Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a common over-the-counter pain reliever used for a variety of ailments including minor aches and pains, or fevers. It is common for people to include acetaminophen in their regimen for any of these ailments. However, just one 250mg acetaminophen capsule could prove fatal to your feline companion.
Any cat can potentially have deleterious effects from a dose of acetaminophen. Cats lack a necessary enzyme in their liver to processes the entirety of what makes up acetaminophen. This results in the release of a toxic compound that affects both the liver and the red blood cells of the feline. That toxic compound damages the animal’s oxygen carrying ability.
This causes several symptoms that your veterinarian can diagnose. The most obvious sign of liver damage is jaundice. Other symptoms include: hypothermia, weakness, depression, labored breathing, rapid breathing, facial or pediatric edema. Other less specific signs may occur such as anorexia, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms generally develop 4-8 hours after ingestion of acetaminophen, and continue up to 24-48 hours following exposure.
The faster a diagnosis is made, the faster treatment can be administered, making room for a better prognosis. Treatment will include a blood panel to assess red blood cell levels, as well as liver and kidney enzymes. Supportive care may include IV fluids, oxygen support, a blood transfusion, or liver support medications. Cats often require several days of hospitalization following an event of this level.
At no point is use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) in felines recommended. If a known or suspected ingestion occurs, bring the animal to a veterinarian immediately. When possible, obtain the bottle or the medication’s information and present it to the veterinarian. Only 250mg of ingested acetaminophen can prove fatal to your cat if left untreated. With fast and appropriate treatment, recovery is possible.
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