Cats are inquisitive creatures that love to explore their home and hide in secretive spaces. Closet and drawers therefore are places that cats enjoy to sneak in and possibly take a nap. These are also the areas where people like to keep moth balls in order to keep moths away from clothing. While most cats unlike dogs, are quite finicky beings, some cats or kittens may actually decide to play with the moth balls and eventually place them in their mouths.
Mothballs are composed of Naphthalene, a toxin that is also found in other moth repellents and toilet bowl deodorizers. Naphthalene has been recently in some cases replaced by Paradichlorobenzene, a product less toxic than naphthalene but still able to potentially cause gastro-intestinal upset and neurological symptoms especially in cats exposed to a large amount.
Both toxins can be ingested, inhaled or absorbed by skin.
Symptoms of Moth Ball Poisoning
Cats that have inhaled moth balls typically develop symptoms within minutes, ingestion may take a few hours, and continuous long term exposure may take several days. Symptoms suggesting moth ball exposure are as follows:
-Breath smelling like naphthalene
-Loss of Appetite
Complications may arise such as Heinz anemia and methemoglobinemia. In Heinz disease the cat develops anemia becoming lethargic, weak and exhibiting pale mucous membranes. In methemoglobinemia, the cat develops brown, blue colored gums. Several day after ingestion cat may develop liver problems along with signs of jaundice.
Treatment for moth ball poisoning
Poisoning may occur with just the ingestion of one moth ball, therefore, treatment must be sought at once.The induction of vomiting should take place only in pets that are asymptomatic and that have ingested the moth balls within two hours. A gastric lavage may be performed by a veterinarian within 30-60 minutes after ingestion. Activated charcoal will help prevent absorption of the remaining toxic traces. Fluids may be administered and the pet may require hospitalization. Cats with difficulty breathing may require oxygen.
As seen moth ball poisoning may be a critical situation. For this reason it is highly recommended for dog and cat owners to keep moth balls carefully out of reach. A veterinarian should be seen at once, or the poison control center should be contacted at ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435). The prognosis depends on how many moth balls the cat was exposed to, the overall health status of the pet and how quickly treatment is sought.
* According to an article by Camille DeClementi VMD ''Moth repellant toxicosis'' owners unsure if their pet has ingested a naphthalene moth ball or a Paradichlorobenzene moth ball should dilute three heaping tablespoons of salt in tepid water until well dissolved. Then the moth ball should be added, if it floats it is made of naphthalene if it drowns it is made of Paradichlorobenzene.