Panadol and cats don’t mix

Alpine Observer - - Regional Extra - with Tim Craig BVSc, Ve­teri­nar­ian

PANADOL (parac­eta­mol) is a hu­man med­i­ca­tion that helps with pain and fever in our bod­ies. Un­for­tu­nately it is metabolised dif­fer­ently in cats and even small amounts can be quite toxic.

Panadol should never be given to cats and ac­ci­den­tal ex­po­sure should be pre­vented.

The main prob­lem with panadol in cats is that the en­zyme that usu­ally breaks down the drug is in very lim­ited sup­ply com­pared to in a hu­man.

This leads to an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of a me­tab­o­lite that lim­its the blood’s ca­pac­ity to carry oxy­gen (methe­moglobine­mia).

Ob­vi­ously with lim­ited oxy­gen cir­cu­lat­ing in the blood we see short­ness of breath, re­luc­tance to ex­er­cise and weak­ness.

In se­vere cases death is highly likely due to oxy­gen short­age.

There may also be cyanosis (blue­ness of the gums) and blood sam­ples take on a char­ac­ter­is­tic brown ap­pear­ance.

Liver dam­age is also pos­si­ble at higher doses.

The toxic dose of panadol may be as low as 50mg for a 5kg dog and panadol tablets tend to be 500mg. As such it is very easy to give a toxic dose to a cat with just one tablet.

Treat­ment can be in­sti­gated early with vom­it­ing (how­ever mak­ing cats vomit re­li­ably is dif­fi­cult). Other­wise flush­ing the stom­ach un­der anaes­thetic and pro­vid­ing sup­port­ive care may be needed. Med­i­ca­tions can be used to try and re­verse the dys­func­tion in the red blood cells and help im­prove their oxy­gen car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity.

Pre­ven­tion as al­ways is bet­ter than cure and panadol tox­i­c­ity in cats is a dif­fi­cult prob­lem to cor­rect.

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