The majority of calls to the animal poison control center tend to be concerning dogs having eaten something they shouldn’t.
Cats tend to be a little more discriminating about what they put in their mouths, but are still at risk for toxicity from common household products and human food.
Here are the most common feline toxicities:
1. Garlic and Onions
Garlic (in high amount), onions, leeks, and chives are all members of the same family of plants and they contain sulfide and disulfide compounds. These compounds can damage delicate portions of the red blood cells, leading to anemia (low red blood cell count) and even liver damage.
Depending on the amount and the type eaten, this food has the potential to be lethal in some cases. Clinical signs of onion or garlic toxicity include vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, and odd colored urine.
Only true lilies are toxic to cats. The most common ones include the Easter Lily, Tiger Lily, Day Lily, and Stargazer Lily. It is unknown what the lily toxin actually is, but we do know that it causes irreversible and often fatal kidney damage.
All parts of the plant are toxic when ingested, even the pollen! Signs of kidney damage include lethargy, vomiting, anorexia, excessive thirst, and weakness. Prompt veterinary treatment is crucial for survival.
Many people don’t realize that many common over-the-counter dog flea and tick sprays, shampoos, powders, and medications are actually insecticides. Many are potentially toxic to cats when exposed. Other insecticides toxic to cats can include ant traps and household insect killers and sprays.
Clinical signs of exposure to insecticides include drooling, agitation, tremors, twitching, and potentially seizures. With veterinary treatment, most cats survive.
It isn’t uncommon for well-meaning cat owners to try to medicate a painful cat with over the counter human pain relievers, most of which are very toxic to cats. Tylenol (Acetaminophen), in particular, can be lethal in very small doses. Even 50mg in an average sized cat can lead to poisoning. One tablet of regular strength Tylenol contains 325mg of Acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen causes a condition called methemoglobinemia, which in turn cause severe anemia, liver failure, and death. Clinical signs of Tylenol toxicity include facial swelling, anorexia, and drooling, as well as lethargy and vomiting.
Cats are twice as sensitive to ethylene glycol as dogs are. This, combined with their small body size, means even very small amounts of anti-freeze ingested can have fatal consequences. The bi-products of metabolized ethylene glycol cause central nervous system depression and acidosis. The acid binds to calcium to form crystals that lodge in the kidneys, causing irreversible kidney damage.
Clinical signs of anti-freeze ingestion include staggering/drunkenness, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, coma, and death. If caught very early, treatment can occasionally save affected cats, but often anti-freeze ingestion is fatal.
Prompt treatment is crucial in many cases of poisoning. If you are worried your cat has ingested something they shouldn’t call your veterinarian right away.