Exposures to products containing anionic and nonionic
detergents generally cause mild GI irritation that responds well to symptomatic
care. All animals are susceptible.
Mild detergents, soaps, and shampoos contain anionic and
nonionic detergents; products included in this group include human and pet
shampoos, liquid hand dishwashing soaps, bar bath soaps (except homemade soaps,
which may contain lye), many laundry detergents, and many household all-purpose
cleaners. Most are of moderate pH, but agents with pH >11 (eg, electric
dishwasher detergents) are alkaline corrosives and should be treated as such
Anionic and nonionic detergents are mild irritants; many
have been pH adjusted to have minimal dermal irritation, although ocular and
mucosal irritation is possible. There is no appreciable systemic absorption of
these agents, and toxicity is limited to ocular, oral, or GI irritation, which
is usually mild and self-limiting. Cats exposed to undiluted shampoos or other
products containing sodium lauryl sulfate may develop significant respiratory
compromise after inhalation during grooming, including dyspnea, increased
bronchial secretions, and mild pulmonary edema. While the exact mechanism of
this syndrome is not known, it may relate to interference by the detergent with
normal pulmonary surfactants.
Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are the most common signs.
Secondary dehydration and electrolyte imbalance may develop in rare instancesdue
to protracted vomiting or diarrhea. Mild ocular irritation is possible, with
lacrimation and blepharospasm. No significant lesions beyond mild local
irritation are seen. Cats grooming after application of sodium lauryl
sulfate-containing products may develop moist respiratory sounds, cyansis, and
dyspnea within 1–3 hr of exposure.
Dilution with milk or water may reduce the risk of
spontaneous vomiting. Vomiting is usually self-limiting and responds to short
periods of food and water restriction. In severe cases or in animals with
sensitive stomachs, antiemetics may be required (eg, metoclopramide, 0.2–0.4
mg/kg, PO, SC, or IM, qid). Rarely, parenteral fluid therapy is required to
correct electrolyte or hydration abnormalities due to protracted vomiting or
diarrhea. For ocular exposures, irrigation of eyes using tepid water or
physiologic saline for 5 min will usually suffice. For cats that have
respiratory compromise, supplemental oxygen and general supportive care are
recommended; in most cases, signs resolve within 24 hr.
Last full review/revision May 2013 by Sharon M. Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT