Lead Poisoning in Cats

Lead poisoning can be fatal in felines, if not detected in timely manner. There are numerous sources that can potentially poison your cat with lead: paints, car batteries, plumbing supplies or even unvarnished food bowls. If identified, lead poisoning can be treated.

Sources of Lead

A cat can get lead poisoning from several sources and there are also a lot of products that may be present in your household that contain lead:

  • Lead-based paints
  • Car batteries that contain lead acid
  • Roofing and plumbing supplies
  • Linoleum
  • Foil made of lead
  • Metallic toys (check labels)
  • Ceramic food bowls that were insufficiently glazed
  • Solder
  • Pewter
  • Grease

Cats may chew on different objects and materials they come in contact with. If you have any of these products, you should make sure to keep them in a locked room, where the cat cannot have access.

Cats that have been in a lead contaminated environment may also get lead poisoning, due to the grooming and accidental ingestion of lead particles that may reside on the skin and fur of the pet.

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

The symptoms of lead poisoning are not similar to the symptoms of toxicity caused by other substances. The lead will affect mostly the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system of the cat.

Typically, lead poisoned cats will display a lack of appetite. Some cats may experience chomping of jaws, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle spasms and lack of coordination. In rare cases, a poisoned cat will have abdominal pain, convulsions and get aggressive.

Diagnosing Lead Poisoning

If you notice any poisoning symptoms in your cat, you should rush to the vet. Whenever your pet displays symptoms indicative of an affected gastrointestinal tract and nervous system, the vet can run some tests to check the lead levels in the blood. The vet may confirm the toxicity through a urine sample and a blood test. The diagnosis may be problematic; in some cases, repeated tests are needed.

Treating Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning can affect the gastrointestinal tract, the nervous system, the internal organs and weaken the immune system. If the poisoning is not detected, it can lead to death.

The lead needs to be removed from the cat’s system by inducing vomiting or surgery. Lead poisoning is typically treated with chelation therapy. The vet may also prescribe thiamine or penicillamine. Before discontinuing the treatment, the vet will make sure that the lead levels in the blood are back to normal.

Prevent Lead Poisoning

Remove all the possible materials and products that contain lead, or keep them out of the reach of the cat. If you're painting your home, don’t allow your cat to be around while you paint. If there are renovation sites in your area, don’t allow your cat outside until these are finalized.

If your cat has been affected by lead poisoning, it’s a good idea to test yourself and your family too, as you may have been exposed to a lead source as well.