Here, Dr. Justine Lee, shares her tips about summer poisons to keep away from your cat!
During the summer, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center sees a spike in accidental poisonings in cats. That’s because cats are more likely to get into certain chemicals or household products when they are outside lounging in the sun.
insecticides (e.g., pyrethrins and pyrethroids)
Certain insecticides – products that kill ants, roaches, fleas, ticks, etc. – contain chemicals called pyrethrins and their synthetic derivative, pyrethroids. Low concentrations (< 1%) are often used as household insect sprays (e.g., ant killer, roach spray), and generally are safe to use in a cat-friendly household. Higher concentrations of pyrethrins and pyrethroids (as high as 40-60%) can be found in flea and tick medications, and can be deadly to cats. As cats have an altered liver metabolism as compared to dogs, they are much more sensitive to pyrethrins than dogs. As a result, higher concentration insecticides should never be used on a cat.
So when do I see insecticide poisoning in cats? When well-intentioned cat owners apply “small dog” flea and tick medication (often bought over-the-counter at a store) onto their “big cat.” This can result in signs of poisoning such as drooling, vomiting, and nausea and progress to severe neurologic signs (e.g., disorientation, weakness, hyperexcitability, tremors, seizures). Untreated, it can be fatal. Treatment typically includes bathing the oily flea and tick medication off with a liquid degreasing dish soap (e.g., Dawn) and prompt veterinary care. (Your veterinarian may need to sedate your cat to bathe them). Next, treatment with muscle relaxants (e.g., intravenous methocarbamol) and anti-seizure medication is needed. IV fluids, temperature regulation and blood glucose monitoring, along with hospitalization for 24-48 hours, may be necessary. When in doubt, always read the directions carefully before using insecticides on your cat and consult with a veterinarian.
Curiosity killed the cat, right? One of the top poisons that cats often get into household cleaners. Since cats like to groom themselves, they may accidentally be poisoned when they walk through a recently applied liquid household cleaner. Even laundry detergent is poisonous to cats and considered corrosive. When in doubt, keep your cat locked in the bedroom while you spring clean to prevent your cat from licking the cleaner off the floor or kitchen counters.
If you recently just applied fertilizer onto your yard, to be on the safe side, keep your cat indoors for a few days. That’s because cats often like to chew on grass, and can accidentally ingest minute amounts of fertilizer. Thankfully, fertilizers generally just cause mild poisoning – signs of drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. That’s because most fertilizers are natural elements (e.g., nitrogen, potassium, etc.) with low concentrations of insecticides. Fertilizers rarely result in serious poisoning – that said, to be safe, keep your cat indoors until the product is dried (if it was a liquid sprayed product) or after it has rained (if it was a granular product).
lilies (e.g., Easter, Asiatic, Tiger, Day)
Before bringing fresh cut flowers into your cat-friendly house, make sure the bouquet doesn’t contain poisonous lilies! For cats, true lilies (of the Lilium or Hemerocallis species) can result in life threatening acute kidney injury (AKI). These include types such as Asiatic, Tiger, Japanese show, Easter, and some species of day lilies. (NOTE: This does NOT include Calla lilies and Peace lilies). Small ingestions – as little as two or three petals or leaves – or even pollen licked off a cat’s coat or the water ingested from the vase – can result in severe, potentially irreversible AKI. Signs of poisoning can be sign as early as 6-12 hours and include vomiting (with leaves often seen in the vomitus), malaise, not eating, drooling, dehydration, hiding, abnormal urination or thirst, halitosis (secondary to kidney failure), and severe weakness. Without treatment, end-stage kidney failure and death can be seen within 3 days. Treatment includes aggressive decontamination (e.g., inducing vomiting and giving one dose of charcoal to bind up the poison from the stomach and intestines), aggressive IV fluids to help flush out the kidneys (typically for 48 hours), anti-vomiting medication, blood work monitoring (to assess kidney function) and monitoring urine output (to make sure complications from kidney failure don’t occur). With treatment, the prognosis is good as long as prompt veterinary attention occurs! For more information, check out our “Top 5 poisonous plants that cats get into” blog.
mouse and rat poison (e.g., Rodenticides)
As summer ends, people often put out mouse and rat poison (called rodenticides). There are several different types of rodenticides available on the market – depending on the type, rodenticides can result in internal bleeding (e.g., anticoagulant rodenticides), brain swelling (e.g., bromethalin) or even life-threateningly elevated calcium levels (e.g., cholecalciferol). Rodenticides can result in significant poisoning. While cats are naturally more resistant to anticoagulant rodenticides, they are very sensitive to bromethalin and cholecalciferol. Treatment often includes decontamination (e.g., inducing vomiting, giving a dose of activated charcoal to bind up the poison from the intestines), intravenous fluids, anti-seizure medication, blood work monitoring, and supportive care. Most cats need 12-24 hours of hospitalization when they get into rodenticides. The safest thing you can do is to keep these rodenticides off your property – instead, consider snap traps instead!
Here at SwheatScoop, we want to keep your cat(s) as safe as possible! With summer comes an increase in poisoning cases in cats. When in doubt, keep these common summer poisons out of reach of your cat.
Remember that the prognosis for the poisoned patient is fair to excellent with immediately recognition and treatment. However, a few of the common summer toxicants have a very narrow margin of safety, and aggressive therapy is warranted. When in doubt, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435 if you think your cat was accidentally poisoned!