Toxicology Brief: The 10 most common toxicoses in cats - Veterinary Medicine
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Toxicology Brief: The 10 most common toxicoses in cats

3 Venlafaxine

Venlafaxine (Effexor, Effexor XR—Wyeth) is a bicyclic antidepressant available in tablets and capsules of 25, 37.5, 50, 75, 100, and 150 mg. Venlafaxine acts as a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor as well as a weak dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Cats seem to readily eat venlafaxine capsules (ASPCA APCC Database: Unpublished data, 2003-2005). Less than one 37.5-mg capsule is enough to cause mydriasis, vomiting, tachypnea, tachycardia, ataxia, and agitation (ASPCA APCC Database: Unpublished data, 2002-2005). Signs generally begin within one to eight hours after exposure (later if an extended-release formulation was ingested).

Emesis may be initiated in asymptomatic patients. Activated charcoal is effective; repeat the dose in four to six hours if the animal was exposed to an extended-release formulation. Be sure to monitor heart rate and blood pressure. Cyproheptadine (1.1 mg/kg orally or rectally up to three or four times a day) can be used as a serotonin antagonist, and acepromazine or chlorpromazine can be used to treat agitation. Generally, the prognosis is good with close monitoring and treatment of signs.

4 Glow jewelry and sticks

Glow jewelry and sticks are plastic bracelets, necklaces, and wands that contain a liquid that glows in the dark. The jewelry is popular throughout the summer, especially around the Fourth of July and at Halloween. Cats frequently bite into the jewelry. The main ingredient is dibutyl phthalate, an oily liquid that has a wide margin of safety with an oral LD50 in rats of greater than 8 g/kg.6 So ingesting the contents of a piece of glow jewelry should not cause any serious effects. The chemical has an extremely unpleasant taste, and most cats will not ingest more than a small amount.

Almost immediately after biting into a piece of glow jewelry, cats exhibit signs of a taste reaction, including hypersalivation, agitation, and, occasionally, vomiting. The behavioral changes are likely due to the cat's reacting to the unpleasant taste. A tasty treat such as milk, liquid from a tuna fish can, or other palatable food can ameliorate the taste reaction. Remove any liquid on the fur with a wet washcloth to prevent re-exposure; take the cat into a darkened room to help you identify the product on the coat.6

5 Lilies

Cats ingesting lilies can develop acute renal failure. While many plants are called lilies, renal failure has been seen only with Lilium species (e.g. Easter lilies, Stargazer lilies, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies) and Hemerocallis species (day lilies).7 Ingesting any part of the plant (including the pollen) may cause signs, and even the smallest of exposures should be aggressively treated.

After ingesting lilies, cats generally develop vomiting and depression within two to four hours. Often the cats seem to recover and then begin to deteriorate rapidly about 24 to 72 hours after the exposure with signs of polyuria, polydipsia, and more severe depression.8 A serum chemistry profile reveals elevated creatinine, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), and phosphorus concentrations; the creatinine concentration is often elevated disproportionately to the BUN concentration.7 Urinalysis may show cellular casts beginning about 18 hours after exposure.

Treatment consists of immediate decontamination, including emesis and activated charcoal. Start fluid diuresis as soon as possible, and continue it for at least 48 hours. The prognosis is good with prompt, aggressive treatment. Once renal failure develops, some recovery is possible but may take weeks, and the cat may require peritoneal dialysis for support.7 The development of oliguria or anuria is a poor prognostic sign.7

6 Liquid potpourri

Liquid potpourri is used as household fragrance, often placed in a bowl over a candle or heat source. Cats may lick the product from the container or from their fur if exposed to a spill. Liquid potpourri may contain high concentrations of cationic detergents, essential oils, or a combination of both.9 Cationic detergents are corrosive to the oral mucosa and can cause severe gastrointestinal upset, drooling, central nervous system (CNS) depression, and hypotension. Cats may exhibit dermal irritation and ulceration as well as severe corneal ulceration if skin or eye exposure occurs. Essential oils may cause gastrointestinal and oral irritation and CNS depression.9


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