What to Do If Your Cat or Dog Ingests Moth Balls

Dogs are pretty well known for their odd eating habits, whereas cats are inquisitive creatures that love to explore their home and hide in secretive spaces.

Closet and drawers are places that cats enjoy sneaking into and possibly napping in. These are also areas where people like to keep moth balls.

While most cats (unlike dogs which can eat everything in sight) 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 that is less toxic than naphthalene but still able to potentially cause gastro-intestinal upset and neurological symptoms, especially in cats and dogs exposed to large amounts.

Both toxins can be ingested, inhaled or absorbed by skin.

Symptoms of Moth Ball Poisoning

Cats and dogs that have inhaled moth balls typically develop symptoms within minutes. If they've ingested it, symptoms may take a few hours to show, and continuous long term exposure may take several days for signs to appear. These can include:

  • Breath smelling like naphthalene
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Cerebral swelling
  • Coma

Complications may arise such as Heinz anemia and methemoglobinemia. In Heinz disease, the cat or dog develops anemia, becoming lethargic, weak and exhibiting pale mucous membranes.

In methemoglobinemia, the cat or dog develops brown or blue colored gums. Several day after ingestion, the cat or dog may develop liver problems along with signs of jaundice.


Poisoning may occur with the ingestion of just one moth ball, so regardless of the situation, 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 and dogs 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 them carefully out of reach.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed, 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 will depend on how many moth balls the cat or dog was exposed to, the overall health status of the pet, and how quickly treatment is sought.

*According to an article by Camille DeClementi VMD on "Moth repellant toxicosis," owners unsure if their pet has ingested a naphthalene moth ball or 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.

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Comments 10 comments

Rebekah 3 weeks ago

My dog ate some moth balls. What should I do?

Mike 2 months ago

My dog ate some mothballs and is very sick. Can't afford to get him help because the vet said $300- $3000 and with no guarantee he will survive. His kidneys are going to fail.

liberals suck 4 months ago

People that worry about what neighbors do on their own property should keep they cat or dog off the neighbors property. Is it that difficult to be responsible for your own lives or even God help us your children and pets also? Why is it people think they can break the law and let pets run around day and night on other peoples property urinating and defecating?...Which is illegal yet worry about a neighbors legal actions of putting out moth balls out? Wow is it so hard to obey the law and keep your pet indoors unless your outside with a leash, collar and up to date tags on each pet. God help us all if your obey the law for once. When did Americans get so stupid and self centered that they want their pets running in the streets to be killed by cars. liberals not responsible for their lives but want to regulate everyone else's .

alexadry profile image

alexadry 18 months ago from USA Author

Mothballs are often used to deter snakes, mice, moles and your neighbor may think they deter cats too, but she may not be aware that it can kill them. Any chance you can give her a head's up of what a horrendous death they may cause and how they even pose a risk to children and the environment? Another option you may have is call animal control and ask what options there are to prevent getting the kitties and dogs sick.

Nancy 18 months ago

My neighbor puts mothballs all around her yard you can smell it as soon as you step out the door we have a crazy overpopulation of strays both cats and dogs but the 2 at she approaches it is horrendous knowing that it can kill them is there any legal action that can be taken??

alexadry profile image

alexadry 5 years ago from USA Author

Keep your dog indoor with you or in a safe pen, or talk to your neighbor and let him know that they are poisonous. Safer options can be found here:

Dee Dee 5 years ago

my neighbor is putting out moth balls to stop my dogs from digging holes, I don't know if they are eating them, I am greatly concerned for their safety. What should I do about this, I pick them up, neighbor puts them back out.

gwennies pen 7 years ago

Thanks for the tip..I know some indoor plants are just as dangerous to our pets as well. We do not use moth balls, but its still good to know. Great insight and information as I own two cats.

Wealthmadehealthy profile image

Wealthmadehealthy 7 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

OMG Thank you for this information! I have no cats but I do have a wonderful dog. I also do use a LOT of mothballs as I live in the northern regions and must store clothes and such over winter and thru the summer months. I will keep a firm eyeball on my mothball whereabouts from now on. This poisoning never occurred to me before...I hope more people read this....Thank you again!!

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Heaven forbid any of mine do this but thanks for the valuable info.

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