If you’ve just caught your cat nibbling on a tube of toothpaste or see those telltale teeth marks in the paste itself, take a deep breath.
I know—you’re worried and not sure what to do next.
As a fellow cat lover who’s been through this too, I completely understand.
But try not to panic.
In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know if your cat gets into toothpaste.
You’ll learn about the specific toothpaste ingredients that pose a risk, what symptoms to watch for, when to make that urgent call to the vet, and how vets can treat ingestion properly.
I’ll also give you plenty of handy tips to help avoid toothpaste temptation in the future.
While an unsettling experience, consider this a learning opportunity to become an even more thoughtful and prepared pet parent.
Will Toothpaste Harm A Cat?
Most human toothpaste brands will be harmful if ingested by cats. The main dangers are from fluoride and xylitol, which are toxic to cats and found in most toothpaste products. Even small amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and liver or neurological damage.
The Dangers of Fluoride
The main concern is fluoride, which is found in many major toothpaste brands.
Fluoride is an important additive for dental health in humans.
However, cats cannot efficiently process excess fluoride, leading to potential issues like gastrointestinal distress, neurological problems, and even organ damage in large amounts.
Xylitol: A Hidden Threat in Toothpaste
In addition to fluoride, some toothpastes also contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol.
This sugar substitute is extremely toxic to cats, even in very small amounts.
Xylitol is rapidly absorbed into a cat’s bloodstream, causing a dangerous insulin spike and putting cats at risk for liver failure.
Some early warning signs of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, weakness, and loss of coordination.
What Can Happen To A Cat That Has Eaten Toothpaste?
Immediate Symptoms to Watch For
If you suspect your cat has ingested toothpaste, either from nibbling on a tube or having access to an open tube, watch for these common signs:
- Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy or weakness
- Tremors or uncoordinated movements
Any of these symptoms, especially right after your cat was near open toothpaste, could signal toothpaste poisoning and requires prompt veterinary attention.
Don’t wait to see if symptoms resolve on their own. Cats can deteriorate rapidly from toothpaste toxicity without quick treatment.
Long-Term Health Implications
While a one-time small ingestion may only cause short-term symptoms, the long-term outlook is more concerning if a cat consumes toothpaste regularly.
Chronic fluoride poisoning can start to damage kidney function, weaken bones, and even alter thyroid hormones.
Neurological issues like tremors or seizures may also develop over time as fluoride builds up in the body.
Xylitol poisoning can also lead to long-lasting liver damage in cats if they acquire a taste for toothpaste.
What To Do If Your Cat Has Eaten Toothpaste
If you find your cat has gotten into and eaten some toothpaste, don’t panic but do act quickly. Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA poison control hotline right away for guidance.
Getting ahead of toothpaste poisoning is key to minimizing the risks and preventing serious consequences.
Depending on the amount swallowed and ingredients involved, you may be asked to bring your cat in to the vet clinic for treatment.
When you call for advice, provide details on the toothpaste brand, amount ingested, and any symptoms you’re observing in your cat.
With this information, experts can determine toxicity levels and best next steps. If fluoride poisoning is the main concern, making your cat vomit at home can eliminate remaining toothpaste before it’s fully digested and absorbed.
For xylitol poisoning, immediate emergency vet care is advised to stabilize blood sugar and protect the liver.
During the ride to the vet or while waiting for appointment, monitor your cat closely.
Look for signs of distress like excessive drooling, vomiting, dilated pupils or trouble walking.
Share observations with the vet to help guide their treatment plan, which may include IV fluids, medication and supportive care.
While scary in the moment, quick action helps ensure your cat can make a full recovery after toothpaste exposure.
How May Vets Treat A Cat That Eaten Toothpaste?
If your cat has ingested toothpaste, your vet will tailor treatment based on the specific ingredients and amount consumed. Initial steps often focus on decontaminating to prevent further toxin absorption. This may involve inducing vomiting or administering activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toothpaste in the stomach before it can enter the bloodstream.
Supportive intravenous fluids help flush toxins out of the body while stabilizing blood sugar and organ function.
Your vet may administer medications like antiemetics to control vomiting or anticonvulsants for seizure activity.
Blood tests will also check for signs of kidney failure, liver damage, or electrolyte imbalances.
Ongoing lab work lets vets monitor organ function and response to treatment.
With xylitol poisoning, aggressive blood sugar monitoring and insulin therapy are critical.
Uncontrolled blood sugar spikes from xylitol can rapidly lead to liver necrosis.
Your vet may hospitalize your cat for several days to continually stabilize blood glucose levels.
In less severe cases of fluoride poisoning, your vet may send your cat home with anti-nausea medication and suggest a diet change to support kidney health.
With quick veterinary intervention and ongoing monitoring, most cats recover fully from toothpaste ingestion. But prevention is best, so be vigilant about proper storage of all bathroom items that could tempt your cat.
Prevention Tips: Keeping Toothpaste Away from Cats
- Store toothpaste and all oral care products in cabinets too high for cats to reach or access. Use child locks if needed.
- Consider switching to a new brand of toothpaste without xylitol or fluoride. This minimizes risks if your cat does get into it.
- Don’t leave toothpaste tubes uncapped after use. Tightly seal and return to storage quickly.
- Apply toothpaste behind a closed bathroom door, then immediately put away. Don’t give cats access.
- Opt for toothpaste pumps rather than squeeze tubes. These make it harder for cats to inadvertently pop open.
- Use oral rinses and mouthwashes cautiously. Many still contain xylitol or fluoride.
- Keep toilet lids down. Cats may drink from or play in unflushed toothpaste residue.
- Monitor the trash for used floss, toothbrush heads, etc. Cats may ingest flavor residues.
- Use scat mats or double-sided tape on counters. This can deter curious cats from jumping up.
- Consider cat-safe breath fresheners instead of brushing if your cat is obsessed with toothpaste flavors.
If you’re cat has eaten toothpaste, and you’ve now seen what can happen, it’s all too easy to become alarmed.
But accidents do happen, and a cat getting into toothpaste is unfortunately common due to that tempting minty aroma.
If you know your toothpaste contains concerning additives like fluoride or xylitol, prompt action is imperative if ingestion occurs.
Don’t panic or blame yourself, but do call your vet right away for guidance.
They can advise you on inducing vomiting at home or getting emergency vet care based on the amount swallowed.
When you arrive at the vet clinic, be ready to give details to help guide treatment.
With information on the toothpaste type and amount ingested, vets can quickly take steps to stabilize your cat through decontamination, blood sugar regulation, organ support and medication administration.
While it may require an anxious wait, the vast majority of cats recover fully with veterinary care.
Going forward, use this experience to inform prevention in keeping all oral care products completely out of sight and reach.
But also rest assured knowing any future incidents will likely have just as positive an outcome when addressed promptly.
We all make mistakes, but by acting quickly and learning from them, is what matter here.
Why Do Cats Eat Toothpaste?
Cats eat toothpaste because they are attracted to the strong minty aroma. The menthol and other mint oils used for flavoring trigger cats’ strong sense of smell, making toothpaste smell appealing.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.