How To Prevent Contact Poisoning In Your Cat
Poison can be defined as any substance that is harmful to the body upon contact, whether it is internal or external. Internal poisoning can occur through inhalation of a substance, which can be in chemical form, like sprays or powders, but a toxic reaction can also occur simply by breathing in a material as innocuous as dirt. Other forms of internal poisoning take place when an animal has a physical reaction, or allergy, to a plant or food that has been ingested. Another type of poisoning, contact poisoning, occurs when an animal’s coat or skin comes into contact with a substance containing chemicals that are toxic to the body.
Contact poisoning can happen anywhere. Animals are curious by nature, and forage around when given the opportunity, so they tend to be vulnerable to both forms of poisoning. Cats have a natural tendency to explore anything they come in contact with, either with their nose, mouth, or paws. Even if your cat is not reacting to a substance that is on its skin, if you have any doubt to its toxicity, you are still advised to remove the substance in order to prevent your cat from either licking or swallowing it.
- Sneezing, wheezing
- Watery eyes, red eyes (allergy symptoms)
- Irritated, inflamed skin (itching, scratching)
- Burn-like sores on the skin, nose, or in the mouth
- Hair is falling out
- Unexplained wounds on the skin or face
- A rash anyplace on the body
- Toxic plants in wood piles, weed thickets, and open areas
- Fungal bacteria in dirt (wooded, lakeside, and farm environments)
- Allergies to food products (additives, colors, specific ingredients)
- Household cleaners
- Acid and other highly acidic substances
- Poisonous sprays (pest sprays, grooming products, etc.)
It is always a good idea to call your veterinarian before beginning any treatment, since some soaps, and even water, can cause further, unintended damage to the skin. Some poisons (including plants) have oils that can spread over the skin when water is added, so your veterinarian may advise you to use a substance that soaks up the poisonous substance before using water, liquid, or soaps of any kind. If it is possible, you will need to take a sample of the substance your cat is having a reaction to with you when you go to see your veterinarian. Be prepared to give a detailed history of your cat’s onset of symptoms, description of behavior, and recent activities.
If your veterinarian gives you the go ahead to bathe your cat, you can do so using lukewarm water. You will need to wear rubber or plastic gloves to protect your own skin during this process. If the substance is just on one particular area, you can clean that area of your cat’s body with a large amount of water for at least 30 minutes. For serious burns due to acids or other chemical substances, you must visit your veterinarian immediately to have the skin cleaned and treated with the appropriate cleansing agents.
Contact poisoning can be prevented by storing household chemicals out of reach. These chemicals include those that are used for indoor cleaning, for garage use, pest control, and for personal grooming. Supervise your cat’s outdoor activity as much as practically possible, especially in environments that are open or wild, to avoid contact with poisonous plants, or at least so that you will be familiar with what your cat has been in contact with. Also, keep track of new foods as you introduce them to your cat’s diet. Even foods and treats that are all natural, including vegetables, can have ingredients that your cat may react to.
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