Paracetamol is used as a painkiller and is widely available both over the counter and on prescription and therefore it is present in most households. It is also given to children for pain relief and high temperatures and may be contained in mixed medicine formulations, such as cold and flu remedies.
It is sometimes given to dogs, but never in cats as they are particularly sensitive to the toxic effects owing to their inability to metabolise paracetamol as effectively.
What does paracetamol do to cats and dogs?
The toxic effects are due to how paracetamol is processed (metabolised) in the body. The processing of paracetamol involves several steps by different enzymes in different metabolic pathways. The main concerns in cats and dogs initially are effects on the blood and the ability to process oxygen. Later on there is the risk of liver damage.
One metabolic pathway (particularly in cats) can result in a build-up of a chemical that causes a reduced ability of the blood to transport vital oxygen around the body. This effect occurs quite quickly, within a few hours, and causes respiratory distress, pale or brown mucous membranes (e.g. gums), lethargy, wobbly gait, collapse and vomiting. You may also notice swelling of the face and paws and blood in the urine. Death can occur at this stage, if the pet is left untreated.
Another metabolic pathway results in the build-up of a chemical that can cause liver damage. This occurs after a day or two. There can be jaundice (seen as yellow gums), blood in the urine and liver failure.
Occasionally, there can also be kidney damage, coma and fitting.
What should I do if I think my pet has eaten paracetamol?
If you think your pet has eaten any paracetamol call Animal PoisonLine and we will be able to assess the risk and advise you whether you need to take your pet to the vet. Particularly for dogs there are many cases where treatment is not required. If a trip to the vet is needed, there is an antidote that can be given to prevent the liver damage from developing.
Can I wait for signs to start before seeking treatment?
If your pet has eaten enough to need treatment it is very important not to delay getting to the vet, even if at that point your dog or cat is not showing any signs. In some cases the signs of poisoning may be delayed for several days, and during that time treatment should have been started to reduce the risk of liver damage.
Left untreated, paracetamol overdose can kill cats and dog but if treated promptly most animals make a full recovery. It is important to remember that the earlier treatment is started the better and quicker the recovery is expected to be.
Information you should have when you call APL:
- The strength of the tablets/sachet (in mg) or liquid (mg/ml or mg/5ml)
- The number of tablets or amount of liquid in ml you think your pet has eaten
- Weight of your pet
1. Always keep medications out of reach of pets
2. Do not overestimate the security of a handbag, many a raided handbag has resulted in a poorly pet
3. NEVER give paracetamol to your dog or cat without consulting a vet
- Apr 12, 2018 Is it a problem if a dog eats paper? Apr 12, 2018
- Mar 27, 2018 Mouldy food and compost - dangers to dogs and cats! Mar 27, 2018
- Mar 22, 2018 Asthma inhalers in dogs Mar 22, 2018
- Mar 19, 2018 Are fertilisers dangerous for dogs and cats to eat? Mar 19, 2018
- Mar 12, 2018 What types of detergents are dangerous to our pets and why? Mar 12, 2018
- Mar 8, 2018 Vaping around pets – Are e-cigarettes dangerous to our pets? Mar 8, 2018
- Mar 5, 2018 Is it safe to give paracetamol, human painkillers or pain relief medicine to my pet? Mar 5, 2018
- Mar 1, 2018 Are daffodils poisonous to cats and dogs? Mar 1, 2018
- Feb 26, 2018 Top 7 common poisons for pets - found in your handbags! Feb 26, 2018
- Feb 22, 2018 How dangerous is Cannabis for dogs? Feb 22, 2018
- Feb 19, 2018 Supplements which can cause harm to your dog! Feb 19, 2018
- Feb 15, 2018 Dog poisoned by anti-depressants? What do you do? Feb 15, 2018
- Feb 9, 2018 Animal PoisonLine's Valentine's Day Special - How to keep your pets safe this February 14th Feb 9, 2018
- Feb 8, 2018 Help! What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Rat Poison? Feb 8, 2018
- Feb 3, 2018 Cats & lilies! How to protect your cats! Feb 3, 2018
- Feb 1, 2018 Is it safe to make my dog sick? Feb 1, 2018
- Jan 18, 2018 Is chocolate poisonous to dogs? Jan 18, 2018
- Jan 11, 2018 Why Cough and Cold Medicines are dangerous for our pets? Jan 11, 2018
- Dec 28, 2017 New Year's Eve Pet Poisons Dec 28, 2017
- Dec 21, 2017 Animal PoisonLine’s Christmas Guide – How to keep your pets safe this CHRISTMAS III Dec 21, 2017
- Dec 21, 2017 Animal PoisonLine’s Christmas Guide – How to keep your pets safe this CHRISTMAS II Dec 21, 2017
- Dec 14, 2017 Animal PoisonLine’s Christmas Guide – How to keep your pets safe this Christmas Dec 14, 2017
- Nov 23, 2017 Vitamin D supplements – toxic risks to our pets from the sunshine vitamin Nov 23, 2017
- Nov 16, 2017 Xylitol – Why is it Dangerous for our Dogs? Nov 16, 2017
- Nov 9, 2017 Why you shouldn’t let Cats near AntiFreeze! Nov 9, 2017
- Nov 1, 2017 How to keep your pets safe during Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night! Nov 1, 2017
- Oct 26, 2017 Halloween trick or treats your pets can’t eat! Oct 26, 2017