Dangers of paracetamol to cats

Cat In PainWe've all been there, your cat comes in having had a scrape and you think 'ouch, where are the painkillers?' Searching through the cupboards you find the world's favourite painkiller - paracetamol. Please don't be be tempted as paracetamol is very dangerous for cats.

Why is paracetamol poisonous to cats?

When we take paracetamol we have an enzyme in our bodies that breaks it down once it's done its job. Cats are not able to break down paracetamol safely and so very dangerous toxic compounds are rapidly formed in their body . This causes irreversible damage to their red blood vessels and causes a syndrome called 'methaemaglobinaemia' where the tongue and gums turn chocolate brown and this, together with liver damage, is very sadly invariably fatal.

What can I do to protect my cat?

Many over the counter medications contain paracetamol so it's best practice to make sure your cat cannot access any human medicines in the house. Just like with children, make sure all medication is locked away in cabinets out of reach of wandering paws...

Medicines that contain paracetamol include some cold and flu remedies, liquid medication such as Calpol. Paracetamol even has a different name in America, where it is called Acetaminophen.

What should I do if my cat has ingested paracetamol?

Call your vet immediately, whatever the time of day, as no dose is too small. There is an antidote called acetylcysteine, which may save your cat's life if it is given to them early enough. Taking quick action is paramount to your cat's health.

What can I give my cat as a painkiller?

Cats are (obviously) very different to people and it is simply not safe to medicate cats with human medicines. There are lots of safe pain relief mediciations that have been developed specifically for cats and these are available from your vet.

If you are worried about any aspect of your cat's health, please contact your vet in the first instance.

Please note: this advice is not a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health - even if they are closed, they will always have an out of hours service available. Find out more about what to do in an out of hours emergency.