Effects of Poisoning on Different Body Systems in Cats

Poisoning is a common occurrence in cats, although not as common as in dogs as they are more picky eaters, but it can still happen for several reasons.

  • When a well-meaning pet owner administers a medication that has not been prescribed
  • If the cat receives a larger dose of a prescribed medication
  • The cat intentionally ingests a toxic substance (such as a plant, or medicine)
  • Contact with a toxic substance that is then ingested when the cat grooms
  • Secondary poisoning (eating a rodent that has ingested poison)
  • Deliberate poisoning
  • Venom toxicity (snake bite, spider bite, scorpion, frogs and toads)

Poisons can affect one or several body systems, and cause a range of symptoms which we have highlighted below.

Effects of poisoning on different body systems

Clinical signs

Possible toxins

Coagulopathy (blood clotting disorders)
Depression
  • Cannabis
  • Lead
  • Vitamin A
Gastrointestinal (vomiting and/or diarrhea)
  • Cane toad
  • Organophosphates
  • Chocolate
  • Cycad
  • Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)
  • Ibuprofen
  • Lead
  • Lilies
  • Tobacco
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Paracetamol
  • Lavender
  • Tea tree
Hemolysis (destruction of the red blood cells)
  • Cephalosporins (certain antibiotics)
  • Levamisole
  • Sulfa drugs
  • Onions and garlic
  • Paracetamol (acetaminophen)
  • Snakebite
  • Lead
  • Fenbendazole
  • Heparin
Hepatoxicity (liver)
  • Aflatoxins
  • Cycads
  • Paracetamol
  • Arsenic
  • Pine oil
  • Selenium
  • Dimethylnitrosamine
Hyperesthesia (rolling skin)
  • Chocolate
  • Tobacco
Hypersalivation (drooling)
  • Cane toad
  • Araceae plants (arum)
  • Tobacco
  • Organophosphate
  • Synthetic pyrethroids
  • Paracetamol
  • Arsenic
  • Snail bait
Kidney failure
  • Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)
  • Antimicrobials (aminoglycosides, carbapenems, fluoroquinolones, rifampin, tetracyclines, amphotericin B, cephalosporins, penicillins, sulfonamides, vancomycin)
  • Chemotherapy drugs (cisplatin, bisphosphonates, carboplatin)
  • Immunosuppressant drugs (azathioprine, cyclosporine)
  • Other drugs include streptokinase, NSAIDs)
  • Grapes
  • Lilies
Paresis or paralysis
  • Botulism
  • Paralysis tick
  • Tea tree
Seizures
  • Cane tode
  • Organophosphates
  • Lead
  • Chocolate
  • Cycads
  • Tobacco
  • Mycotoxins
  • Strychnine
  • Synthetic pyrethroids
  • Metaldehyde
Tremors
  • Cane toad
  • Cannabis
  • Tobacco
  • Synthetic pyrethroids
  • Organophosphates
  • Vitamin D

 

What to do if your cat has ingested a toxin

If you suspect your cat has been exposed to poison, seek immediate veterinary attention. The sooner the cat is seen, the better the outcome. Decontamination by inducing vomiting or pumping the stomach to prevent further absorption as well as supportive care and in some cases, an antidote.

Bring along any packaging, samples, photos or vomit if possible, this can help the veterinarian narrow down a cause.

Julia Wilson is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. She enjoys photography, gardening and running in her spare time. Full author bio Contact Julia