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Excess Iron in the Blood in Cats

Iron Toxicity in Cats

While iron is an essential nutrient for the regular functioning of a cat's body, it can become lethal when it is present in large quantities in the bloodstream. Cats may be ingesting unhealthy amounts of iron when they are being given multivitamins that are not appropriate for their age, size or health status, or when they are ingesting dietary supplements or pregnancy supplements that have been left within their reach but that are not intended for them. In the event that there is a high volume of iron present in the blood, damage can occur within the cells. 

Symptoms and Types

Iron toxicity occurs in cats in four separate stages.

Stage I (0–6 hours)

Stage II (6–24 hours)

  • Apparent recovery

Stage III (12–96 hours)

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • Shock
  • Tremors
  • Abdominal pain

Stage IV (2–6 weeks)

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction from stricture formation

Causes

The most common cause of iron toxicity is the ingestion of pills within the home environment. Contact an emergency hospital or your veterinrian if you believe your cat has ingested a toxic dose of iron.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will need a thorough history of your cat's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated/preceded this condition. A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. If there is an abnormally high level of iron in the bloodstream, this will show up on the results of the blood tests. If it is suspected that your cat ingested iron pills, diagnostic imaging may be used to help locate them and to determine whether they can be removed from your cat's digestive system before they can be fully absorbed into the body.

 
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