Poisoning
Once the poison has been identified, your vet will decide on a course of treatment to counter it. This can involve aggressive fluid therapy or use of active charcoal to absorb undigested poison from the cat’s system. Your vet can also use specific antidotes for many kinds of poison.
When in doubt, you or your vet can call one of these helplines:
Pet Poison Online – 800-213-6680 (There’s a $39 consultation fee)
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center – (888) 426-4435 (There’s a $65 consultation fee)
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