human hair cure kills cats
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Human hair cure kills cats

‘Hair of the dog’ is a standard hangover cure, but human hair cures can actually harm or kill the unsuspecting cat.

Topical solutions that contain minoxidil are used to safely promote hair growth in humans, but pose serious health risks to cats. When the product is intentionally applied to areas of hair loss on a cat’s body, or when cats are accidentally exposed to the solution – either through licking a human’s scalp or walking through a spilled solution – the results can be deadly.

Since 2001, six cases involving minoxidil exposure were reported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). Of these cases, four of the cats died and two fully recovered following prompt and aggressive veterinary treatment.

“Pet owners need to be aware that even minimal amounts of minoxidil can result in a serious or even fatal situation,” says Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, APCC medical director and veterinary toxicologist.

According to APCC data, clinical signs of minoxidil exposure include lethargy, a severe drop in blood pressure, accumulation of fluid in the lungs and damage to the heart muscle, which can result in death from cardiac failure. “The lethargy and drop in blood pressure typically develop in about 12 hours,” says Gwaltney-Brant, “and the cardiac effects generally occur three to four days following exposure.” A quick treatment response can mean the difference between a cat’s life and death.

While the potential for clinical problems due to minoxidil exposure does exist for dogs and other animals, cats may be especially sensitive because they lack a specific enzyme necessary for breaking down the drug.

APCC experts offer a few tips to avoid accidental poisoning: never apply minoxidil products to your pet’s fur; clean up any spills thoroughly and promptly; apply the product to yourself in a room that is not accessible to pets; and do not let pets lick treated areas.

If you suspect that your cat has come into contact with a product containing minoxidil, or any other potential poison, contact your veterinarian immediately.

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