Aspirin is a drug that has many benefits for both pets and people; unfortunately, it can also be dangerous. Cats are especially sensitive to aspirin because they don’t break it down or eliminate it efficiently, so it can build up to harmful concentrations more quickly. Cat owners should never give their cats aspirin or any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) unless advised to do so by a veterinarian.
Cats with aspirin toxicity may get sick fast. One of the first signs is a lack of appetite; you may also see vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and fever. There may be red blood in the vomit, or flecks of digested blood that resemble coffee grounds. If you see dark, tarry feces, this is called “melena” and represents digested blood from the small intestine or stomach. Sometimes, the central nervous system is also affected and your cat may have trouble walking, seeming weak or even “drunk.”
If you suspect your cat has ingested aspirin, you should call your veterinarian immediately. The doctor may suggest emergency decontamination or may recommend tests to determine how severe the toxicity is. If your vet is not available or it’s after hours, please consider contacting a reliable poison control resource or local emergency clinic for guidance.
Tests may include:
- Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver and pancreatic function as well as sugar levels
- A complete blood count to identify if your cat is anemic and to check her clotting function
- Electrolyte tests to ensure your cat isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
- A urinalysis to rule out urinary tract abnormalities and evaluate the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine
If it is determined that your pet has aspirin toxicity, your veterinarian will begin treatment immediately to reduce the impact of the toxicity and to provide supportive care. They may recommend hospitalization and monitoring blood tests to ensure your cat becomes stable.
The best way to prevent the toxicity of any drug is to make sure you keep all medications away from your pets. If aspirin has been prescribed for your cat by your veterinarian, make sure you does it properly and are careful to watch for any adverse signs.