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Signs of poisoning in cats

How do I know whether my cat has been poisoned?

To think that our cats may be poisoned either by ingesting a poison, being bitten by a poisonous animal or coming into contact with a poison by accident is one of the most frightening thoughts a cat owner can have.

As a professional vet in Abu Dhabi, I would like to inform you of a few of the most common poisonings we see in cats and how to prevent and recognise them and what to do next in case you suspect your cat may have been poisoned!


Lilies are toxic to cats. Lilies are a big ‘no-no’ for feline-friendly homes and gardens. Just one lily leaf, if eaten, can kill your cat — but any part of the plant is dangerous, including the pollen and flower.

Many cats vomit after chewing or eating parts of a lily, however, if a cat has been exposed to a lily outdoors, you may be unaware of the exposure. Cats are very sensitive to lily poisoning.  While the exact toxin is still unidentified, cats who are not treated promptly develop acute renal failure and can die, generally within 3-6 days after exposure. Cats with acute renal failure typically have vomiting, depression, partial or complete loss of appetite and dehydration.

Cats who have been seen near lilies, as well as those who have definitely ingested any part of a lily, should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.  Cats who are treated within 18 hours of exposure to a toxic lily generally recover. However, in cases where treatment is delayed, the prognosis is generally poor.


Ethylene glycol –the active ingredient in Antifreeze

Although this is probably not a common product found in the UAE, Ethylene Glycol poisoning is one of the most common and severe poisonings in other countries because it tastes very sweet.

Signs are vomiting, lethargy, neurological signs resulting from failure of the brain, liver, and kidneys.

If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, please take it to the veterinary clinic immediately!!


Permethrin –contained in Spot-on flea treatments for dogs

This again is a very common poisoning in cats as spot on flea treatment for dogs can be bought over the counter at pet shops and many owners use one type of treatment to treat all animals in the household – dogs as well as cats.

Onset of signs is usually within a few hours of exposure but may be delayed up to 24 hours. The most common clinical signs of permethrin toxicity in cats are muscle tremors and seizures as well as dilated pupils. Excessive salivation, depression, vomiting, anorexia and even death may be seen.

Again, the best thing to do is get your cat to the veterinary clinic immediately, where supportive treatment can be given.


Metaldehyde – in slug/snail baits/pellets.

Snail bait contains one of two poisons, metaldehyde and methiocarb, both can be fatal to cats if ingested. These products typically contain around 3% poison and the rest contains a ‘bait’ such as bran or molasses which is not only attractive to snails and slugs but also other animals. Bait may also come in powder form, which sticks to your pet’s coat and paws and may be licked off.

Symptoms occur soon after ingestion and include muscle twitching / tremors, change in behaviour, anxiety and excitability.

If your cat exhibits any of these, please take them to a veterinary clinic immediately!!


Bites by poisonous snakes / insects / spiders

Unfortunately, this is something we see relatively commonly in the UAE.

Very often the bite is hardly noticed at first but can turn into a large infected and necrotic skin area very quickly. Furthermore, the cats can show signs of lethargy, depression, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as develop a very high fever and neurological signs.

Again, if you notice anything unusual in your cats behaviour or on your cat’s body, please take him to the vet immediately!


Rat poisoning

Bromethalin rodenticide toxicity, more commonly referred to as rat poisoning, occurs when an animal is exposed to the chemical bromethalin, a toxic substance that is found in a variety of rat and mice poisons. Ingestion of bromethalin can lead to cerebral edema (the accumulation of excess water in the brain), and an increase in pressure of cerebrospinal fluid – the liquid within the membrane of the skull that the brain essentially floats in. A variety of neurological-based symptoms can result from this, including muscle tremors, seizures, impaired movement and paralysis.

While other species may be affected by the accidental ingestion of rat poison, cats are most frequently prone to this condition as they may catch and eat a rat that has ingested rat poison.

As always, please take your cat to a veterinary clinic immediately if you suspect any signs of poisoning.

We at the German Veterinary Clinic, as part of our Cat Friendly Clinic Status, have subscribed to the VPIS – Veterinary Poisons Information Service. This is a service where we can call a hotline at any time 24/7 describing the patient’s symptoms or stating the product or chemical which the patient has ingested or which insect / snake it may have been bitten by and we are given information about antidotes and guidelines on how best to treat these animals.