Metaldehyde Poisoning in Cats
Slug and snail baits as well as some solid fuel for camp stoves all contain metaldehyde, which is extremely poisonous to cats, primarily affecting their nervous system. This type of poisoning is often seen in coastal and low-lying areas, where use of slug and snail bait is customary. And even though metaldehyde poisoning can be seen in both dogs and cats, it is more common in dogs.
Symptoms and Types
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling (ptyalism)
- Uncoordinated walk
- Muscle tremors
- Increased sensitivity to light, touch, and/or sounds
- Increased respiration (hyperpnea)
You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. The questions may specifically pertain to exposure to slug and snail baits or other sources of metaldehyde. He or she will then conduct a complete physical examination, as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC) -- the results of which may be varied. A definitive diagnosis is typically made by verifying the presence of metaldehyde in bodily fluids (e.g., vomitus, stomach contents, and urine).
A cat suffering from metaldehyde poisoning is the type of emergency which will need immediate hospitalization and treatment. Unfortunately, there is no antidote available. The only course of treatment is to eliminate the metaldehyde from the cat's body. Your veterinarian will pump the cat's stomach and, if it is not convulsing, give activated charcoal to absorb the poison in the stomach and intestines. The cat will be restrained to prevent injury. Fluids are also often necessary to rehydrate the cat.
Living and Management
It is important to not feed a cat that is convulsing or vomiting. Overall prognosis ultimately depends on the amount of metaldehyde ingested, time to treatment, and quality of care provided. If left untreated, however, a cat may die within few hours of ingestion. Watch your cat for vomiting and other symptoms, and call your veterinarian immediately.
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