There’s no doubt that Tylenol is one of, if not the most popular, OTC medications for lowering fever and managing pain in people. But is this medication safe for our feline companions?
We’re answering this question and more in today’s article, so keep on reading!
Can You Give Cats Tylenol?
The short answer to this question is a hard no. Acetaminophen is dangerous for many animal species, but it is particularly so for cats.
In fact, cats’ bodies are not equipped with an enzyme that would make it possible for the medication to be metabolized and cleared from their system.
Cats have a liver metabolism that makes them a lot more likely to develop the symptoms of Tylenol poisoning compared to other animals.
How Much Tylenol Is Toxic to Cats?
In this species, poisoning can occur with doses as little as 50 to 100mg per kg of body weight (approximately 2 pounds of body weight). A regular-strength Tylenol tablet is 325mg, which is bad enough if the cat you care for weighs in at just 2 kg (less than 4 pounds).
But the worst of all is the extra-strength kind of Tylenol, which contains (depending on the exact brand) approximately 500mg of acetaminophen. That means that even cats that weigh 10kg might develop toxicosis if you give them this drug.
On top of everything, Tylenol is typically not given to cats under veterinary guidance, so pet owners who do administer it to their pets end up at the animal hospital when the drug has already completely been absorbed by their cat’s body.
Tylenol Toxicity in Cats – What Symptoms Should You Expect?
While acetaminophen is a quite common ingredient in a variety of medications specifically designed for lowering fever and relieving pain, many pet parents might not be aware of this detail or might not know just how dangerous it can be for cats.
Most cats show the following symptoms after having ingested Tylenol:
- Labored breathing
- Significant changes in their gum color (brown or yellow – icterus)
- Dry eye
Both dogs and cats can be left chronic dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) after being treated for Tylenol toxicity, so this drug can have long-lasting effects on a pet’s life and health.
While less common, some cats might even suffer seizures.
How Can Feline Tylenol Toxicity Be Treated?
If you’ve become aware that your feline friend has ingested Tylenol, whether by accident or on purpose, the best piece of advice we can give you is to get to the vet clinic as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol, is very easily absorbable, so it penetrates the mucous membrane of the stomach and small intestine in a short period of time. For this reason, inducing vomiting is usually ineffective.
Consequently, vets often resort to combatting the symptoms of Tylenol poisoning, such as by administering activated charcoal so as to bind up the drug and influence the way it is released from a cat’s body.
Patients that have ingested this medication are usually put on IV fluids and liver protectants. If the pet exhibits severe breathing complications, oxygen therapy might be necessary, as well.
Fortunately, there is an antidote for Tylenol poisoning, and it is called NAC (n-acetylcysteine). However, not all small veterinary clinics and animal hospitals have it. As such, we recommend that you first call your vet, and they can refer you to a pet hospital that carries it.
Supportive care is always necessary, whether the cat receives the antidote or not.
Preventing Tylenol Poisoning in Cats
Compared to dogs, cats aren’t that keen on trying new tastes, whether from food or medicine. So the likelihood of your feline friend actually getting into your medicine cabinet and ingesting Tylenol on her own is very slim.
However, if you or someone who’s cat-sitting has made the mistake of giving this pain reliever to your pet without asking your vet, you should know that it can be life-threatening, so medical assistance is required as soon as possible.
If your cat is curious and wants to sample everything you might have around the house, make sure your medications are kept in secure containers that are practically impossible to destroy or get into.
Another note that we must make is that while vets might sometimes recommend human-grade medications for treating some conditions or for managing short-term pain, you should never do that without any guidance.
It is true that many medications for people can be quite useful for dogs, but cats are far more sensitive, and therefore, they are also at a higher risk of developing health complications from such drugs. To give you an example, even some pet dewormers can be life-threatening for cats while they might pose no threat to dogs — and these are veterinary products, not human-grade ones.