Acetominophen (Tylenol) Poisoning in Cats

PetMD Editorial
January 06, 2009
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Acetaminophen Toxicity in Cats

 

Acetaminophen is one of the most commonly used pain relievers, and it can be found in a variety of over-the-counter medications. Toxic levels can be reached when a pet is unintentionally over medicated with acetaminophen, or when a pet has gotten hold of medication and ingested it. Pet owners often do not realize their animals may break into medicine cabinets or chew through medicine bottles. It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of toxicity, so that you can properly treat your pet if they have accidentally ingested medication.

Symptoms and Types

Cats are especially sensitive to acetaminophen toxicity. They can experience toxicity levels with as low as 10 mg per kg body weight. The most common symptoms that you may notice in pets suffering from acetaminophen toxicity include:

  • Brownish-gray colored gums
  • Labored breathing
  • Swollen face, neck or limbs
  • Hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature)
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowish color to skin, whites of eyes), due to liver damage
  • Coma

Diagnosis

If you believe that your cat has ingested acetaminophen, it will typically be treated as an emergency situation. Seek the advice of a medical professional immediately, as treatment may be necessary. Your veterinarian will perform a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis to determine the level of toxicity, so that a potential treatment can be prescribed.

Treatment

If your cat requires treatment, it will typically need to be given supplemental oxygen, intravenous fluids, and/or drugs given intravenously, including vitamin C, cimetidine and N-acetylcysteine. The amino acid cystiene may also be used and is one of the most effective ingredients in this treatment regiment, necessary for repairing any potential liver damage. Cystiene can also work to reduce the overall level of toxicity in the body. Treatment in a timely fashion is essential to give your cat the best chance of recovery and survival.

Prevention

While a veterinarian may recommend small doses of over-the-counter medication for animals, the weight of the animal, with regards to the dosage, is always taken into consideration. Cat owners should never self-diagnose and treat their pets with human medication, and should take precautions to keep household medications out of their cat's reach to avoid a potentially harmful or fatal reaction.