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Lead Poisoning in Cats



Lead poisoning should be considered an emergency that requires immediate care. Often, chelation therapy -- a detoxifying therapy whereby chelating agents are given through the mouth to bind the lead found in the gastrointestinal system and prevent further absorption -- is the first course of treatment. There are many types of chelating agent available for various types of poisonings, and selection of chelating agent will be made by the attending veterinarian.


Your veterinarian may also perform a gastric lavage to remove and clean the stomach contents if the lead has been ingested within hours of medical care. This method uses water to wash, clean and empty the stomach cavity and digestive tract of poison.


There are also some drugs available which can assist in lowering the body load of lead, especially in cases where concentrations of lead in the blood stream are very high. Your cat's other symptoms will be treated accordingly.


Living and Management


Most cats recover within 24 to 48 hours after initial treatment. Prognosis in affected animals is positive if treated quickly; however, cats with uncontrolled seizures have a more guarded prognosis.


Because humans and other animals are at risk from the same source of lead, your veterinarian is required to report the incident to relevant authorities. You may need to identify the source of lead to prevent further human or animal exposure. If source of lead is not identified and eliminated, future episodes are not uncommon and may pose greater risks.




Prevent human as well as animal exposure to any source of lead. Remove materials that contain lead from easy access (car batteries, plumbing materials, paint), and place objects containing lead in enclosed or hard to reach places (such as lead based dish ware that is antique or intended for decoration only) to prevent any exposure in future. If you live in an old home (esp. previous to 1950), you might consider having the underlying layers of paint checked for lead content, following up with ways to contain the lead. Plumbing is another potential source of lead, as old pipes become corroded over time, leaching lead into the water as it passes through the pipes. The ground soil surrounding the home can also be dangerously high in lead content. As old paint from homes and buildings can leach into the ground over time as the paint deteriorates.

Image: Nailia Schwarz via Shutterstock


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