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A Guide To Paracetamol Toxicity In Cats

Aimee Labbate
  • Aimee Labbate

  • RCVS: 700039

 

Paracetamol is extremely toxic to cats and should never be given to treat pain in cats – it will do far more harm than good. Even a single tablet can be fatal; infant liquid formulations are similarly toxic.

Why is paracetamol toxic to cats?

A cat’s metabolism is different to ours – they lack the enzyme to safely breakdown paracetamol, meaning that dangerous chemicals are instead produced within the body. These affect the red bloods cells, causing damage and a condition known as ‘methaemaglobinaemia’ where the gums and tongue turn chocolate brown in colour. Given that red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen around the body from the lungs, paracetamol toxicity stops oxygen from circulating properly. It can also cause liver damage, and together these are often fatal.

The toxic dose is very low, meaning that there is simply no safe dose for cats. It should never be given and must be kept out of reach to prevent accidental ingestion.

Symptoms of paracetamol toxicity

The clinical signs typically include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Discolouration of gums and tongue (brown/blue)
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling of face and paws
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Yellowing of skin (jaundice) can develop with liver damage

If you are worried that your cat may have eaten paracetamol then please contact your vet ASAP as prompt treatment is key when treating paracetamol poisoning.

How is paracetamol toxicity treated?

Treatment will depend on how quickly the cat is presented to the vets after ingestion of paracetamol. If the cat is seen promptly then the vet can give an injection to induce vomiting, removing as much as possible from the stomach. Activated charcoal can then be given to reduce absorption of any remaining paracetamol.

Aggressive symptomatic treatment is then needed, which usually involves oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids (a drip), a blood transfusion if necessary and a drug called acetylcysteine to help prevent further damage from the paracetamol.

Will my cat recover?

Unfortunately, cases of paracetamol toxicity in cats are often fatal, especially if they are already showing symptoms by the time they arrive at the vets.

Remember, if you are concerned that your cat may be in pain then please speak to your vet about pain relief medication that is safe for them to use on a short or long-term basis. Never give human medication to your cat or dog as it can be very dangerous for them.

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Paracetamol toxicity in cats

Paracetamol is extremely toxic to cats and should never be given to treat pain – it will do far more harm than good. The toxic dose is very low, meaning that there is simply no safe dose for cats. It should never be given and must be kept out of reach to prevent accidental ingestion.

A cat’s metabolism is different to ours – they lack the enzyme to safely breakdown paracetamol, meaning that dangerous chemicals are produced within the body. These affect the oxygen levels in the blood and can cause liver failure. Symptoms typically include breathing difficulties, discoloured gums and tongue (brown/blue), vomiting, dark coloured urine and jaundice.

Treatment will depend on how quickly the cat is presented to the vets after ingestion of paracetamol. Unfortunately, cases of paracetamol toxicity in cats are often fatal, especially if they are already showing symptoms by the time they arrive at the vets.

Remember, if you are concerned that your cat may be in pain then please speak to your vet about pain relief medication that is safe for them to use on a short or long-term basis. Never give human medication to your cat or dog as it can be very dangerous for them.


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