Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Cats

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Cats

by Elisa Black-Taylor

Good morning readers. Today I’d like to talk about a subject we all need to be aware of, especially with the time of year when the weather is cold. I’m talking about carbon monoxide poisoning and the danger to cats. This information also holds true for humans and dogs (who are affected worse than cats).

First of all let me say that everyone needs a carbon monoxide detector. Many models come with a built in smoke detector so it’s money well spent.

Pricing starts at under $20 for the basic detector. This page has a long list of them at various prices (North American market).

It’s important to throw open a window and evacuate the area when the detector goes off. Most are programmed to sound an alarm at 70ppm (minimum of one hour) or sooner at higher levels. This is a level where the victim usually won’t have any symptoms.

DO NOT USE HEATERS INDOORS THAT AREN’T MEANT FOR INDOOR USE! There are actually people who fire up a barbeque grill inside the house! NO!NO!NO!!

Carbon monoxide is a sneaky killer. It’s odorless, non-irritating and invisible. We’ve all read of families who died together in their sleep. This is because the gas is absorbed into the bloodstream and reduces the oxygen supply to the heart and brain. Pets with pre-existing heart or lung disease are especially vulnerable.

Here are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning in humans furnished by the U.S. Center of Disease Control.

* Headache.
* Dizziness or light-headedness.
* Nausea or vomiting.
* Pain in the chest.
* Confusion or disorientation.
* Unconsciousness.

Another source sums the symptoms up as “flu-like” along with ringing in the ears, heart or gastrointestinal disturbances and elevated blood pressure. But many people fall asleep and die before symptoms have time to develop.

Since pets can’t tell us they’re being poisoned (and us along with them), here are some of the things to watch out for in dogs and cats. I’ve also read this holds true for other small pets.

*Weakness and/or in-coordination
*Bright red color to the skin and gums
*Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
*Abrupt death
*Occasionally, chronic (low-grade, long-term) exposure will cause fever1

Many people don’t realize it’s not only gas appliances or space heaters which can malfunction. Carbon monoxide is a danger pet owners face in a closed in garage, an airplane cargo section (when pets fly), or through a faulty car exhaust. A snow covered tailpipe is a common accident during the winter months.

It’s very important to monitor the health of everyone in your family (including your furry friends) and get everyone outside immediately if something seems “off.” I’ve read many cases where the main symptom was confusion. It was hard for the homeowner to escape in time for the simple reason the brain doesn’t function clearly when deprived of oxygen.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is treated with oxygen and I.V. fluids.

According to the American Medical Association there are more than 1500 deaths and over 10,000 injuries each year in the U.S. alone.2

A law was passed in the state of Massachusetts in 2005 after the death of a 10-year old girl who died. Now Nicole’s Law requires all residential buildings to have a carbon monoxide detector. Many other states are creating laws to protect residents from this danger. I believe in being proactive and keeping stoves, heaters, etc. in good shape. Have your heating system checked by someone who knows what to look for. It could save your life and that of your pets.

I have to add one story before I close. Here’s a link to the full story and a video. It tells how a malfunction to a gas powered water heater almost killed an entire family. A 14-year old cat named Winnie saved her family one night by jumping on the bed where Eric and Cathy Keesling were sleeping. Winnie’s meowing sounded an alarm for the family. Cathy later said it was more like a scream than a meow. Their 14-year old son Michael was found unconscious on the floor near his bedroom. Thanks to their cat the family made it out alive and everyone made a complete recovery.

Thanks Winnie. You’re a heroine. I hope you got lots of treats and hugs for your bravery





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Dec 04, 2010
Loving work
by: Elisa

Nice to be back at a job I love. Most nights I can take the pc to work in case a story hits me.

One thing I forgot to mention about alternative heating sources where I live is gas generators. There are people foolish enough to bring them indoors. They’re supposed to be left outside because of the gas fumes but some people just don’t seem to understand the danger.

Dec 04, 2010
by: Leah (UK)

Thanks everso, information is invaluble I’ve saved it. Hope you’re settling back into work ok.

Dec 02, 2010
Carbon Monoxide
by: Judy

Thanks to every one’s input on this information which is of great help to me as well with all of my animals,myself & my husband which is sick.
I remember many years ago the apartment building I was living in caught on fire,it was wee hours in the morning,every one was sound asleep,the lady upstairs from me said her cat woke her up by scratching and meowing constantly which was rare for her cat she looked to see what was wrong and her apt.was ablaze,she called 911 right away so every one evacuated safely.Thank God

Dec 02, 2010
CO – a Deadly Killer
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

Speaking from experience, carbon monoxide is a silent killer – it is odorless and before anyone knows it, they could succumb very quickly. Even survivors could suffer after-effects like memory loss and brain damage.

Our office is on the 4th floor of an 11-floor building. We had an evacuation last year due to carbon monoxide. The management company hadn’t installed CO detectors as required by law; however, thankfully, a dentist on the ground floor had one in her dentist office. When it went off, she called the fire department, who subsequently evacuated the entire building, floor by floor.

As it turned out, one of the old boilers in the basement leaked carbon monoxide. It had reached critical mass up to the 3rd floor before the alarm was sounded. The people on those floors had to be treated in the hospital for CO poisoning. The rest of us were checked out, but tested OK.

The fire deparment fined the management company, who had CO detectors hard-wired throughout the building within 24/hours. Thankfully, a tragedy was averted.

Nov 30, 2010
Excellent information about Carbon Monoxide
by: Kathy Novelli

Very important and timely information, Elisa. CM is known as a silent killer as it cannot be detected without a monitor. Thank you for sharing this important info.

Nov 29, 2010
timely topic
by: Ruth (Monty’s Mom)

Carbon monoxide is particularily dangerous because hemoglobin actually prefers binding with carbon monoxide over oxygen at a rate of three to one. When both oxygen and carbon monoxide are present your blood cells which carry oxygen to your brain and tissues are going to prefer the carbon monoxide over the oxygen. Therefore, it takes a lot less carbon monoxide to kill you than you might expect.

That being said, newer furnaces are very safe, with safety features that will shut the unit down if there is even the slightest problem. Hence the constant service calls on my sister’s newer furnace, whereas our fifty year old one works all the time. We do have it checked periodically, but I think a carbon monoxide detector is probably a must for our unit, since our never fail furnace would just keep right on working as it gassed us.

Nov 29, 2010
Brilliant article
by: Ruth

Thanks Elisa for a very informative article which could even save lives.
What a little heroine Winnie is, cats are so very clever !

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Nov 29, 2010
by: Michael

Thanks for the info, Elisa. I have smoke alarms but didn’t realise that you can get carbon monoxide alarms too. I’ll look into that.

Michael Avatar

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