Published on February 5th, 2016 | by Debbie Martin0
Paracetamol Poisoning in Cats
Paracetamol is one of the most commonly used pain relieving medications used in humans, however did you know that the drug is highly toxic to cats, even in small doses?
Unfortunately, the majority of cases of paracetamol poisoning in cats is due to well-meaning owners self-medicating their pets. Paracetamol tablets have a bitter taste therefore, cats are very unlikely to purposefully ingest the tablets (those of us with cats know only too well how difficult it is to tempt the most well-mannered cat to take a tasty worming tablet), regardless human medications should always be stored out of reach of pets and children.
Due to the way that paracetamol is broken down by the liver in cats, it produces a toxic chemical which results in liver damage and a reduction in the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.
The onset of paracetamol poisoning in cats can be quite sudden and serious, their gums may take on a bluish/greyish colour (a sign of poor oxygen levels in the blood), they will have a fast heart rate and difficulty breathing. They will likely be very depressed and lethargic and develop swelling of the paws and face. Without treatment the cat may also begin to vomit, pass dark urine and develop jaundice.
Cats with paracetamol poisoning can be treated, however it is important to get to a vet immediately after suspected ingestion. Treatment varies depending on how quickly the cat is taken to the vets, for example if only a short time has elapsed they may be made to be sick or treated with activated charcoal to try and stop the paracetamol being absorbed.
If the paracetamol has already been absorbed, an antidote called acetylcysteine can be used to try and prevent the cat’s body from breaking down the paracetamol into its toxic components. In addition, affected cats can also be treated with oxygen, fluids and even blood transfusions.
Prognosis depends on many factors including the amount of paracetamol ingested, how quickly the cat has been seen by the vet and how quickly treatment has been commenced. Unfortunately, in many cases, despite the best efforts of everyone involved a cat who has ingested paracetamol cannot be saved.
Therefore, if you feel that your cat is uncomfortable, unwell or in pain it is vital to contact you vets, as they are many appropriate pain relieving medications designed for cats. Never self-medicate or leave human medicines in areas where your cat or any other pet can gain access.