If your cat is constipated, you may be wondering if you can give them milk of magnesia to help get things moving. This popular over-the-counter laxative is often used by humans, but is it safe for feline friends? Milk of magnesia can actually be toxic to cats if used incorrectly.
As a cat owner , I’m here to provide a detailed guide on using milk of magnesia for cats. We’ll cover:
- What exactly is milk of magnesia?
- Why it should never be given to cats without talking to a vet
- Side effects and toxicity risks
- Limited cases when vets may prescribe it
- Safer laxatives to use for constipated cats
- What to do if your cat accidentally ingests milk of magnesia
By the end, you’ll understand all the risks and precautions for using this medication around cats. Let’s dive in!
What Is Milk of Magnesia?
Milk of magnesia is an over-the-counter product used to relieve occasional constipation or heartburn in humans. The active ingredient is magnesium hydroxide, which works as a laxative by pulling water into the intestines to help soften and loosen stool.
The “milk” refers to its chalky liquid appearance, not actual dairy milk. It has a mild minty smell and taste. Brand names for milk of magnesia include Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia, Walgreens Milk of Magnesia, or CVS Milk of Magnesia.
While generally recognized as safe for people, this medication is not approved for animal use. The magnesium levels can actually be toxic for a cat’s sensitive digestive system. Let’s look closer at the risks.
Dangers of Giving Milk of Magnesia to Cats
While milk of magnesia may seem harmless, it can cause serious health complications in cats, including:
- Electrolyte imbalances – The high levels of magnesium pull water into the intestines, leading to dehydration and electrolyte disturbances.
- Magnesium toxicity – Too much magnesium absorbed into the bloodstream can cause muscle tremors, lack of coordination, lethargy, and even seizures.
- Metabolic problems – The magnesium displaces calcium, which can impact normal muscle and nerve function.
- Gastrointestinal issues – Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and lack of appetite.
Small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea, while larger doses could lead to seizures, kidney failure, or even death. That’s why this product should never be given to cats without veterinary approval and oversight.
The toxic dose depends on the cat’s size and health status. But in general, ingesting just 2-4 teaspoons could make a 10 pound cat seriously ill. For a 5 pound cat, just 1-2 teaspoons could lead to magnesium poisoning.
Cats’ bodies are not designed to process components like magnesium hydroxide effectively. Their digestive systems differ greatly from humans. So they are at much higher risk for complications and toxicity.
Limited Veterinary Uses for Cats
While milk of magnesia is generally unsafe for cats, there are a few very limited scenarios where a vet may prescribe it. This would only be under strict veterinary guidance with precisely calculated dosing based on the cat’s weight.
Possible prescribed uses include:
- Ethylene glycol poisoning – Ingesting antifreeze or automotive products with ethylene glycol can be fatal for cats without quick treatment. Inducing vomiting then giving activated charcoal alone does not bind well to the toxin. Milk of magnesia may be administered alongside charcoal to help neutralize the ethylene glycol and prevent kidney failure.
- Methomyl poisoning – Methomyl is a toxic pesticide ingredient occasionally found in flea collars and dips. Milk of magnesia could be used to help decontaminate the stomach contents if this poison was recently ingested.
- Certain metal poisonings – For suspected iron, zinc, or lead poisoning, milk of magnesia may be given under vet supervision to limit absorption of the metal.
- Urinary acidification – In very rare cases of severe urinary alkalosis, vets may use magnesium hydroxide to help acidify the urine.
As you can see, the cases where vets actually prescribe milk of magnesia to cats are extremely limited. It requires an expert assessment of risks vs benefits for the particular toxin or condition. The dosage given is also carefully calculated based on the cat’s size.
Never attempt to give your cat milk of magnesia without explicit veterinary approval.
Safer Laxative Options for Cats
So if milk of magnesia is too risky for at-home use in cats, what can you safely give a constipated kitty? Here are some gentler laxatives vets recommend trying:
- Stool softeners – Lubricants like docusate (DSS) help soften stool and allow it to pass more easily. Miralax is an over-the-counter option.
- Lactulose syrup – This oral solution draws fluid into the colon to soften the feces. It’s gentler than magnesium-based options.
- Pumpkin puree – The high fiber pumpkin can help regulate cats’ bowel movements. Give 1-4 teaspoons based on your cat’s size.
- Hydration therapy – Subcutaneous or intravenous fluids can help lubricate the colon and get it moving.
- High-fiber diet – Gradually transition to a high-fiber cat food to help support healthy digestion.
- Exercise – More activity and playtime can encourage regular bathroom habits.
- Petroleum jelly – Apply a small amount to the anus to stimulate bowel movements after trying other remedies.
The cause of constipation also needs to be addressed. Make sure your cat is drinking enough water, getting exercise, and eating a balanced diet. Rule out underlying medical issues like kidney disease, obstructions, or hypothyroidism.
With patience and the right laxative regimen tailored to your cat, constipation can often be managed at home. But if symptoms persist or seem severe, veterinary assistance is required.
What to Do if Your Cat Ingests Milk of Magnesia
Accidents happen, and your cat may sneak a lap of milk of magnesia if you turn around for a second. Here’s what to do if you suspect ingestion:
- Determine the amount – Check how much is missing from the container. Even an estimated amount will help the vet.
- Contact your vet or poison control – Call them immediately for guidance based on the dose ingested.
- Induce vomiting – If advised and it’s been under 2 hours, give 1 tsp hydrogen peroxide by mouth.
- Visit an emergency vet – They can check blood magnesium levels and monitor for toxicity.
- Provide supportive care – This may include IV fluids, medication for nausea, and kidney function monitoring.
With rapid veterinary treatment, most cats recover fully after milk of magnesia poisoning. But lasting kidney damage or even death can occur if untreated. So don’t take any chances.
Call your vet without delay if you think your cat lapped up even a small amount of milk of magnesia. Timely action can help avoid catastrophic outcomes.
Key Takeaways on Milk of Magnesia for Cats
To summarize this guide on using milk of magnesia for constipated cats:
- Milk of magnesia contains magnesium hydroxide which can have a toxic effect in cats.
- Never give it to cats without consulting a vet, as it can cause electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and magnesium poisoning.
- Safer at-home laxatives for cats include stool softeners, pumpkin, lactulose, fluids, and high-fiber diets.
- In very rare cases, vets may prescribe milk of magnesia for certain poisonings – but only with very precise, weight-based dosing.
- Seek emergency veterinary care immediately if a cat accidentally ingests milk of magnesia. Quick treatment is vital.
While milk of magnesia seems benign, its magnesium content makes it hazardous for our feline friends. With the right information, cat parents can steer clear of this risky laxative and support their constipated kitty safely. Your cat’s health and wellbeing is worth learning about cat-safe remedies.