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
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Cerebral swelling
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.