Acetaminophen Is Dangerous to Cats and Dogs


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Acetaminophen is very toxic to both cats and dogs, but cats are proven to be up to 10 times more susceptible than dogs. Acetaminophen can reach the blood stream in only 20 to 30 minutes. If a cat or dog ingests a medicine that contains acetaminophen, life threatening liver damage can be the result.

Acetaminophen Toxicity

Tylenol is one of the biggest brand name medications that contain Acetaminophen as the main ingredient. Other medications that are commonly used to remedy pain and fever symptoms may also contain Acetaminophen as the primary ingredient in them.

Unfortunately cats are the largest animal at risk as they do not have the necessary proteins needed to metabolize acetaminophen and are the most curious.

How do Animals Get Hold of Acetaminophen?

It can be quite easy for a cat or dog to get hold of acetaminophen. Simply chewing or playing with a bottle of pills, or chasing after a dropped pill are common ways that animals end up ingesting a pill. Another common scenario is when an owner gives medicine to their pet that contains acetaminophen without knowing the harmful effects. Never give human medications to your pets without veterinarian advice as the dosage is entirely different for humans and animals.

Acetaminophen Toxicity Signs

Since acetaminophen is absorbed in 20 to 30 minutes, you should keep a close eye on your pet during this time. Acetaminophen toxicity impacts both the liver and the red blood cells.

The substance that is produced when breakdown of acetaminophen occurs can bind to liver cells, causing liver failure. The same substance can also bind to red blood cells, changing the hemoglobin into a molecule that cannot carry oxygen. When this happens, the animal can die from lack of oxygen to vital organs.

Some of the signs you might see include the following:

  • Blue gums
  • Face swelling
  • Shock
  • Collapse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Open more breathing
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite or thirst
  • Brown urine

Treatment of Acetaminophen Poisoning

Diagnosis of toxicity is found by doing a complete blood cell count and a chemistry panel to determine the amount of damage done to the liver and red blood cells.

Because acetaminophen is metabolized very quickly, you have to act accordingly. If you notice that your pet has ingested a drug, you can induce vomiting before he has had a chance to absorb the medication. You may also use activated charcoal to slow down the absorption of the toxic substance into the stomach.

There is one specific medication to use in the case of acetaminophen poisoning. N-acetylcysteine is often used to limit the damage of toxic substances. Your veterinarian may also choose to do intravenous fluids, antiemetics, blood transfusions, and more work as needed.

You can prevent cases of acetaminophen toxicity by keeping pills out of reach and having a first aid kit handy. And now that you know the symptoms, you can quickly recognize and get your pet seen if you happen to notice they have ingested a medication not meant for animals. This is an emergency situation if you notice your pet ingesting any human medications.


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