Arsenic Intoxication in Cats
Arsenic is a heavy metal mineral that is commonly included in chemical compounds for consumer products, such as herbicides (chemicals to kill unwanted plants), insecticides (chemicals to kill insects), and as wood preservatives. Most cases of toxicity occur in homes where such compounds are placed carelessly with open excess. Cats typically ingest such compounds accidentally. Toxicity can also occur over a long term, such as when cats are exposed to arsenic by eating grass that is regularly treated with herbicides.
Symptoms and Types
In case of acute exposure to arsenic, the following symptoms may be present in an affected cat:
- Abdominal pain
- Fresh bright red blood in feces
- Lying down with extreme exhaustion
- Body may feel unusually cold, especially at the extremities, such as the ears and limbs
- Loss of consciousness
- In long-term (chronic) exposure symptoms may be subtle, such as poor appetite and weight loss
- Ingestion of arsenic-containing compounds
- Overdose of arsenic-containing drugs for treating heartworm parasite
You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. The background history is very important in the diagnosis of arsenic poisoning and your veterinarian will need to know about any arsenic-containing compounds you have at home. Many owners bring their cats to the veterinarian with complaints of a sudden and unexplained episode of vomiting. However, few owners report seeing their cats ingest arsenic-containing compounds, so this may not be the first cause that is apparent. Your veterinarian will perform a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. A sample of the stomach contents may also be necessary. Arsenic in the blood stream or stomach contents will confirm the diagnosis. In cases of chronic arsenic poisoning the level of arsenic in the body can be evaluated from a hair sample, as arsenic is deposited in the hair over a course of time.
If possible, you should collect a sample of the vomit or diarrhea to take to the veterinarian. This will help to speed the diagnostic process so that your cat can be treated before further damage is done.