Cats and paracetamol do not mix

Many people are unaware that most human medications are not suitable for pets. One problem is the different size of pets. An average cat weighs 5kg and an average person may weigh 70kg. So if you give a cat a human tablet you are overdosing it 14 times. Even a 30kg kelpie would be getting twice as much medication as would normally be prescribed. The second and often more serious problem is that pets may metabolise the medication differently to humans. This is particularly true of cats who lack a specific enzyme that is responsible for breaking down medications (and some potential poisons) into safer chemicals.

One common human painkiller - paracetamol - sold under many names and freely available in pharmacies and supermarkets is deadly to cats. The active ingredient changes the haemoglobin in the blood so that it cannot carry oxygen around the body. The effect on the cat is to change the colour of the blood from red (indicating that it is carrying oxygen) to blue or brown and not carrying oxygen. This lack of oxygen results in a slow distressing death from gradual organ and metabolic failure. The cats often have swollen faces and may dribble. Treatment is difficult, intensive and often ineffective. We recently treated a cat that had been in an accident a few days earlier and was stiff and sore. His owner gave him what she would have taken herself - Panadeine. When we saw him he was exceptionally depressed, had a swollen face and his mucous membranes were dark blue (see pictures).
The lessons to be learned from this are do not give your pet any medications that we have not prescribed specifically for that pet. In particular be very careful with cats as, although they think they are superior to dogs in many ways, they are not good with drugs!


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