Paracetamol is the active ingredient of many human drugs available in pharmacies without a prescription such as Doliprane®, Efferalgan® or Dafalgan®. It is found in almost every home and self-medication is common among humans. Be careful however, you should not give it to your cat because it is a very toxic drug for them! It is also very important to store medicine boxes out of reach of cats to avoid accidental poisoning.
Is paracetamol dangerous for cats?
Paracetamol is a human drug used both in case of fever and for mild to moderate pain. In humans, it is common to use this drug without first consulting your doctor. It is also given to infants and therefore appears to be a safe drug for owners. They are therefore sometimes tempted to give paracetamol to their cat, to bring down the fever or to relieve them in case of pain.
This is strongly contraindicated because paracetamol is very toxic to cats, paracetamol poisoning can be fatal. It is therefore advisable to consult a veterinarian if your animal is sick, he can examine it and prescribe an appropriate treatment.
Good to know : the normal body temperature of a cat is between 38 and 39°C. A cat therefore has a fever when its temperature is above 39°C.
Cases of paracetamol poisoning in cats are most often related to self-medication by the owners. There are also cases of accidental poisoning when cats ingest tablets left within their reach. It is important not to leave anything within reach of cats and especially kittens, who tend to discover the world with their mouths and ingest everything!
The cat is particularly sensitive to paracetamol because it has a hemoglobin that is more sensitive to oxidative attack compared to humans and dogs (for which paracetamol is toxic but the toxic dose is greater). Paracetamol is responsible for the formation of methemoglobin which has an impact on the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen to different organs. It also presents differences in the mechanisms of paracetamol transformation in the liver.
The toxic dose of paracetamol orally in cats is 50 to 100 mg/kg.
Cats most often show symptoms 1 to 12 hours after ingesting paracetamol. The symptoms encountered are mainly linked to the methemoglobinization of hemoglobin: breathing difficulties with increased respiratory rate, increased heart rate, blue mucous membranes (cyanosis), vomiting, black urine, prostration or even coma, hypothermia, etc.
What to do if your cat has ingested paracetamol?
Cats being small, the toxic dose is quickly reached: it is therefore advisable to consult a veterinarian urgently.
It is possible to consult an emergency veterinarian even outside your veterinarian’s opening hours (at night, weekends and public holidays). The telephone answering machine of your attending veterinarian will give you the contact details of the on-call veterinarian.
If you consult a veterinarian quickly (within an hour after ingestion), it may be possible to induce your cat to vomit. The veterinarian may also administer N-acetylcysteine to limit the damage caused by paracetamol on the red blood cells and therefore the formation of methemoglobin. Other treatments will depend on your cat’s symptoms.