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Poisoned cats need help fast

The response to last week’s column convinced me of the need to share more information on household toxins. Compiled by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435), here are the 10 most common causes of feline poisoning.

1. Permethrin flea and ticks treatments, labeled for dogs only, cause seizures in cats – even in those that sleep next to a recently treated dog. If the mistake is recognized before the onset of symptoms, bathing with Dawn dish-washing liquid can dodge the bullet. Symptomatic cats need emergency care.

2. Skin irritations from other topical insecticides: Wash the area with a mild detergent and then apply hydrocortisone cream or the contents of a vitamin E capsule. A cat who licks the insecticide may drool excessively. Give milk or the liquid from a can of tuna.

3. The antidepressant venlafaxine (Effexor) is quite tasty to cats. Less than one capsule causes dilated pupils, vomiting, rapid breathing, racing heart rate, staggering, and agitation. These kitties need emergency care ASAP.

4. Cats love to chew glow jewelry and sticks. The chemicals inside seldom cause trouble but the bitter taste leads to hypersalivation, agitation, and, occasionally, vomiting. Reach for the milk or tuna juice.

5. Eating Easter lilies, Stargazer lilies, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies, or Oriental lilies causes rapid onset kidney failure. (Lots of other plants that aren’t really lilies, like day lilies, are harmless.) Symptoms are vomiting and severe lethargy within two to four hours. Affected cats may drink and urinate excessively. A cat who has eaten even a small amount of a true lily needs treatment pronto.

6. Liquid potpourri is another feline taste treat. Whether drunk directly from a bowl or licked off the fur, the ingredients are corrosive to the gums and tongue. Vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and depression of the nervous system are serious symptoms. A spill can result in severe skin and eye damage. Do not induce vomiting. Most cats do fine if they get emergency care fast.


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7. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) or chewable Rimadyl labeled for dogs, are bad news for cats. The resulting stomach and intestinal ulcers and kidney failure can be lethal. There is no home treatment; beat a quick path to your veterinarian.

8. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a huge disaster for cats; one adult tablet can kill. Symptoms include profound lethargy, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and within hours, brown discoloration of the gums and tongue. Many have swelling of the face and paws. Severe liver damage occurs fast. You can try to induce vomiting but don’t waste time. These cats need blood transfusions, plus other emergency treatment, as fast as possible.

9. Rodent poisons: Many prevent blood clotting, others cause muscle tremors and seizures. Pets who eat these baits directly, or consume a poisoned rodent, begin to bleed internally. Symptoms of lethargy, pale gums, and possibly joint pain or seizures may not start for several days. Early treatment can lead to a happy ending.

10. Amphetamines, like Ecstasy and prescription drugs for ADD, weight loss, and narcolepsy, can be snatched up and eaten. Poisoned cats get agitated, tremble, convulse, and may become comatose. Aggressive emergency treatment saves lives.

Dr. Jeff Nichol provides medical care for pets at the Petroglyph Animal Hospital in Albuquerque (898-8874). He treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and in Santa Fe (505-792-5131). Contact Dr. Nichol on his website (click Submit a Question?) or 6633 Caminito Coors NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120. Find me on Facebook.