What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels. It can also be produced by burning charcoal or using a generator. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common cause of death due to poisoning in the United States and Canada, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Any animal—not just dogs and cats—can be affected by carbon monoxide poisoning. Things like generators, wood-burning stoves, faulty heating systems and even cigarettes can produce CO gas in your home.
How can your pet be exposed to carbon monoxide?
The dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning are often overlooked because the symptoms are so similar to those of other illnesses that pets contract all too frequently. For example, your cat might get sick after eating rancid food or getting into some moldy garbage out on the curb—but if you’re not looking for signs of CO poisoning (which include lethargy and lack of appetite), you won’t know what actually caused your kitty’s illness until after it’s too late!
Carbon Monoxide Sources: Pets are most at risk from carbon monoxide exposure when they’re inside your home with appliances that use natural gas or gasoline (like stoves and water heaters). However, exhaust fumes from cars parked outside a house will also seep through windows and doors into living spaces—so make sure all vents are properly vented to prevent any toxic gases from entering through them!
How does carbon monoxide poisoning occur in pets?
When carbon monoxide is produced in a home, it can be inhaled by the people and pets living in the home. In humans, this exposure can cause flu-like symptoms such as nausea and dizziness. However, if you continue to breathe in carbon monoxide for a long time, you may experience more serious health problems such as organ damage or death.
In pets, carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when your pet accidentally breathes in too much of this gas while they’re sleeping or resting somewhere indoors (rather than outdoors). This can happen anytime there are sources of carbon monoxide nearby—for example:
- When you drive with your car’s engine running inside an enclosed garage that has no ventilation system installed;
- When gas appliances (such as furnaces) leak into an enclosed room where your pet sleeps;
- Or if an appliance like a hot water heater leaks fumes directly into your pet’s bedding area!
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning in pets?
- Excessive panting
Your pet may also have symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning if they are agitated, have seizures or tremors, or lose consciousness. If you see any of these signs, take your pet to the veterinarian emergency room immediately.
Which pets are more prone to carbon monoxide poisoning than others?
Pets with heart disease, respiratory disease, neurological disease, diabetes, liver and kidney disease are at an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Pets that have a compromised immune system or a bleeding disorder also may be at an increased risk for carbon monoxide poisoning because their bodies cannot fight the toxic effects of exposure as well as healthy pets can.
Is there a test for carbon monoxide poisoning in pets?
The good news is that carbon monoxide poisoning can often be diagnosed by exclusion. This means that if there are other possible causes for an illness, your vet will rule them out before looking at a diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Once the vet has ruled out other potential causes for the symptoms, he or she will look at your pet’s symptoms and clinical signs (symptoms you see on your pet) to diagnose whether or not it was carbon monoxide poisoning. The vet may also perform some tests such as x-rays and blood work to confirm their suspicions.
How is carbon monoxide poisoning treated in pets?
Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning in pets is similar to that of humans. If you suspect that your pet has been exposed to high levels of CO, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. At the vet’s office, your medical professional will likely run a series of tests including:
- A complete blood count (CBC)
- A urinalysis
- Complete blood chemistry panel