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
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
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