Emergency situations involving convulsions occur commonly following poisoning. Cats are extremely sensitive to the effects of many chemicals used commonly in the house and garden, but because of their habits they are seldom seen ingesting poisonous substances. Instead, an owner often becomes aware the poisoning has occurred only after signs of toxicity, such as convulsions, develop.
Try to prevent poisoning from common household products by reading their labels carefully and using them appropriately. Any product labeled hazardous for humans should be assumed to be toxic to your cat as well. Outdoors, avoid the use of organophosphate and chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides (see chart), snail bait, herbicides, fungicides, and rodent poisons if there is even the slightest chance your cat may come into contact with them.
GENERAL TREATMENT OF POISONING
- If you see your cat ingest a toxic substance, read the label to see if specific instructions for treatment are given. If not, induce vomiting unless the material is corrosive (a strong acid or alkali or a petroleum distillate, e.g., kerosene). The most reliable way to cause vomiting is to administer syrup of ipecac, USP (2% alcohol, 7% glycerine, sold over the counter in drugstores), about 1 teaspoonful per 5 pounds of body weight (2 ml/kg). Vomiting should occur in 10 to 30 minutes. Another home remedy to induce vomiting is 3% hydrogen peroxide by mouth; give about 1 teaspoonful per 5 pounds of body weight, (2 ml/kg). If vomiting does not occur within 5 to 10 minutes, you can repeat the dose up to two more times. A much less effective way to cause vomiting is to place a teaspoon of salt on the back of the cat’s tongue. As this method itself is potentially toxic, avoid it unless induction of vomiting is critical and there is no other product available. Then give milk mixed with a raw egg at 1/4 cup per 10 pounds of body weight (13 ml/kg). If milk is not available, plain water can be used. (See the poison chart for treatments and times to use activated charcoal as the universal antidote.) Do not induce vomiting if your cat is already losing consciousness or is beginning to convulse. If veterinary care is immediately available, do not waste time with home treatment.
- If your cat gets a toxic substance on his or her skin or in the eye, flush with large volumes of water while (or before) someone calls a veterinarian. Be sure to protect yourself from toxic exposure when rinsing or washing toxins from the fur.
- If convulsions occur, try to restrain the cat.
- Try to bring a sample of the suspected poison in its original container to the hospital. If this is not possible, bring a sample of any vomitus you find.
LEARN TO USE POISON CONTROL CENTERS FOR HELP
There are thousands of potentially toxic substances in the environment, and new toxins are developed every day, making it impossible for any single book to provide current information on every toxic substance. Regional animal poison control centers in the United States and Canada help with this problem. The pioneer animal poison control center, the National Animal Poison Information Center, provides a twenty- four-hour toll-free number, (800) 548–2423, to assist with poisoning problems in animals. Information is available to both pet owners and veterinarians for a fee that must be paid at the time the call is made (credit cards are accepted). Local human poison control centers can also provide information on toxic ingredients in pesticides, insecticides, medicines.
COMMON HOUSEHOLD POISONS AND THEIR IMMEDIATE TREATMENT
The list of potentially dangerous garden and houseplants is extremely long. Any plant not normally used for food is potentially toxic, so the best rule to follow to avoid problems is to not keep poisonous houseplants and to correct your cat whenever you find him or her chewing on any plant or floral arrangement. You can make houseplants somewhat more undesirable by spraying them with a dilute solution of perfume, hot pepper sauce, or citrus oil. Cats who have proper diets, plenty of attention and activity, and who are offered their own patch of catnip or fresh grass rarely chew other plants. Although some plants have only certain poisonous parts, consider all parts, including the roots, tubers, and bulbs, dangerous until proven otherwise. Many plants considered poisonous have only local irritant properties, so a reasonable strategy to follow if there is no veterinary care available when a pet is found chewing on a plant is to rinse the mouth carefully with a stream of water. If there is evidence that some of the plant has actually been consumed, induce vomiting and follow with activated charcoal. When local veterinary care is unavailable, a call to the regional or veterinary poison control center may also yield advice.
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima); Philodendron species; dumbcane (Diffenbachia species); members of the rhododendron family including azaleas; and mushrooms are the potentially poisonous plants pets consume most often. Although once thought to be highly toxic, poinsettias are now regarded as plants that are mainly gastrointestinal irritants. Most pets who chew on poinsettias develop no signs. A few begin to drool or vomit and have diarrhea. Similarly, a minimal exposure to philodendron or dumbcane may cause local irritation followed by drooling or vomiting.
However, moderate exposure can result in swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat, which may produce laryngitis, tongue paralysis (rarely), and difficulty breathing (rarely). In rare cases, ingestion of philodendron or diffenbachia has resulted in later death from kidney failure.
Members of the Rhododendron genus and wild-growing outdoor mushrooms have great potential to cause death in any pet that eats them. As there are no specific antidotes for the toxins they can contain, a veterinarian’s emergency aid is needed for animals poisoned by these plants.
TYPICAL POISONOUS PLANTS
Araceae family—dumbcane (Diffenbachia spp.), Philodendron spp., ceriman (Monstera spp.), elephant’s ear (Alocasia antiquorum), calla lily, caladium, skunk cabbage, wild calla or water arum, malanga (Xanthosoma spp.)
Algae—blue-green algae bloom contaminates pond water in hot weather (Microcystic aeruqinosa, Anabaena flos-aquae, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae) *Azalea (Rhododendron spp.) Black locust (Robinia spp.) Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spp.)
Bulbs—narcissus, daffodil, jonquil (Narcissus spp.); Amaryllis spp., naked lady amaryllis (Brunvigia, lris spp.); Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum); glory lily (Gloriosa spp.); autumn crocus (Colchicum spp.)
Buckeye (Aesculys spp.) Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.)
*Castor beans—castor oil plant, palma christi (Ricinus communis)
Chinaberry (Melia azedarach)
*Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
Daphne (Daphne spp.)
English ivy (Hedera helix, fruits especially)
*Foxglove (Digitalis spp.)
Golden chain (Laburnum)
Larkspur (Delphinium spp.)
Lily of the valley (Convallaria spp.)
Marijuana (Cannabis spp.)
Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens)
*Monkshood (Aconitum spp.)
*Mushrooms—Amanita, Gyromitra, Coprinus, Inocybe spp., Clitocybe spp.
Nettles—Urtica spp., Laportea spp., Cnidoscolus spp.
Nightshade family—Solanaceae spp. all contain toxic agents at some growth stage or in some plant part: Datura stramonium (thornapple, jimsonweed); Datura inoxia (tolguacha, trumpet vine, angel’s-trumpet); Datura arborea; Nicandra physalodes (apple-of- Peru); Solanum nigrum (black nightshade, common nightshade); Solanum dulcamara, Atropa belladonna, Pseudo capsicum (deadly nightshade, Jerusalem cherry, European bittersweet, climbing nightshade); tobacco, potato; and tomato leaves and stems
*Oleander—Nerium oleander; yellow oleander, yellow bestill tree (Thevitia peruviana) Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) Pokeweed (Phytolacca) *Precatory beans (Arbus precatorius) Spurges—snow-on-the-mountain, crown of thorns, candelabra cactus, tinsel tree, poinsettia (Euphorbia spp.) Walnut hulls (Juglans regia, Juglans nigra) Water hemlock (Cictua maculata) *Yew (Taxus spp.)
* Extremely toxic; ingestion of very small amounts often results in death.
* For your own ease, it is best to weigh out the appropriate cat food portion on a food scale, then measure the portion’s volume. Then on a day- to-day basis the portion can be measured out by volume.