Understanding Arsenic Poisoning In Cats
You may not think you need to worry about your cat being exposed to arsenic, which is a heavy metal mineral, but arsenic is actually used in a range of household and gardening products, such wood preservatives, weed killers and insecticides. Some drugs, including those used to treat heartworm disease in cats, contain small quantities of arsenic, which can be toxic if your cat consumes too much the drug. If your cat ingests a product containing arsenic, they need veterinary care right away, as this poison can be fatal for cats. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for arsenic poisoning in cats:
Early symptoms of arsenic poisoning include diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal swelling. Your cat may also pass blood from their back passage and stagger due to loss of co-ordination. As the toxic effect of arsenic continues to manifest, your cat will experience a drop in body temperature and may experience seizures. Death occurs due to organ failure, and your cat's risk of this increases the longer they wait for treatment after ingesting arsenic.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
If you know your cat has ingested arsenic, take the product they have consumed with you to the vet surgery. Otherwise, your vet can diagnose arsenic poisoning by using a sample of their blood to perform a chemical blood profile and analysing samples of their urine and vomit for the presence of arsenic. You can help your vet diagnose your cat faster by taking a sample of their vomit with you to the surgery, but you shouldn't delay getting your cat to the vet practice by waiting for them to vomit at home.
Treating arsenic poisoning involves removing the toxin from your cat's body as quickly as possible to minimise the amount absorbed into their bloodstream, and your cat will be admitted as an in-patient for a few days until treatment is complete and your vet is satisfied their condition is stable.
Your vet will carry out a procedure known as gastric lavage, which involves flushing out the contents of your cat's stomach with large volumes of water that's delivered directly into their stomach through a fine tube. Flooding your cat's stomach like this will cause them to quickly pass the contents out through their back passage.
Activated charcoal is another treatment option that can remove arsenic from your cat's digestive system. The activated charcoal, which can be administered as a drink, binds to the arsenic and carries it through your cat's intestines until it's safely removed from their body when they have a bowel movement. Your cat's chemical blood profile will be checked after they receive treatment to ensure the toxin has been completely removed from their system.
If you suspect your cat has ingested arsenic, have them examined by your vet immediately. It's better to be proven wrong than risk losing your cat.