Benzalkonium chloride (BAC) is a quaternary ammonium compound (QAC), that can be found in a wide variety of household products. In pets, cats have long been reported as more sensitive than dogs to QACs. The primary effects of BAC are due to its irritancy and systemic effects are uncommon. Common signs include drooling, irritation to the mouth, and inappetence. There may also be irritation to the skin, with inflammation and hair loss. Concentrated solutions can cause chemical burns. Signs are often delayed, and animals can present up to 12 hours post exposure.

This case report discusses a 4 month-old kitten, who presented with severe glossitis, lameness in the hindlimbs and episodes of vomiting and diarrhoea. The cause was unknown until the owners reported use of a BAC-containing mould remover (5%) 4 days later. The patient developed severe oral burns requiring a pharyngeal tube for feeding and severe cutaneous chemical burns. The kitten was managed with supportive therapy and required hospitalization for 10 days. The symptoms disappeared completely 3 weeks after exposure.

It is important to always make sure products are used as directed (diluted if appropriate), and to restrict access to pets.

Veterinary professionals can call VPIS for treatment advice for any poisoning case – 02073 055 055.