Challenging Heart Disease, Bloody Poo and the Danger of Bleach - Call the Vet #26

After last weeks focus on dog arthritis, this week is one for all of you cat owners, although I’ve got dogs covered too as I dive into: 

  1. The risk of bleach if swallowed by your dog or cat

  2. The challenge of picking up heart failure in cats

  3. The causes of blood in your cat’s stool

bleach poisoning, heart failure and bloody stools in episode 26 of the call the vet podcast

Bleach Poisoning in Dogs (and Cats)

My dog was outside, and she was biting a bottle of bleach. I just found out, but I don’t know if she drank any of the bleach because the bottle had holes, and my dog smells like bleach. She’s acting like the usual running around and playing, so I think she might be okay, but I’m not sure. – Ashley

dilute bleach is less toxic to dogs and cats
  • Bleach comes in different types and strengths which affects the severity of any poisoning.

  • Dogs and cats can get chemical burns from strong bleaches around the lips, the tongue, the inside of the mouth, and then all the way down into the esophagus, and stomach.

  • The more dilute the bleach is, the less dangerous it is. Due to the irritation caused by diluted or non-chlorine bleach, dogs can drool and vomit that only lasts for about 30 to 45 minutes.

  • Other effects of poisoning can include aspiration pneumonia, metabolic issues, kidney failure, nerve problems, seizure and twitching, coma, blood abnormalities, and ultimately death.

  • What to do if your pet drinks bleach:

    • If on their skin, rinse your dog with a lot of water under the tap to reduce the burning. You can use a bit of shampoo or mild dish soap.

    • Also, encourage your pet to drink water. Cats can be tricky, so adding tuna juice or giving them milk can help.

    • Don’t make them vomit as more burning occurs when the bleach comes back up.

  • Prevention is best!

    • Keep your dog or cat shut away when you are cleaning.

    • Keep them entertained with a toy. It could be a stuffed kong, a licki pad, or something similar. You can find my recommended favorite food and puzzle toys on Amazon here

    • Clean up any spills straight away and store bottles in lockable cupboards or cupboards with a child safety latch so your dog can't get into them.

Related articles and resources:

    • My free pet poisoning checklist is just one of many resources in the knowledge vault. It runs through all of the common food poisons for dogs and cats as well as poisons that you'll find around the house so you can make sure that the potential for your dog or cat becoming poisoned is greatly reduced. Sign up for access here:

Cat Heart Failure: the silent assassin

My cat recently died on Friday. I believe it was because of heart failure. I want to know what I could have done to prevent this or potentially save him. – Gamefuler

heart failure in cats can be really difficult to pick up and is a common cause of sudden death
  • Heart failure in cats can be a silent assassin.

    • In 55% of cats that suffer from heart disease, there will be absolutely no symptoms of them suffering from any kind of heart problems. There is no way you would ever know that there is a problem.

    • The main cause of anesthetic death in an otherwise healthy cat is because of previously unknown heart issue. These cats can be thoroughly checked over and monitored closely, but we just don't know that their heart is struggling until they die.

    • Even when cats that do have signs of heart disease, they are often really subtle.

    • The first sign that they've got a problem can also be that they suffer from a blood clot, called feline aortic thromboembolism. The most common result of this is that the flow of blood to the back leg(s) becomes blocked (known as a saddle thrombus)

  • Up to about 25% of all cats will suffer from some form of heart disease.

    • 30% of those cats suffering from heart disease will actually die because of their heart disease.

    • Certain breeds, like Maine Coons and Ragdolls, have a genetic predisposition to suffer from heart failure.

  • The signs of heart disease.

    • A murmur is one sign of heart disease. About 30 to 50% of cats with murmurs could have heart disease present.

    • Gallop rhythm or arrhythmia are clues to heart failure that can be picked up by your vet.

    • At home, you might notice your cat is less active, breathing faster.

    • If you notice open mouth breathing, blue gums or cold feet then your cat needs immediate attention.

  • Even with treatment, not all cats will respond well to it. The survival rate following diagnosis is typically between about 3 to 18 months.

Related articles:

Blood in a Cat’s Stool

My cat is having some mucus with traces of blood at the end of her stool. I had her tested for everything possible, and all tests are good. Do I really need to put her through endoscopy? - Sofia

  • Mucus and blood in a cat stool are typically a sign of colitis, which is an inflammation in the lower part of the intestine. 

    • If it is not due to intestinal inflammation, then it is almost always due to a problem in the lower part of the intestine.

  • There are numerous diseases to consider:

    • Constipation with straining and hard stools can damage the lining of the colon and the anus. Megacolon can also be a problem, which is when the colon becomes flaccid, saggy and can’t contract.

    • Trauma can also be a cause. If there has been an injury to the pelvis or bones and other sharp objects are eaten then scratching to the gut can occur

    • Anal disease is another consideration, causing blood to coat the stool.

    • Food intolerance and scavenging can also be causes, as well as parasites like Giardia and Tritrichomonas foetus (in younger cats).

    • Salmonella and Campylobacter are infections that can cause blood in the stool.

  • Mild colitis usually sorts itself out in three to five days. Feeding a bland diet can help.

    •  If it goes on longer, have a fecal analysis done and treat for parasites.

    • A diet trial can be carried out if parasite treatment does not correct things.

    • If both don’t work, an antibiotic trial may be warranted.

    • If all fail to work, go into more advanced diagnostics.

  • Severe or long-term disease:

    • Testing options include blood testing, ultrasound and biopsies.

    • Biopsies can be taken endoscopically or during general surgery.

    • The big reason to take biopsies is to differentiate between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and intestinal cancer.

    • Another option is to trial treat, but this may result in sub-optimal treatment

  • It is important to have an open and honest chat with your vet about what you are willing and able to do for your cat.

    • Always being clear in your mind as to why tests are being run and recommended, and what difference those tests are going to make to the treatment of your pet.

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