We take a look at some emergency procedures for toxin exposure the cat’s carer can utilise, before continuing to the veterinarian.
A cat who has had exposure to a toxin must see a veterinarian even if no symptoms are present. Some toxins can take hours to take effect; others can slowly accumulate in the system over time. If toxin ingestion was recent, the veterinarian has more tools up his or her sleeve to prevent further absorption.
Types of toxicity
- Oral ingestion (eating or drinking) – This kind of poisoning can be primary or secondary. Primary occurs when the cat ingests a toxin, or a pet-owner feeds a medication that is toxic to cats. Secondary poisoning occurs when a cat eats an animal which has itself ingested a poison such as a rat who has consumed the bait.
- Inhalation – Smoke, fumes from household chemicals such as bleach or ammonia
- Dermal exposure (on the skin or coat) – Chemicals which come into contact with the skin such as on garage floors, or a cat who sleeps with a dog recently treated with a topical flea product. The danger with dermal exposure is twofold, the direct of absorption through the skin as well as ingestion when the cat grooms.
- Ocular exposure (in the eyes) – Substances or chemicals which accidentally splash into the eye.
Always have the phone number of your veterinarian as well as an emergency phone number in an easy to access place.
Store cat carriers in an easy to reach location so that you can act quickly in an emergency.
Call the veterinarian or a poison control centre
Call the veterinarian, or an emergency veterinarian to inform them the cat has been exposed to a toxin. They will be able to offer emergency medical advice over the phone, always follow their instructions.
- Animal Poison Control (888) 426 4435 (USA)
- Pet Poison Helpline (800) 213-6680 (USA)
Below are some general tips which can help while somebody else contacts the veterinarian.
- Wipe the inside of the lips and gums with a damp cloth to remove any remaining toxins in the mouth.
- Rinse the cloth with warm water between wipes.
- Wear gloves and take care.
If there is any risk that the cat will bite you, skip this step and take the cat immediately to a veterinarian.
Do NOT attempt to induce vomiting unless a veterinarian instructs you to do so. While hydrogen peroxide is safe to use in dogs, it is dangerous to use with cats. It can cause severe hemorrhagic gastritis as well as esophageal, stomach ulcers and aspiration pneumonia. Inducing vomiting in cats must be carried out in a clinical setting, with appropriate medication and under the supervision of a veterinarian.
- Move the cat to a well-ventilated area, outside if necessary. If there is a risk of the cat escaping, confine in a cat carrier.
- Bathe in a mild dishwashing liquid and rinse with warm water, repeat. Ensure all traces of detergent are removed from the coat.
- Wear protective gloves to prevent exposure.
- Irrigate the eye with tepid water or distilled water for 20-30 minutes. Rinse from the inside of the eye closest to the nose (medial) to the side to avoid contaminating the other eye.