Paracetamol has been linked to many cases of cat poisoning and a surprisingly large proportion of these overdoses are done unintentionally.

Paracetamol is an easy turn-to medication for many people. However, some people also see it as a harmless painkiller that can be given to their pets.

Unfortunately, self-prescribing any form of medication can have serious health consequences. This is whether it’s done for yourself, a family member or friend, or (dare we say it) pet.

Paracetamol poisoning in cats

It’s not all that uncommon for a cat to find themselves in the emergency department of their local vet suffering from an overdose of paracetamol. Wanting to help their pet, a poorly informed pet parent (or two) has administered a dose of the paracetamol from their cupboard only to (unintentionally) poison their cat instead. Meanwhile, disheartened vets lament the unnecessary trauma and/or deaths that often result from paracetamol poisoning.

Cats are particularly susceptible to the drug. A toxic dose ranges from 50-100mg / kg. Unfortunately, paracetamol tablets you find in the supermarket or chemist usually start at a minimum dose of 250mg. For most cats, one tablet of this amount can prove lethal if untreated.

Symptoms of paracetamol poisoning

Paracetamol poisoning presents in a variety of symptoms in cats, usually beginning about 2-4 hours after ingestion. The gums will begin to turn a blue-brown while the heart will beat faster. Breathing is also likely to become more difficult and the cat may vomit. Blood in the urine, jaundice and even seizures can also occur. If the animal is not cared for in time, the outcome is almost always fatal.

My cat ingested paracetamol, what do I do?

If your cat has ingested paracetamol contacting your vet will be the first priority. They may get you to induce vomiting if it happened within the last two hours, however they may prefer to do this themselves. More than likely, your vet will ask you to bring your cat to them immediately so that they can administer the appropriate treatment. It’s also very important at this point to tell the vet how much your cat has ingested, if you know. Bringing the box of paracetamol can also help too.

Preventing paracetamol poisoning

Firstly, avoid administering any form of paracetamol to your cat, unless this is specifically prescribed and given to you by your vet. Never use paracetamol you buy in the supermarket or from the chemist!

It’s not likely that your cat will eat painkillers of their own choosing. However, it is always best to take precaution and keep all medications out of reach and in a closed cupboard your cat is unable to sneak into. Never leave the box or bottle of medication lying around, and tell those you live with about the risks involved so they too are well informed. Finally, spread the word by telling other cat parents, even parents of other pets. Nothing beats education!

It’s important to reiterate that caring for your pet with medications should only ever be done under the supervision of a qualified vet. Don’t try to take the task on yourself and care for your animal alone. Medications designed for humans are exactly that - designed for humans and not for pets. Always consult your vet, otherwise you could well be putting your pet's life in danger.

We recommend you also read: Warning: anti-parasite dog treatments can be lethal to cats!

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